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Dog's Life: Humane
Running Buddy Program
Partnership between shelter and local business benefits shelter dogs

“Why run alone when you could have a running buddy? Love dogs? Like to run? Lace up your shoes and join Run Flagstaff as we partner with Second Chance Center for Animals to help exercise and promote shelter pets through a weekly run. You run and Second Chance provides your running buddy! Enjoy a neighborhood jaunt with nine to twelve shelter dogs.”

This announcement in the monthly newsletter from our local running store was proof that life is good. Any combination of my two favorite interests—dogs and running—is sure to make me happy. This program is designed to promote shelter dogs to the community as the dogs gain social experience and get some exercise. Each dog wears a glow-in-the-dark collar and a reflective vest that says “ADOPT ME: SECOND CHANCE”.

Second Chance Center for Animals is eager to help their dogs short term with a great outing, and long term by increasing their chances of adoption. In addition to their training work at the shelter, the Running Buddy program offers the dogs new experiences to meet people in the outside world. Run Flagstaff is owned by a couple who are serious dog lovers. They are guardians to three dogs and are likely at any time to add to their family by adopting another one. I love the collaboration between a local business and a shelter for the good of the dogs.

My sons and I were running buddies last week and had such fun that we signed up to attend again this week. The best news was that so many dogs had been adopted during the past week that they were not able to bring as many dogs as planned to the run. Dogs going to loving homes is always good news, even if it means that we had to take turns running dogs since there was not a dog for everyone despite that being the original plan.

Each of us in my family had a dog who charmed us, but made the event a bit of an adventure. My younger son ran with Boomer who must have some sort of sight hound in him. He was Fast with a capital F. My son got some good sprinting work in, and their love of speed made them a great match. My older son had a dog named Deuce who was extremely strong. He was presumably part freight train, but just as sweet as could be. I ran with Oreo, a very loving mix with black on either side of her face and white in between. Though she prefers her space around other dogs, she is gentle and kind around people, no matter how close they are to her.

While we ran on the path along the main road in Flagstaff, Ariz. (Route 66), many people walking or driving by smiled and asked us questions about the dogs. Seeing polite, well-behaved dogs out in the community is perhaps the best way to remind people that shelters are great places to find great dogs.

News: Guest Posts
A Lost Dog Spent the Night
Happily, she is back with her guardian now

The dog was outside our house one night when my husband and son pulled into the driveway. She approached the car, and when they got out of it, she came right up to them, wagging her whole body. It was raining and the dog was cold and wet, so they invited her in to our house where she happily greeted me and drank some water. After exploring our downstairs and being gently dried with some towels, she settled down by the fire.

She was not wearing a collar, but the gently pressed down fur around her neck showed that she had recently been wearing one. She was on the older side, but other than having very bad cataracts, she seemed perfectly healthy. Though she bumped into things and was clearly blind or almost blind, we thought she was in good shape. In addition, this dog was friendly, affiliative and obviously comfortable inside a home. There was no doubt that this dog had a family, but she was not one of the many dogs we regularly see in our neighborhood.

We went outside to see if anyone was looking for a lost dog, asked a few neighbors if they recognized her and pondered what to do. We even took her outside to see if she would try to head in a particular direction that indicated home. No luck. She was ours until we could sort it out. There was no way we were going to put any dog, much less an old blind one, out in the rain when she had so clearly sought out our company.

We posted a description and a picture on Facebook and on a local lost dog site. We guessed she was about 8-10 years old and a Lab mix, and we mentioned the area of town where she found us and noted that she couldn’t see. We were hopeful that such a distinctive dog would quickly be recognized and could be returned to those who love her, even though the best picture we could get of her was not very good.

The next morning, we called our local Humane Association with information about her, but they said nobody had called looking for such a dog. I took her to a vet to check to see if she was microchipped, but unfortunately, she was not. We felt stuck, but waited. We certainly didn’t want to turn her in as a stray, because as lovely as she was, we feared that an older blind dog might not be a top priority at a shelter with limited space.

Later that afternoon, we got a call from her guardian who answered my “Hello,” with, “I think you have my dog! Her name is Dallas.” He lives just down the street from us, but it was a mutual Facebook friend living thousands of miles away in Pennsylvania who saw the post and then contacted him to tell him I had his dog. You can say whatever negative things you want to about social media, but there’s no denying the good that comes from it in cases like this. Dallas and her guardian were reunited just a few minutes after the phone call. They were thrilled and relieved to see each other.

If you’ve taken in a lost dog, how did you locate the family and how long did that take?

Good Dog: Studies & Research
Tibetan Mastiffs Thrive at High Altitude
Study finds that dogs and humans adapted to mountain living in a similar way.

Sherpas from Nepal and Tibet are known for their unique ability to thrive in high-altitudes, most famously Mount Everest. Scientists believe that this adaptation was acquired over time by interbreeding with the now extinct humans known as Denisovans. A new study from the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences believes that Tibetan Mastiffs may have followed a similar path.

Like their human counterparts, Tibetan Mastiffs can also live in regions most others can’t—in the thin mountain air above 4,000 meters. The lead researcher and geneticist, Zhen Wang, believes that similar to people, this ability was acquired by interbreeding with gray wolves that already lived at high altitudes more than 20,000 years ago.

This breeding allowed the mastiffs to produce less hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells. This helps the dogs avoid clots and stokes that can arise when the body produces additional red blood cells in an effort to acquire more oxygen at high altitude. Scientists believe the gene responsible for the adaptation is called EPAS1, which regulates the production of hemoglobin, but weren’t sure how the mastiffs acquired it.

Zhen and his team suspected that the source was gray wolves since they had the EPAS1 gene and had lived on the Tibetan Plateau for some time. So they analyzed segments of DNA containing the gene from 29 canines, including Chinese highland and lowland gray wolves, Tibetan Mastiffs, Chinese lowland village dogs, and a golden jackal. As it turns out, Tibetan Mastiffs are much more closely related to other Chinese dogs than than gray wolves, but they found two genetic areas in the mastiffs that had signs of interbreeding with the Tibetan gray wolf. While the mastiffs got a useful adaptation out of the deal, there’s no genetic evidence that the wolves got anything beneficial in return.

Either way, it’s very cool to see dogs and humans adapt in a similar way!

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Four Legged Employee Goes Viral
A Texas Lowes gains attention for hiring a service dog and her human.

Recently a Lowes in Abilene, Texas has gotten a lot of attention for hiring an employee who looks a little different than the average worker with her fur and four legs. A couple shopping at the home improvement store spotted the Golden Retriever named Charlotte and found out she was a service dog that was hired along with Clay Luthy, a disabled Air Force veteran. They were so impressed that they posted a photo on Facebook, which went viral.

Clay’s multiple Air Force deployments resulted in countless surgeries. He credits Charlotte with allowing him to avoid medications and live independently. Still it wasn’t wasn’t easy to find a job. But when he and Charlotte showed up to the interview at Lowes, they assured him that it wouldn’t be a problem to bring Charlotte to work every day. In fact Lowes already allows well behaved pets in their stores.

A few weeks later Lowes extended a job offer and Clay made Charlotte her own employee vest out of an old Lowe’s apron.

At ten years old, Charlotte will have to retire soon. Clay has been training a seven-month old puppy named Lola to take her place, but Charlotte has left a lasting impression.

Not only has Charlotte helped Clay maintain a job, but she has become an ambassador at the store, entertaining kids while their parents shop and putting smiles on people’s faces.

Finding and holding a job is just one of the challenges that people with disabilities have to deal with every day. After seeing stories like Lisa McComb’s difficulty flying home with her service dog, it’s refreshing to see a company with a more accommodating view. Hopefully more will follow suit!

News: Guest Posts
Biff the Boxer Stars in John Lewis Ad
Animals take center stage this holiday season

The upscale UK department store John Lewis has a history of emotional commercials that often feature animals. This year, animals once again take center stage, with Buster the Boxer (played by five-year old Biff) in the starring role.

Buster watches foxes, a squirrel, a badger, and a hedgehog bounce on the trampoline that was set up on Christmas Eve to surprise a little girl the next morning. He appears envious of the wildlife enjoying themselves while all he can do is watch through the window. When the back door is opened the next morning, the little girl runs joyfully toward her new gift, but Buster beats her to it. At last, he can have the bouncy fun he has been craving.

The advertisement cost a millions pounds to make, and the company will spend six million more airing the commercial. Naturally, they hope sales—including of the trampoline, the girl’s pajamas, books featuring woodland animals and plush versions of the animals in the ad—will make the commercial worth it.

For the socially conscious, it’s worth noting that this advertisement marks the first time that John Lewis has cast a black family. Additionally, the company will be donating a percentage of the money from all toy sales to Wildlife Trusts in the UK.

This is my favorite dog commercial so far this season. What’s yours?

Good Dog: Studies & Research
Premature Graying in Dogs
New study shows links with anxiety, impulsiveness and fear

We know that premature gray hair in people is a result of a variety of influences. Many parents swear that their kids are making them go gray. Before and after pictures of U.S. Presidents show an astounding increase in gray hair in eight—or even four—years. Of course, genetics is also known to play a role, as is disease. A recent study called “Anxiety and impulsivity: Factors associated with premature graying in dogs” in the journal “Applied Animal Behavior Science” suggests that premature grayness in dogs may be correlated with a number of factors, including some with emotional associations.

Their results are based on a study of 400 dogs in the age range of 1-4 years who were recruited with flyers at veterinary clinics, dog shows and dog parks. Each dog was photographed from the front and from the side so that the degree of graying on their muzzle could be assessed. They were scored 0 = no gray, 1 = frontal gray, 2 = half gray and 3 = full gray. Additionally, their guardians filled out a 42-question survey. Data on anxious behaviors, impulsive behaviors, fears, size, age, sex, number of dogs and cats in the household, time spent unsupervised outdoors, whether they were spayed or neutered, medical issues and participation in organized sports or activities were collected.

Researchers found an association between graying on the muzzle and anxious behaviors, impulse behaviors, fear of loud noises, unfamiliar people and unfamiliar dogs. The extent of grayness was positively correlated with age, and female dogs were more gray than male dogs. There was no link found for premature grayness with size, being spayed or neutered, medical problems (which were rare in the sample), reactions to thunderstorms, fear of unfamiliar places, number of dogs or cats in the household, time spent outside unsupervised or being involved in organized activities.
 

Dogs were only included in the study if it was possible to determine how gray their muzzles were. (White dogs and those with merled coloring didn’t make the cut, causing 43 dogs to be excluded from the study.) The people who evaluated the photographs were not the same people who had any knowledge of the questionnaires, which prevents accidental bias in assessment of the degree of graying. The survey was designed so that guardians were unaware of the purpose of the study. (They were simply told it was a study involving dog lifestyle.) In addition to questions that assessed the factors of interest in the study, there were so-called distractor questions to prevent people from biasing their answers based on what they thought researchers were investigating. Distractor questions included “Does your dog have hind limb dew claws?”

This research adds to our understanding of premature graying in dogs, and what’s most exciting about that is the possibilities it opens for helping dogs. Being anxious or fearful and struggling with impulse control are hard on dogs, and any help dogs receive for these issues can be beneficial. If premature graying provides a tip-off to professionals that these issues may be present, intervention may be more likely to happen and to happen faster. If behaviorists, veterinarians, trainers and other dog professionals know that a gray muzzle in a young dog may indicate that the dog suffers with these issues, perhaps they will more thoroughly assess them, or refer them to other people for evaluation. It’s just another way that people can potentially make life better and easier for many dogs.

Do you have a dog who has gone prematurely gray? If so, do you think anxiety, impulsivity or fear is an issue for your dog?

Dog's Life: Humane
Six Neglected Dogs Rescued and Get a Second Chance
Making room at the Inn

I looked around the property and knew I had my work cut out for me. An emaciated shepherd mix was on a chain, tangled so that she could barely move. Her eyes bugged with fear and she barked a frantic, hysterical bark. A puppy lay among some garbage nearby, watching us apathetically. The flies and yellow jackets were buzzing around her face and when she got up to move it was obvious that a front leg was broken.

Across the yard two more emaciated dogs lay in a garbage and feces filled pen. They didn’t even get up when I approached. The dog nearest me was a unique looking fawn brindle girl with haunting blue eyes but she gazed at me with little response. The other dog was a black and tan aussie type mix and she too had a hopeless look to her. I could hear newborn puppies crying and my eyes followed the sound to a doghouse in the pen. I approached the gate cautiously, unsure how the dogs would be with a stranger approaching the puppies. The location was very remote and I doubted they had been around many people before.

To my surprise, both dogs greeted me quietly and it was obvious that I could enter without bloodshed. As I squeezed through the gate the blue-eyed dog buried her head against me while the other dog squeezed in next to her. My heart caught in my throat as I embraced them for a moment, stroking the filthy outline of hips, spine and ribs. As an animal control officer, I’ve pretty much seen it all, but there was something about their quiet trust that slayed me. I started to choke up and although I was off duty I still felt that I had to pull it together and be professional. I was evaluating the dogs for a private rescue I work with to see if we could help them.

I took a deep breath and walked over to the doghouse to assess the puppies. There were two of them, only a few days old and I was told the others had already died. The pups were swarming with fleas and the doghouse was stifling hot inside so the puppies panted miserably. I knew that if it got even a few degrees hotter they wouldn’t survive. But then again, flea anemia and malnutrition was going to get them either way. I was told that there had been two other litters born there in the last few months. The aussie mix dog’s puppies had all died and the shepherd on the chain had lost all her puppies except for the one with the broken leg.

The owner of the dogs had reached out to us for help. They were on a Pomo reservation and desperately poor. There were no resources for pets and no money for dogfood, veterinary care or anything else. The woman knew she couldn’t care for the dogs and wanted to surrender all of them but our rescue only had room for two. The plan was that I would take two today and then try and put together a plan to help the others. I had brought dog food, flea products and blankets to help with the remaining dogs until we could find a place for them. My thoughts raced as I assessed the situation. The ones in most critical need were the puppy with the broken leg and the blue-eyed mama and her newborns pups. Technically that was 4 dogs but I would figure it out and we could come back for the aussie and the shepherd. As I loaded up the injured puppy and the mama and pups, I struggled with leaving the others behind.

The aussie sat alone in the pen watching me while the shepherd mix glared from her chain. I needed to at least untangle her before I left. I grabbed some treats from the car and walked toward her as she barked and growled at my approach. I kneeled and tossed treats to her, noting the extensive scars on her face. She gobbled the cookies but continued to growl as I untangled her chain.

I had a long drive ahead and needed to get on the road as soon as possible but I couldn’t seem to pull myself away from the remaining two dogs. The difference between a rescuer and a hoarder is the word “no”. Its critical for rescuers not to take on more than they can handle and every day we face heartbreaking decisions. My car was full already and I didn’t even have cell service to call and discuss the situation with the rescue board of directors.

I looked at the aussie one more time. She watched me through the wire and there was no hope in her eyes, only quiet acceptance. My gaze swept back to the terrified shepherd and at that moment everything crystalized in my mind. I couldn’t leave them. Somehow we would make room and I knew our wonderful rescue community would rally and help. I loaded up the Aussie and then the little shepherd whose body quaked in terror as I lifted her into the car.

The long drive down the mountain was a nightmare with all the dogs carsick, vomiting and evacuating their bowels. I stopped several times to remove vomit and stool before they could smear it around more. After more than an hour on the road the dogs finally relaxed and slept. I glanced at them in the rear-view mirror and was overwhelmed with emotion as tears of gratefulness slipped down my cheeks. They were safe and headed for a new life. The life every dog deserves.

All six dogs went into foster homes, were treated for a variety of parasites and injuries and after being spayed and neutered were adopted into loving homes where they will spend their first Christmas as beloved, indoor family members. Dogwood Animal Rescue Project is putting together a program to provide ongoing wellness care as well as spay and neuter services on the reservation. The plan is that by providing much-needed supplies and services we can reduce the overpopulation and improve the standard of animal care for future generations. 

Culture: Tributes
Barking at Squirrels

He died a day ago. There is a sand-fire up North. White flakes of ash fall from the sky like snow. And yet, this is not what alarms me. I stare at our yard. For almost 12 years, Bowie would appear, from the brush, often with a fully blackened snout from digging in fresh fluffy soil, from fitting his favorite stuffed animals for their graves or burying bones that were just too good to be enjoyed all at once.

The next day, at 10am on the dot, I open his doggy door, as that was usually when he was due for a pee. I look out at our yard again. He is still not there, of course. It is windy now, the leaves are starting to fall, and pine needles are raining down like daggers. He would hate this. He used to bark at everything, even the wind. We thought it was something he would outgrow. He never did.

In his absence, the squirrels have become bolder. They dig in the grass, they eat the apples from the apple tree. They get way too close to our house, practically touching our back french doors. I will sprinkle the dog’s ashes all over the yard in hopes the squirrels will smell him and show some damn respect. One day, I bark at them, emulating Bowie’s howling beagle arooo. The squirrels just look at me, confused. So I run at them while howling. It works. For a moment, I am proud. I’m continuing to fight the good fight.

“I’ve been barking at squirrels,” I confess to my husband a few nights later. I feel someone needs to know this information, as I am starting to worry about myself. (Though I’m equal parts terrified he will have me committed.)

“I get it,” my husband says, surprising me. “I still open a can of dog food every morning. Habit, I guess.” Then he starts to cry, resting his head on the pillow between us that the dog claimed over a decade ago in his Oedipal battle for my love.

I don’t tell him that I also sit perched on Bo’s downstairs dog bed waiting for the takeout guy to show up with food. Or that I stalked a raccoon near our garbage cans yesterday. And I chased the mailwoman (because she forgot to pick up my letters for mailing).

Is it possible that in all of my grief, I am becoming a dog? Or have I always been one, deep down? Trans-Species: is that a thing?

I took our daughters to a combination pumpkin patch/ petting zoo yesterday. As they fed chickens, I knelt down and pressed my nose against a goat’s nose and pet the blaze of fur between its eyes, the way I used to with Bo. If I had closed my eyes, it would have felt just like him. But I didn’t, as I quickly became aware of how this looked, a woman paying no attention to her human children running around, instead sitting forehead to forehead with a goat. Eventually my kids came over and pet the goat. Before leaving the parking lot, I texted my husband: “our next dog might be a goat.”

Bo’s favorite delivery man came today, with a package for us and two crunchy bones that he always gave to Bo. I explained to him that our dog was gone, had died, and then I watched as this big burly man’s face crumpled into tears. “It’s okay,” I said feebly, while looking away. He still handed me the bones.

Time heals all wounds, the other humans in my life have been saying. I hope that’s true. For now, I’ll bury his bones in the yard and keep barking at squirrels.

Dog's Life: Events
A Wedding Becomes a True Family Affair
Maid of honor makes sure her sister's dog makes it down the aisle.
Our pets are our family, so it's only natural to want to include them in all of our important life events. When veterinarians Kelly O'Connell and James Garvin were planning their wedding in Denver, Colorado, they knew all of their dogs had to be a part of the ceremony, including their sick Labrador Retriever Charlie Bear.

At 15 years old, Charlie had been battling a brain tumor since April. On the wedding day earlier this fall, Charlie was weak but started walking down the aisle with Kelly's sister and maid of honor, Katie Lloyd. But even the aisle proved to be too far for Charlie. So without hesitation, Katie picked up the 80-pound pup and carried him to the alter to be with Kelly. It was an emotional day for the couple and all of the guests.

“Both of us just dropped to our knees and started crying,” said Kelly. “To see him be carried a few feet, it kind of solidified for me that it’s not the Charlie he liked to be. He was aging, and it hit me knowing that he lost a lot.”

Kelly's friend and photographer, Jen Dziuvenis, was there taking photographs. She was in tears but knew it was important to capture Charlie at Kelly and James' special day.

“When your beloved dog who is at the end of his life can’t make it back up the aisle and your sister scoops him up and carries him... THAT is love,” Jen wrote on Facebook. “There isn’t enough mascara in the world for these moments. Dog people are the best people.”

The wedding turned out to be one of Charlie's last days. Later that week, he passed away.

I'm sure that Kelly and James couldn't imagine their wedding without Charlie, so I'm glad that they were able to create one last memory together. 

News: Guest Posts
Service Dog Kicked Off Flight For Being Too Big
Airline staff said the dog was too big
Bryant and his service dog Chug

During the recent Thanksgiving weekend, one family’s travel headaches were made even more unpleasant because of American Airline’s treatment of a service dog and the people with him. The family was forced to get off the plane when a manager came on board and told them the dog was too big.

Chug is a 110-pound Labradoodle and a service dog who goes everywhere with twelve-year old Bryant. The dog’s job is to detect an oncoming seizure and to assist the child during the seizure. The family had no issues on the other three flights with Chug during their travels and had completed all the paperwork required in order for him to fly with them. Before being forced to deplane, a flight attendant had told them that the dog had to be under the seat, and the family complied with that request.

Because they were kicked off the plane, they had to stay overnight in a hotel on Thanksgiving, and were booked for a flight the next day that went to St. Louis, Missouri, which is three hours from their home, instead of to Evansville, Illinois where they live. They rented a car, drove three hours, and had to return the car to the airport as well.

American Airlines is looking into the incident, which occurred on a flight operated by a regional carrier. They have apologized to the family, who has been contacted by customer relations. Even taking into account the low standards most people have of airline’s customer service, the way this family was treated fell far short of expectations.

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