Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Caring for Pets Through Tough Times
Seer Farms temporarily takes in pets from families in crisis

In tough economic times, we’ve seen an increase in surrendered dogs, a myriad of shelter budget cuts, and the creation of the pet soup kitchen. According to the ASPCA, the recession has added an estimated one to two million animals to shelters.  And that's on top of the six to eight million pets surrendered each year.

I can’t even imagine what I would do if I was financially unable to keep my pets. Loosing your job or house is devastating, but losing a canine family member on top of that is unthinkable.  Unfortunately, many people have no alternative. 

Two years ago, Laura Pople saw people and animals suffering as a result of the economic downturn and decided to create Seer Farms, a facility that would temporarily take in pets from families in crisis from foreclosure, extended medical illness, military deployment, and domestic violence. Within three months she assembled a board of directors and found a property in Jackson, New Jersey, funded by money from her 401k retirement fund. 

When families bring an animal to Seer Farms, they also commit to a timetable for reuniting with their pets. They’re also asked to stay involved by making regular visits. If the owners can afford it, they pay a nominal fee per month to defray costs, but the organization survives on donations from pet supply companies, private donations, and other fundraising efforts.

The need for Laura’s organization was obvious from the start. Seer Farms had a waiting list before they even opened, including requests from all over the nation. Today 175 animals are cared for at Seer Farms and 49 cats and dogs have already been reunited with their families. 


News: Guest Posts
Gift Pick: Photobooth Dogs

It’s not even Thanksgiving yet and Bark publisher Cameron Woo’s new book is already showing up on gift lists. Esquire magazine’s gadget guru included Photobooth Dogs on his list of Best Tech Gifts (and stocking stuffers!) for Men 2010—describing it as “strangely satisfying.” Not so strange to us. We understand why someone whose days are are dominated by gadgets would be drawn to this analog oasis, this vintage paean to our best friends. We think he’s on to something.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ball of Fur
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! sponsors abandoned pup

I’ve heard a lot of inspiring rescue stories, but recently I read about a Poodle from Louisiana with a particularly incredible story, and the most amazing makeover I have ever seen. This tenacious pup could’ve given any of the Worlds Ugliest Dog winners a run for their money… until he got the second chance of a lifetime.

A couple weeks ago, a dog was found in a ditch, covered in insects and so matted he couldn’t walk or eat. Fortunately he was rescued by My Heart’s Desire, a local animal rescue group.

The poor pup was so matted that he had to be sedated in order to shave off all of the hair.  It took him one week to walk again. The rescue group named the Poodle Ripley after Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, since they could barely believe there was a dog under all of the mats.

When officials at Ripley’s Believe It or Not heard about their namesake, they were so inspired that they sponsored his care by making a donation to My Heart’s Desire. When Ripley is adopted, the company will be sending him home with a gift card to a local pet store for food, grooming, and toys.

Love for special animals is not new to the company. Founder, Robert Ripley, was a pet lover and even had a one-eyed dog named Cyclops.

After grooming and lots of love, Ripley the Poodle is now doing well and is looking for a forever home. My Heart’s Desire says that Ripley is a social butterfly and is constantly wagging her little stub of a tail. 

With her amazing turnaround, Ripley is a perfect example that you should never judge a book by its cover!


News: Guest Posts
Dangerous Dog Breed List Has No Bite
Daily Beast fearmongering should be muzzled

I don’t know how to break it to my family and friends, but there’s a Pit Bull mix and two Dalmatians in my house! According to the Daily Beast, I should be scared to death to live among the #1 and #11 most dangerous dog breeds, respectively.

Just because you don’t have one of the common banned breeds—Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds—you think you’re safe? Greyhounds, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, Old English Sheepdogs, Beagles, Golden Retrievers and Poodles all made the list of 39 dangerous dog breeds. Guess all of us dog lovers should run for our lives!

The irreverent online news digest (founded by former Vanity Fair and The New Yorker editor Tina Brown), attempts to persuade the reader at how much research went into creating its “39 Most Dangerous Dog Breeds” list.

Problem is, it relied on a faulty study—which had been discredited several years ago—as its main source. Not to mention, both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association have stated that breed is not the primary indicator for a bite. As most dog lovers and professional dog trainers know, socialization, training and supervision are key to bite prevention.

When glancing through the photo gallery illustrating the 30 breeds, be sure to note the breed name as printed because the Daily Beast posted photos that do not match the breed listed. For example, the Bull Mastiff “pictured” is a Dogue de Bordeaux, and both the Australian Shepherd and the Collie feature photos of what appear to be Border Collies. Perhaps if the Daily Beast had focused more on finding accurate breed photos than digging up muzzled and mean dog pics, readers could take this pet project a little more seriously.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Howling Dogs, Crying Babies
What are these interactions all about?

A common theme for You Tube videos of dogs and babies is dogs who howl when a baby was crying. Interestingly, the dogs’ vocalizations often have a calming affect on the babies. Here are two videos in which a crying baby and a howling dog are in close proximity. In the first one, a dog is howling while a baby cries in a bassinet, and it seems as though the baby stops crying in response to the dog’s vocalizations.

  In the second video, a dog and a baby are lying on a blanket on the floor and both are making a lot of noise. Though more subtle, it again appears as though the baby’s response to the dog’s howling is to stop crying for a brief moment.

  It’s really anybody’s guess what is going on in these interactions. There are a lot of experts commenting on them, but without knowing more about the contexts and the individuals involved, it’s just guesswork. To really know what was happening, I would need to know if the baby and the dog usually act like this or if it was just a one-time event. I’d also want to know what works for soothing the babies when the dogs aren’t involved, and what other sounds or situations make the dogs howl.   Here are some possibilities about what is going on, but as I said, it’s not possible to know for certain which explanations are correct. It’s highly likely that a totally different interpretation is the right one.   Baby The baby stops crying because he likes the howling. The baby stops crying because he likes any loud noise The baby stops crying because the howling startles him. The cessation of the baby’s crying has nothing to do with the howling at all.   Dog The dog howls because she likes to join in with the baby’s “howling.” The dog howls because she has learned that this gets the baby to quiet down. The dog howls because she doesn’t like being near the baby. The dog howls because she’s trying to get a human’s attention: (“Pick up the baby and make it stop!!!)   What do you think is going on? Do you have experience with a dog and a baby who howl and cry together?
News: Guest Posts
Adopt A Senior Dog
Older, wiser, mellower—what could be better?

Yesterday, on my morning stroll with Lulu and Renzo, I met a couple walking an 11-year-old mutt they had just adopted from the Seattle Humane Society. I use the word mutt as high praise because this dog was shaggy and black with a graying, eternally charming muzzle. I’m a sucker for the type. But I knew she was the sort of dog a person with less imagination or compassion might pass by in a shelter. Just as I was thinking how lucky she was to be adopted at this stage in her life, I looked back at the woman on the other end of the leash. She was beaming. Seriously, thrilled with her new dog. And I realized, of course, there was lots of luck to go around.

  The meeting was auspicious: November is Adopt-A-Senior-Dog Month. Time to spread the word about what makes a senior dog a great addition to a home. Seniors settle in quickly, enjoy a more laid-back schedule, and have already passed through messy puppy stages to name just a few of the many reasons to adopt an older dog. What makes your senior puppy the bomb?


News: Guest Posts
Showing and Telling
Your stories give us something to bark about

One of my favorite parts of my job is reviewing submissions for contests, especially Show & Tell. Your stories and photos never fail to lift my spirits. From funny to ridiculous to sublme, readers remind me of the many surprises our dogs have in store for us. They challenge us to be the best people we can be and then they reward us by putting their best paws forward.

  Recently, we received a few images from Connie Page in Fairbanks, Alaska. In a short note, she described how her co-pilot, Cedar, stood by her as she fought her battle with ovarian cancer. Dogs as healing companions is an image I’ve seen surfacing frequently these days, from “Devotion” by David Weiskirch, an essay about how dogs helped his wife’s healing (Bark, Issue 60, Summer 2010) to Dana Jennings’ new book, What a Difference a Dog Makes, which grew out a New York Times blog post about the lessons he learned from his dog during treatment for prostate cancer.   There is something in the photo of Connie and Cedar that captures the spirit of this healing relationship. There is Connie, serene and beautiful in a breathtaking wilderness she knows is good for her and her dog. At her side, Cedar sits with her tongue loose from what has probably already been a wonderful adventure. She looks ready to spring and gambol as soon as the shutter clicks—and get back to the business of reminding her person what this living business is all about.   I’d love to hear more stories about the different ways dogs cajole, support and distract their people through illnesses. Comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter @The_Bark #healingcompanions.



Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet Trivia Contest
How much do you know?

American Humane is sponsoring a pet trivia contest through this Friday, Nov. 5. There are six questions in the trivia quiz, and if you answer all of them correctly, you could win a prize package. There are 10 prize packages, and the winners will be chose randomly from all of the entries with six correct answers.

  So, if you know what Eddie on Frasier and the RCA icon have in common, what international incident involved Teddy Roosevelt’s dog, the breed of Paul McCartney’s dog Martha, or the name of the canine actor who played Toto, consider entering the contest. Though there are questions related to other types of animals, too, dog knowledge is part of what’s necessary for success.   Good luck!


News: Guest Posts
Canada’s First Pet Store Ban
Vancouver suburb just says no

Months after San Francisco officials tabled the hot-potato discussion of shutting down the sale of puppies in the City by the Bay, the city council in Richmond, British Columbia, unanimously passed its own ban on the sale of pets from local stores. The move by the Vancouver suburb makes it the first ban of its kind in Canada.

            And the impact could be significant. “Fifty-one percent of British Columbians annually buy their dogs from a breeder, many via pet stores, rather than adopting, compared to the North American average for a municipality of 25 percent,” reports the Vancouver Courier. “In Richmond, the average number of residents purchasing puppies from breeders annually is 57 percent.” Shutting down stores will not only slow the demand for pet store puppies, it will bring attention to the issue of puppy mills and overpopulation, which will have a more lasting impact.   In a related and interesting twist, recent legislation in Victoria, Australia, outlaws the sale of animals to anyone under the age of 18.


News: Guest Posts
Big Jungle, Little Dog
Why Maggie never goes outside alone

Maggie never goes outside alone. Never. She always has a human escort, someone to scan the dense bush surrounding the patch of grass we call a yard. Lurking within that bush could be almost any variety of tropical mammal; mammals that almost certainly consider a small white dog a tasty snack. It could be argued that choosing such a small dog in our line of work—field biology in Belize—was not a wise choice (see, A Change of Heart). Of course, when we adopted her, I didn’t intend for her to be under escort all of the time. But an incident her first week with us rapidly changed my mind.

  It was with a great deal of enthusiasm that I set out with our newly adopted dog to take a walk on the dirt road near our home. It was a foggy morning, early. In the pasture on one side of us, a swish, swish, swish arrested my attention. I was amazed to see a short deer approaching through the tall grass. Then it had slowed to a slink, tail tip switching and green eyes riveted upon us.    An adult puma!   I scooped up the little dog in my arms and faced the great cat. It was only 25 feet away from us and looked like it meant business. A commanding bark or two from Maggie would have been welcome, but she seemed not to notice the cat, or at least wasn’t commenting.   The cat approached us, one step at a time, tail tip flicking. I was so frightened my knees were knocking. Though pumas, or cougars as they are called in North America, have a reputation for attacking humans in some areas, I was all but certain this one wanted the dog. And for a split second, I entertained throwing the dog to the cat. I shudder at the memory. But only for a split second—even though Maggie had been with us only a week, we were bonded.   After what felt like eternity, the cat evidently decided I wasn’t surrendering the dog. Like water poured from a pitcher, it leaped gracefully, easily clearing the barbwire fence that separated us and bounded across the road only a few feet away. Then sat, sphinx-like, and regarded us, its coat tawny against the green jungle backdrop.   Clutching Maggie, I took this as my cue to escape, never turning my back on it, maintaining eye contact all the way home. That evening, just after dark, there was a puma in our driveway. Scoping out the dog? I’ll never know, but it was the first of several hair-raising puma encounters near our home. Once we came face-to-face with three nearly grown youngsters that followed us up the hill to the house. By then, I’d perfected walking backwards with Maggie in my arms maintaining eye contact.   Besides pumas, another predator to take an unhealthy interest in Maggie was the tayra, aka “bush dog” in Belize. This large member of the weasel family is an omnivore, known to take small deer. I’d thought Maggie would be safe walking the wide road at the edge of the farm with my husband, Bruce, and I as escorts until a tayra burst from the jungle and streaked toward our dog with frightening speed. Fortunately, Bruce snatched her up before the animal reached her. It gave up then and disappeared into the jungle.   And it’s not just the predators we need to beware of. I’ve discovered white tailed deer, the same species found in North America, take exception to a small white dog, even a polite, well-behaved one. To be fair, there were babies involved: two darling newborn fawns at the base of our hill. When I saw them, Maggie and I waited until they’d disappeared into the bush and then I counted to 30. Maggie has zero interest in deer. None whatsoever. Particularly when treats are involved, which is how we’d been killing time until the coast was clear. A quick look around and then I deemed it safe to proceed.   Or so I thought.   Mama deer burst from the bush not far from where the fawns had entered. Without knowing quite how it happened, she’d straddled Maggie and was attempting to stomp her. Horrified, I somehow grabbed Maggie from beneath the enraged mother’s flying hooves and headed back up our hill to the house. Bleating furiously, with foam flying from her muzzle, the Mama Deer from Hell charged us repeatedly until we were safely inside.   Other than deer, which Maggie now fears, she is remarkably blasé about most animals she encounters. She has very little interest in the raccoons, coatimundis (a long-nosed, long-tailed member of the raccoon family), kinkajous (another distant relative of the raccoon called “honey bear” in Belize), opossums and armadillos—all of which she has totally ignored in our yard beyond a cursory sniff in their direction.   She does display some interest in two species. Monkeys really get her cranked up. Likewise, they shake branches violently when they see her. For her part, Maggie stands on her hind legs, yipping and stretching up to reach them. Then they take to urinating in our direction and throwing feces with uncanny aim—our cue to exit.   But the giant Baird’s Tapir, Belize’s National Animal, is where Maggie’s protective instinct finally finds expression. Weighing up to 800 pounds, this harmless relative of the horse family has a pleasant horsey smell that is readily detectable, even to humans. Many times when we’ve been working at night, Maggie has alerted us to their presence with the utmost urgency and uncharacteristic agitated barking. “Stay back,” she seems to be saying to the tapir, “otherwise I’m coming after you!” Does she really imagine she can catch one, let alone drag it home?