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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mutt Match
Finding the right dog

I still consider my one-time success at setting up friends who later married to be among the biggest accomplishments of my life. Matchmaking is a time-honored skill that has just as big a place in the dog world as in the human world. Adopting the right dog to suit your lifestyle is that first and oh-so-important step towards a happy relationship.

  That’s why I’m such a fan of Mutt Match, an organization dedicated to promoting adoption of rescue dogs into permanent, loving homes. Meg Boscov and Liz Maslow, whose love for dogs led them to found Mutt Match, are both Certified Pet Dog Trainers with a great deal of experience working with shelter dogs. The service they provide is to find the right dog for their clients to adopt. A lot of what makes a dog well suited to a particular family is not obvious to members of the general public. Even people who are very knowledgeable about dogs have been known to fall in love at first sight with one that would not ultimately be the best bet for a strong relationship and a happy life together.   Mutt Match helps people find the right dog by providing a private in-home consultation, searching local shelters for appropriate dogs and conducting behavioral testing on those dogs, conducting a meet and greet for the shelter dog with the family, and offering a follow-up consultation. They suggest a donation of $200 for the combination of all these. Since becoming established as a business in January of this year, they’ve made 36 happy matches. When I asked Meg and Liz if they have a favorite story of a match, they shared this story.   “We were walking through one of our local SPCAs when we saw a young couple standing by a kennel, and the woman was crying. We stopped to see if we could help, and she told us her story. She was diagnosed with MS a couple of years ago. The disease had progressed to the point where she could no longer work or drive. She (Susan) and her fiancé Carmen had been looking for a tiny companion dog to enrich Susan's life.   “They were at the point of giving up when we met them. On their own, they were daunted by the task of finding just the right match for Susan. They had spent several frustrating months scanning Petfinder.com and visiting the local SPCAs. Tiny dogs are rarer in the rescue world compared to larger dogs, and when there was a small dog in need of a home, by the time Susan and Carmen would arrive at the SPCA, the tiny dog would already be spoken for.   

“We arranged an appointment to meet with Susan and Carmen in their home. During our meeting we discussed their hopes and dreams for Susan's own personal therapy dog, a lap dog small enough for Susan to carry. After leaving, we reached out to our amazing rescues and shelters, and within a couple of days Susan was home with Lucy, a darling six-pound Manchester Terrier whose idea of the good life was loving and being loved by her special someone. Susan says that Lucy has brightened every aspect of her life."

News: Guest Posts
Congratulations, Temple Grandin
Biopic wins five Emmys

At the Emmy Awards on Sunday night, the HBO biopic “Temple Grandin” took home five prizes (out of seven nominations), including Outstanding Made-for-Television Movie. Grandin may have been an unknown quantity for many in the audience and readers of the Emmy’s Blog but not here at Bark. We’re big fans of her work, including the book Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. It was great to see her feted at the Emmy’s in her signature cowgirl shirt and tie.

  Grandin’s influence on the lives of animals and people is considerable. By drawing analogies between the thought processes of animals and people with autism including herself, Grandin channeled her unique world view into benefits for others. She designed humane slaughterhouse corrals for cattle and a hug machine to calm hypersensitive people. She is an outspoken advocate for those living with autism. To learn more about how Grandin sees the world, read Claudia Kawczynska’s interview.  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Lifeguards
Italian pups train to rescue humans in troubled waters

After vacationing abroad recently, I’ve been jealous of the abundance of parks and beaches in Europe that allow dogs. 

But in Italy, not all of the beach dogs are just lounging in the sun all day, some are also helping to keep the ocean safe. These working pups are graduates of the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs in Civitavecchia. Currently 300 dogs have been certified through the three-year program. 

The canine lifeguards are trained to jump from helicopters and boats, carry a buoy or raft, and tow victims to shore. The dogs play an important role in rescuing the 3,000 people saved by the Italian Coast Guard each year. 

According to program coordinator, Roberto Gasbarri, canine lifeguards have an advantage over humans because they can easily jump into the water and reach victims quickly. One dog can single handedly pull a boat of 30 people to shore. The canine lifeguards can even help reduce fatigue in the human rescuers by towing handlers to victims for medical attention. 

Think your crew has what it takes? The school will train any breed, as long as they weigh at least 30 kilograms (66 pounds) and are confident in the water, though Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlands are most common.  Each dog works with a volunteer handler, who also acts as the animal's trainer.

I don’t think my water phobic pups will be lifeguards anytime soon, but I’m thankful for the people and dogs who donate their time to keeping the beaches safe.

News: Guest Posts
Tulip on the Big Screen
My Dog Tulip world theatrical premiere, Sept. 1

The animated film version of J.R. Ackerley’s best-selling memoir, My Dog Tulip, will have its world theatrical premiere on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at the New York Film Forum. Written, directed and animated by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, this decidedly adult story traces the small details of the 14-year relationship between Ackerley (voiced by Christopher Plummer) and his Alsatian in post-war England. We’re big fans of the classic, unsentimental memoir, which was first published in England in 1956, and now the lively, thoughtful film. Check out our Q&A with the Fierlingers in Bark (Summer 2010).

 

The filmmakers will attend the 8 p.m. shows on Sept. 1 and 2. My Dog Tulip runs through Sept. 14 (screening details here).

 

News: Guest Posts
Five Year Katrina Anniversary
Today, we remember and reflect

When my husband and I evacuated our New Orleans home the day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, we assumed that this would be an unexpected, albeit nice visit with my parents in the Chicago area. Surely, we’d head back in a week or so. On August 29, 2005, we learned our fate; there was no going home.

In shock, I took comfort in the fact that our beloved pets – four dogs and two cats – were safe with us. It soon became clear that many other people were not so fortunate and thousands of dogs and cats were in danger of dying due to starvation, heat or worse. Animal lovers from around the country poured into New Orleans and Mississippi, selflessly sacrificing their time and money to save as many pets as they could.

I admired their efforts and yet, I felt for those owners who were unable to bring their pets with them and desperately tried to track them down. In some cases, the pet was found only to have the new owner refuse to reunite them, claiming that the animal had been abandoned, or neglected prior to the storm.

When I interviewed people frantically looking for their animals, I started to have nightmares. The most vivid opened with me sitting in a beautiful old theater and spotting my pets near a woman a few rows away. I called out to her, “Those are my dogs and cats! I need to take them home!” The woman turned toward me and said, “You can’t. You have no home.”

The first time I needed to take one of my dogs to a vet in Illinois, I was asked about his breed and where he was from. I said Louisiana and the tech said, “Oh, a Katrina dog!” No, I corrected her. He is from Louisiana and so am I.

Five years later, and having relocated to the Chicago area, I still occasionally hear people refer to their Katrina dog or cat. Though I am glad that these animals survived, honestly, the label makes me wince. Had we not been able to transport our pets with us, would someone else be calling my 13-year-old Catahoula, Desoto, their “Katrina” dog? Would he have a different name? Would all four dogs, even our Pit Bull mix, Shelby, have been saved? Our cats, Cricket and Bruiser Bear, are siblings. Would they have been separated?

Of course, the alternative would’ve been far worse. In the weeks and months after the biggest man-made disaster in U.S. history, I heard from friends and neighbors what happened to people and pets who were not rescued in time. I saw graphic images on websites and in the news. They are impossible to forget, and they shouldn’t be forgotten.

Fortunately, the lessons gleaned from this tragedy should prevent any animal from being left behind again. Thanks to the PETS Act, people are allowed to bring their pets with them to an emergency shelter. The Louisiana SPCA has since rebuilt, giving safe haven to homeless and unwanted pets in a beautiful, modern shelter. Plus, its volunteer and adoption programs are stronger than ever.

Civic activism became a new, necessary way of life. Local animal lovers and the LA/SPCA persuaded the city council to pass the Intact Dog Ordinance earlier this year, a major victory in the cause against pet overpopulation.

Challenges remain, but as a Katrina survivor once said, New Orleans will always be between storms. The difference is now we are prepared to ride them out.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mapping the Gut
New research seeks to understand the stomach

My dog, Nemo, is an expert at getting into the garbage and eating treasures off the street.  Fortunately, to date,  Nemo’s dietary habits have been fairly innocuous, but eating bad food can easily lead to more serious conditions, like gastrointestinal infections.

Until now identifying canine gastrointestinal disease was difficult because scientists could only culture a small percentage of the bacteria in a dog's gut. And for a long time, diagnosis was further complicated because veterinarians didn’t have any information on what a healthy gut looked like. 

Now researchers at the University of Illinois are using DNA pyrosequencing technology to map the canine gastrointestinal system. Having a standard will make it easier to diagnose and fight infections.

For dogs, a balanced and stable microbiota is important for gastrointestinal health, so research in this area can make a big impact on understanding our dogs’ health.  With their newfound information, the scientists at the University of Illinois plan to study how diet, medicine, and age affect microbial count.  They'll also be looking at the link between human and dog illness. This last topic is of increasing interest as more dogs are considered part of the family.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Doggy Watering Hole
It’s neighbors helping neighbors

While visiting my parents in Oregon, I was out running when I saw a bucket filled with water suspended under a sign that read “Doggy Watering Hole.” I was charmed by this thoughtful, neighborly gesture at the side of the road. This sort of community-mindedness is something to be celebrated.

  Now I realize that there will be folks who think, “Ew, what a great way to share germs.” To this I say 1) I ran by the doggy watering hole nearly every day for close to two weeks to check it out and the water always looked fresh and clean, so it is clearly being changed frequently, and 2) It sure beats having the dogs drink out of nasty puddles in the street that contain fuel products or other hazards.   I’m in favor of people carrying plenty of water for their dogs when they are out and about, but this watering hole is such a great idea as a way to help people and dogs who get caught out without quite enough for whatever reason. Have you seen anything like this in your neighborhood?

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Date
At the drive-in

My boyfriend Jason often accuses me of trying to shoehorn the dogs into activities he feels aren’t an ideal fit: birthday parties, beach trips, Saturday morning brunches. Now, we have one more activity we can add to the list: Friday date nights.

  When Friday rolls around, I’m ready for fun with Jason but feel terrible if it means leaving the dogs home. What makes it worse are the hopeful looks on the dogs’ faces. Oh hey, you’re home! Yeah, change out of those work clothes... Hmm, those don’t look like hiking shoes... You’re going to be a little cold in that dress... Hey wait, where are you going? You forgot our leashes … and us! It’s enough guilt to ruin a date.   Recently, thanks to Bark’s articles about summer fun with your dog (see “Outward Hound” in Summer 2010 issue), I discovered the perfect dog + date night solution: the drive-in theater! The only question: Is my local drive-in dog-friendly? While I lived the majority of my teen years by the adage, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission, I’ve grown less adventurous with age, particularly in this case because I didn’t want to drive 40 minutes only to be turned away.   I tried contacting the theater with no luck. When I asked friends and family if they had brought their dogs to the drive-in before, a few had, but they snuck them in under blankets. Others said they remembered seeing a “NO DOGS” sign a few years back. Jason said he didn’t want to smuggle the dogs into the theater because he’d be too stressed out about the whole ordeal, plus the dogs wouldn’t likely cooperate. It seemed like I only had one option: Lie to Jason and just go for it.   As we approached the drive-in, I pulled over for a second and told Jason I had forgotten something. Then I pulled out a large blanket from the backseat and threw it on his lap. “What’s this for?” he asked.   “So it turns out they might not be dog-friendly here, and I just didn’t want to tell you because I really wanted to go!”   “What? This is insane.”   “I know, but just put this blanket over Skipper on your lap, and they won’t notice Leo because he’s asleep and since he’s black and he’ll blend in.”   Jason rolled his eyes and begrudgingly accepted the blanket.   We pulled up to the ticket-booth and I calmly addressed the teenage cashier, “Two for The Other Guys at 10:15?”   So far so good. I handed the cashier a twenty. He returned my change. “Thank you, turn your radio to 93.6 FM.” Suddenly, both dogs leaped up and barked. Skipper practically jumped out the window. I smiled nervously as the teenager looked at me and said, “Enjoy your show.”   I honestly don’t know if the drive-in had a dog-friendly policy, or if the teenagers running the joint just didn’t care. Either way, Jason and I had a great date with the dogs. We can’t wait to go back.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Joyful Experiences with Dogs
Can you beat running on the beach?

I took this photo of Caity running with her dog Maggie while I was vacationing with my extended family in Cannon Beach, Ore. I had never met either one of them until that day, but when they zoomed by together, I just had to capture the moment.

  I am an obsessive beach and ocean lover, running is my favorite sport, and I hope it goes without saying that I’m a dog person, so for me, all of them together are about as good as it gets. Of course, if I could eat chocolate at the same time without choking, that would probably increase my enjoyment of the experience slightly, but that’s only theoretical since I’ve never tried it.   What I want to know from you is what experiences with your dog give you the greatest happiness? What are la crème de la crème of all the joyful, fulfilling moments you spend with your dog?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Baseball Breed Ban
Petco Park event bans German Shepherds and other breeds

As a dog lover and a baseball fan, I always look forward to the New York Mets’ Bark in the Park every summer. At the annual event, canine fans are invited to CitiField to watch the game alongside their humans. “Dog days” have become popular promotions at baseball stadiums around the country and, as you can imagine, the Padres’ Petco Park is one of them.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to enjoy this Friday’s event in San Diego. Padres fan, Ted Lew, couldn’t wait to attend the Dog Days of Summer event with his German Shepherd, Joey, so he signed up as soon as tickets were made available earlier this year. However, just weeks before the game, Lew received a letter stating that the event had sold out.

After many inquiring phone calls, Lew found out that the real reason he couldn’t attend the event with Joey was because of a breed ban that included German Shepherds. According to the Padres, the breed ban is in effect for safety reasons but they are unable to disclose the exact breeds that are banned, only that the number is between 10 and 15.

I’m guessing insurance may have a part in the Padres’ decision, though many other ballparks offer this promotion without a breed ban. However, the Padres have made this situation even worse by not making the ban explicit, seemingly turning dogs away at random. 

If the Padres must have the breed ban, couldn’t they work with their insurance company to allow exceptions for dogs with therapy or Canine Good Citizen certifications? And at the very least, they should make their decision public instead of hiding behind the excuse of having “limited space” at the event.

How do you think the Padres should’ve handled this situation?

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