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Kiss Kiss Bark Bark
Contest: Tell us the story of your canine romance. Win prizes!

Dog love is a sloppy, serious, unconditional business that often brings out the best in us—and maybe in them too. And there’s something about the shortest month of the year with its insistence on public displays of affection that makes us want to belt out “That’s Amore!” from the doghouse roof. Help us celebrate dog love: Share your canine love story. Post a comment, ideally 100 words or less, by Feb. 28, 2009. (Be sure to include your email contact. It won't show up on the site, it's just so we can contact you.) Our five favorites will win a special Bark gift bag and, of course, bragging rights at the dog park.

 

News: Guest Posts
Kiss Me, Canine
Go ahead, it won’t hurt you and it's fun

I let my dog Lulu lick my face. It makes some of my friends a little queasy, which, honestly, is part of the pleasure. And now, thanks to some out-of-the-box research, I can say it’s not the risky behavior my more persnickety acquaintances think.

A recent study by Dr. Kate Stenske, a clinical assistant professor at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, found that dog owners who sleep with their pets, share food, or allow face licking are no more likely to share strains of E. coli bacteria with their companions than folks who avoid these habits. (Although, there is some evidence that dogs might pick up antibiotic-resistant germs from us, especially if we fail to wash our hands during food preparation.)

So this Valentine’s Day, go forth and fearlessly smooch your pooch. If you’re anywhere near Portland, Maine, you might be rewarded for your interspecies public display of affection. Planet Dog is sponsoring its 5th Annual Valentine’s Day Canine Cocktail Party and Dog Kissing Contest (Thursday, Feb. 12, 6-7:30 p.m. at the Planet Dog Store, 211 Marginal Way, Portland, Maine). The “longest, sloppiest kiss” wins $75 worth of socially responsible dog goodies. The party is free, but a $5 contest fee goes to the Planet Dog Foundation, which donated more than $100,000 to canine service programs around the country—such as Dogs for Diabetics in Concord, Calif., and Texas Hearing and Service Dogs in Austin, Tex.—in 2008 alone.

If you're stuck without a furry buddy this year, feel the full-contact love with this scene from a 2007 dog-kissing contest I'm not sure where:

News: Guest Posts
Couple Sues Shelter Over Plans to Euthanize Dog
Can and should Smiley be saved?

A nonprofit shelter on Whidbey Island, Washington, has been sued by two former shelter donors over plans to euthanize a dog named Smiley. According to a story in The Everett Herald, the shelter has argued that Smiley, who was surrendered two years ago (!), is too aggressive to place out in the public. The donors, who failed to meet the standards for adopting the dog themselves, say Smiley’s time in the shelter accounts for his bad behavior and that he deserves a second chance.

News: Guest Posts
A Beautiful Mind
Pondering the dog brain

“How self-deceptive is it to treat an animal as a human?” Joachim Krueger, a social psychologist at Brown University and blogger for Psychology Today, ponders this question in a recent post, which was inspired by the passing of his 13-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Kirby. While the topic is not exactly earth shattering for those who follow the latest developments in ethology—Bark contributors and readers among them—it is always a pleasure to watch an academic embrace the idea of a complex dog mind. My favorite line from Krueger’s blog: “I think it is a mistake to believe that eye contact between humans is a finely-honed tool for mind-reading, whereas eye contact between human and dog is delusional—because presumably their is no mind behind those eyes.”

News: Guest Posts
Big Yellow Sweetheart
Spend Valentine’s Eve with Martha

At Bark, we’re fans of Martha, kid-lit heroine and newest PBS idol. What’s not to love? The nervy yellow mutt with a nonexistent waistline and alphabet soup on the brain blabs up a steady diet of funny, gaffe-rich communications (which, starting last fall, were translated from the small page to the small screen in “Martha Speaks”). While the stories are geared for children ages 4 to 7, with the goal of increasing oral vocabulary, you don’t have to be a kid to appreciate the verbal richness of this spirited dog.

Check out our interview with Martha creator, Susan Meddaugh (Bark, Sept/Oct 2008), wherein we uncover a few secrets, including how soup unleashed Martha’s gabfest.

If you haven’t tuned in to this canine wordsmith, Friday is a perfect day to share the love with a Valentine’s Day-inspired episode titled “Martha and the Thief of Hearts,” which will be the second of two episodes airing February 13. (Check your local PBS listings.)

 

News: Guest Posts
Chloe’s Bill Divides Dog Lovers
The AKC isn’t happy with Illinois animal advocates

In Illinois, a bill designed to reform the puppy mill industry is causing controversy. According to animal advocates such as the Southern Illinois Pet Society, Chloe’s Bill will improve standards of care for dogs in commercial kennels, limit breeders to 20 intact adult dogs, ban convicted animal abusers from aquiring a breeding license, and require Illinois pet stores and breeders to tell prospective dog buyers where their puppies came from. The American Kennel Club strongly disagrees. Do you think the Illinois legislature should pass Chloe's Bill this Tuesday, February 10? Why or why not?

News: Guest Posts
Call of the Not-So-Wild
Wolves may have something to thank dogs for

The gene responsible for dark coat color in American Gray Wolves and coyotes is a fairly recent addition to these animals’ genomes and most likely arrived through mating with domestic dogs—according to a paper published online in Science Express. The bigger surprise is that the mutation (spread through hybridization) may be helping wolves adapt and survive.  Wolves living on the tundra tend to be light-colored, while forest-dwellers are dark. As tundra habitat decreases, a lighter coat is a disadvantage. Listen to a podcast with one of the authors.
 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Tunes
What’s your pup’s soundtrack?

Once your ears are tuned to one dog song (i.e., “Half-Breed Stan”), others just roll on in. Last night, during an NPR interview about his new album of banjo songs, The Crow: New Songs for 5-String Banjo, Steve Martin revealed that the inspiration for his original song, “Wally on the Run,” was his dog. Sounding a little like Bonnie and Clyde's anthem, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," Martin’s riff once provided the soundtrack for his Labrador Retriever’s puppy-time habit of gunning down a hallway and bounding over some stairs. It’s easy to imagine.

I've been thinking that dogs should have their own theme songs, like when baseball players come to the plate and a signature song sets up the at-bat. That’s how they do it here for the Seattle Mariners, and I’m guessing this is standard operating procedure in the majors.

For my dog Renzo, I pick “If you want to sing out, sing out” by Cat Stevens because, like him, the song is optimistic and light-hearted. (And I think Renzo would appreciate the irony of selecting a singer-songwriter named Cat.) At 11-years-young and in peak shape, Lulu, deserves something a little more sassy (I can imagine her nap-dreaming about breakdancing), so something like, “Show me tha Money” by Petey Pablo. So what song is the perfect backup for your furry superstar?

News: Guest Posts
Reality Check
Walk a mile in a shelter worker’s shoes

We received an email from a Bark reader yesterday that stopped us in our tracks. Sometimes when we talk about the trials for animals in shelters, we lose sight of the committed professionals and volunteers who do all they can for animals in terrible circumstances. Sandra Morrison of DeKalb Junction, N.Y., draws attention to their contributions and the reality of euthanasia.

"My sister worked at a shelter in Pittsburgh that had a gas chamber. At this shelter they put down 2,500 dogs in a year. When they had the gas chamber they would put the dogs in together and they would smell each other and then go to sleep. After the gas chamber was taken away from them, they had to hold perfectly healthy dogs in their arms and watch the life go out of their eyes. Sometimes the dogs fought so much it would take many shots to put them down. These people at the shelter work there because they love dogs and they fall in love with them when they enter the shelter. They make the best for the dogs while they are there and hope, just hope a lot for the dogs to find a forever home. My sister didn’t work very long after the chamber was taken from them. I guess that’s something that happens a lot these loving people can’t take it. I think it’s one of those things that you have to live in someone’s shoes for a while."
 

News: Guest Posts
Critter Graveyard on the Tourist Track
Pay your respects on your next tour of New York

Lonely Planet guidebooks have selected the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery as one of the Top Ten Places to Rest in the world. That’s big kudos for the 111-year-old multi-species graveyard north of New York City, especially when you consider that the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt, and the Taj Mahal in India are also on the list.

Thanks to Pet VR for the nose up.

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