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News: Karen B. London
Crate Rest
Is it possible to survive it?

Besides the obviously horrendous news that a dog has cancer or is in kidney failure, there are few more dreaded statements from the veterinarian than, “Your dog needs to be on crate rest.” Every time a client relays the news to me that the vet has said this, I am torn between the urge to offer them a stiff drink or slide a chair under them before they fall over in despair.

  Keeping a dog on crate rest is unbelievably challenging for everyone involved, especially if the dog is young and active. I’ve found that many of my clients are more alarmed by the thought of living with a dog temporarily restricted from exercising than they are by the original medical problem.   It is never easy to keep a dog on crate rest from becoming restless and perhaps developing undesirable behaviors, such as chewing, whining or barking. The advice I have is to twofold: Continue to spend quality time with your dog and make sure she is mentally active.   Quality time with an activity-restricted dog is easily achieved with lots of physical contact. This can be as simple as cuddling together on the floor, but can also involve canine massage. The book Canine Massage in Plain English by Natalie Winter is one of my favorites. Make sure to check with your veterinarian about any areas of your dog’s body to avoid or that require you to be especially gentle.   Mental exercise can take many forms, some of which also provides you and your dog quality time together. Simple obedience work, either in a class or at home may work, depending on your dog’s specific physical limitations. Tricks are a great way to exercise your dog’s brain, too, as long as you don’t ask your dog for any behaviors that could exacerbate her condition.   There are ways to keep your dog’s mind active while you attend to other areas of your life such as working, showering, paying bills etc. Feeding her in a way that requires her to be mentally engaged, such as by stuffing food into Kongs or Goodie Balls can keep her occupied for a long time.   Surviving crate rest is mainly about preventing boredom, which is the enemy of a happy well-behaved dog.

 

News: JoAnna Lou
Helping One Another
Homeless dogs help injured soldiers learn a new vocation

The Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. is on the forefront of using the human-canine bond to help soldiers. Previously, I wrote about research being done on the effects of service dogs on post traumatic stress disorder, but recently I found about Dog Tags, a partnership between the Walter Reed and its neighbor, the Washington Humane Society. 

Developed by the Humane Society, Dog Tags is a program that teaches soldiers the basics of dog training, while providing homeless dogs with training and socialization. Dog Tags gives soldiers the opportunity to pursue a future career in the field of animal training, care and welfare while increasing the dogs’ adoption rate and retention in their new homes.

Participation in the program is voluntary and requires the solders to come across the street to the Washington Humane Society’s Behavior & Learning Center twice a week. The certificate based program has three tiers, each lasting eight weeks. Even better, the certificate based educational curriculum uses all humane, motivational training methods.

I saw a presentation last year at ClickerExpo about a similar vocational program done in prisons. Listening to some of the participants, it was amazing to hear the life transformations they had from working with dogs and caring for another living being. The inmates learned compassion and empathy, while developing an optimistic outlook on life. Learning a career skill is only a small part of what participants receive from these types of programs. I can only imagine the benefits Dog Tags has for soldiers who have gone through so much trauma in their lives.

To learn more about Dog Tags or to donate, visit the Washington Humane Society website. The program is entirely funded by the Humane Society. 

News: Karen B. London
Espresso Anyone?
How about a puppy?

Have you ever seen a sign in a store that says: “Unattended children will be given an espresso and a puppy”? This sign is getting more common where I live and many places online actually sell them. Of course, the idea is that parents will end up with a nightmare on their hands if they don’t follow through on their responsibility to monitor their children while shopping.

  A friend of mine is very offended by anyone joking about a puppy being given away to punish parents. I didn’t take it that way at all. I take it as a joke based on the fact that a child hyped up on a massive dose of caffeine would create a lot of work for a parent, as would a new puppy. Taking care of a puppy is a big responsibility and a huge time commitment. In my opinion, this sign acknowledges what a big deal it is to get a puppy and that it should not be taken lightly.   I always have to resist the urge to try to impersonate a child and then say to an employee of the store, “My parents are letting me wander around in here by myself. I’ll take that espresso now.”   Does this sign offend you or cause you to chuckle?

 

News: Guest Posts
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
Inexplicable phobias and unlikely explanations

“Mitch, you know the rule! No standing in the house! Dude, if you want a drink I’ll get you one, but you can’t stand up—it freaks the dog out.” Whenever my friend Mitch comes over, this is my reality. Most of the time, life at home with the dogs is pretty uneventful. The dogs keep themselves occupied playing with toys or enjoying the backyard whenever we’re not snuggling on the sofa. From time to time, my friend Mitch (a towering six-foot-four, bearded lumberjack of a man) will show up, and Skipper does not like it. My usually friendly and docile dog barks constantly at him, clipping his heels, until he sits down. As soon as Mitch hits the couch or chair, it’s like someone flipped a switch and Skip goes back to normal.

  Fear of unusually (i.e., freakishly) tall people is only one of Skipper’s many strange and inexplicable phobias. He also fears karate, a fact I discovered when Skipper witnessed our friend Andy doing a Tae-Bo workout video. Additionally, and perhaps more logically, Skipper fears smoke. If we’re getting overzealous with the panini maker or those s’mores are getting a little out of control, Skipper will cower and hide in the bushes and look so sad it’s enough to break your heart in two.   This unique constellation of phobias has lead me to only one logical conclusion: Skipper’s previous owner must have been some sort of ultimate karate master (I’m thinking Bruce Lee), who met his demise at the hands of a giant, bearded redhead (plausibly Chuck Norris) during some sort of epic showdown in a burning building. Skipper likely employed an arsenal of canine kicks and punches to save his sensei, but either the smoke was too thick, or perhaps, Skipper was cruelly thrown aside (which also explains his blindness in one eye), and could not save his dojo-master. That, or like many owners, I have constructed an alternate reality to explain the source of all my dog’s fears with one traumatic event.   It’s a natural tendency to want to believe that Skipper’s life was perfectly happy until one fateful day everything came apart, but it all worked out because I adopted him. It’s almost a mode of self-preservation, considering that I already get overly emotional when watching those ASPCA ads of dogs in shelters: I couldn’t handle imagining poor Skipper going through an extended ordeal. The reality is though, any dog, whether from a shelter or from a responsible breeder, can develop strange phobias that we don’t understand.   Think of it this way: As humans, not all of our phobias come from rational places. Case in point, I had (OK, let’s be real, HAVE) an irrational fear of E.T., stemming from my childhood. This doesn’t mean that I was at any point abducted by aliens, or lured into Drew Barrymore’s closet after following a trail of Reese’s Pieces, or forced to fly away from government agents on a 10-speed bicycle (at least, I can’t recall ever having any of these things happen to me). Sometimes, dogs, like their people, just develop phobias we can’t explain. (Some canine compulsions might even have a genetic component.)   As much as I love Skipper and want to know everything about him, I have to accept that’s not possible. Instead, I just have to be the best dog parent I can be, and deal with his quixotic fears. Unless, of course, I am totally right about that Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris karate showdown. In that case, Skipper has just been trying to tell me something and I should be very, very afraid.

 

News: Guest Posts
Animal Hoarding
An inside view, tonight

Tonight, Animal Planet promises to take “an unflinching, honest look at animal hoarding, the people and pets affected, and the challenges of confronting this psychological condition” in a six-part series titled “Confessions: Animal Hoarding” (9 p.m. est/pst). Each episode follows individuals struggling with the compulsive need to possess and control an unmanageable number of animals of a variety of species (cats, dogs, birds, farm animals, fish, etc.), as well as the interventions of family, friends, psychologists, animal welfare experts and veterinarians.

  Hoarding is also a topic on our minds at Bark. In a story for the September 2010 issue, Rebecca Wallick explores the condition through the lens of “rescue hoarding,” a particularly insidious incarnation of the compulsion, in which hoarders present themselves as rescues, shelters and no-kill sanctuaries.   We’ll be watching tonight with the hope the series sheds thoughtful (non-exploitive) light on a devastating compulsion that results in the starvation, illness and death of many animals, in addition to the destruction of human relationships and health. 
News: Guest Posts
Shelter Pet Project
Giving dogs- and cats-in-need a voice

We were thrilled to discover My Dog Tulip animator Paul Fierlinger (who is interviewed in the summer 2010 issue of Bark) has added his talents to an ambitious print/radio/TV/Internet/billboard campaign on behalf of shelter pets. The Shelter Pet Project is a joint initiative of The Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund and The Ad Council. Their goal: Give shelter animals a voice. The funny, moving public service announcements—which also include animated shorts by “Mutts” cartoonist Patrick McDonnell—work to dispel stereotypes about shelter animals as troubled, difficult throwaways. Many of the PSAs focus on the various reasons cats and dogs end up in shelters—reasons such as divorce, death, job transfer, abandonment, even imprisonment of the human—which have nothing to do with a dog or cat’s adoption worthiness. My favorite? “Ditched.” I like how the tough-talking terrier is anything but a victim. View the entire campaign, and tell us which is your favorite.

News: Guest Posts
Cave Canem, Redux
Finding homes for Pompeii’s strays

I had the good fortune to visit Italy in December 2008, and on a sunny, cool day toured the nearly deserted streets of Pompeii with a guide named “Big Nicky,” who is, in fact, rather on the small side. Among the ruins of the ancient Roman city, I was delighted to spy several healthy looking strays—apparently a few of the dozens on the premises. I learned from Big Nicky that the dogs are cared for by Pompeii staff.

  I was equally pleased to get a more complete and updated picture of Pompeii’s strays in recent New York Times story about the Italian government’s efforts to improve conditions at the important archaeological site. One facet of these efforts is an organization called (C)Ave Canem (a play on “Ave Canis,” which means Hail Dog), which has been helping find homes for the strays, who’ve been given names such as Plautus, Lucius and Polibia, over the course of one year. Twenty-two have been adopted so far.   Good for the dogs but maybe a loss for Pompeii. I felt like they gave the ghostly city a feeling of being inhabited again.

 

News: JoAnna Lou
Race Day
16 loyal dogs join the NYC Triathletes in Central Park

On Sunday, race day was finally here. Sixteen human-canine teams came from all over the country to run in the Iams Doggy Dash, which took place in conjunction with the New York City Triathlon. 

Nemo and I have been training for the Iams Doggy Dash since we signed up last year. Between running agility courses and romping around with his sister, Ella, Nemo is in pretty good shape. Even so, five miles is a considerable distance to run, especially on a hot July day.

My plan was to pull out if it was too hot, but fortunately we were running at 8 a.m. and I was impressed by the steps taken by race organizers to ensure that the dogs were safe.

Each pup had access to their own personalized water station before and after the race. Veterinarians from Animal Medical Center checked the dogs pre-, mid-, and post-race to make sure the canine participants were in good health. Some of the symptoms they looked out for were irregular heartbeat, blisters on the foot pads and high body temperature.

There were also plenty of stations throughout the course for rehydrating and a mandatory 5-minute break at the mid-point where dogs were given a sponge bath with cool water.

Nemo and I got lots of cheers and encouragement from the triathletes running alongside us and from the many spectators. In the end, the Rembrandt Cup (a big shiny red fire hydrant) was taken home by a Standard Poodle Eli and his teammate Anthony, but I was really proud of Nemo. I noticed a huge improvement in his fitness and endurance from when we started training. 

I know Nemo loves running, he always spins around and barks when he sees me reach for his running harness, but I also know he could care less if we participate in a race. Events like the Iams Doggy Dash really go to show the loyalty of our pups. I know Nemo will always be by my side, no matter what crazy activities I get myself into!

News: Guest Posts
Study Dogs Sought
For study of canine compulsive behavior

The Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University is currently enrolling:

  Terriers (except Bull breeds) German Shepherds Border Collies   into a study regarding the genetic underpinnings of compulsive behavior. Dogs that are affected and unaffected are needed. You will be required to fill out a survey about your dog’s behavior and a blood sample will be taken. A visit to Tufts is not required. If you are interested in learning more about this study, please contact Nicole Cottam at 508-887-4802 or nicole.cottam@tufts.edu.

 

News: JoAnna Lou
Zoom Room
New franchise brings pet lovers together with dog sports

Animals have always been a part of Jaime Van Wye’s life, so it’s only natural that she would grow up to become a dog trainer. Through her work, she’s trained dogs in search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, criminal apprehension, tracking and even taught a Labrador how to pee in a urinal—and flush. 

Through her interactions with people and their pets, Van Wye identified the need for greater training opportunities in Los Angeles, but also the need for a place where pet lovers could connect. As a result, in 2007, Van Wye founded Zoom Room, the first indoor agility training center in the area. 

But Zoom Room offers much more than just agility. The company’s mission is to develop the bond between pets and their people by offering classes and activities in a modern, social environment. Visitors to Zoom Room train their pups in obedience, therapy work, scent tracking, Pup-lates and skateboarding. 

The venture was so successful that Van Wye turned the business into a franchise last year. This year, two more locations are set to open in Austin, Tex., and Hollywood, Calif. Locations are also underway in Colorado and Florida.

Besides working with my pups, my favorite thing about participating in dog sports is the community. I’m usually wary of franchises, especially when they involve animals, but it sounds like Zoom Room has a great mission: To encourage pet lovers to become more active with their pets, while meeting like-minded people.

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