"I believe in God the way my dog does" —Farley Mowat
Author Farley Mowat, chronicler of humanity’s relationship with nature, ardent environmental activist and dog lover, died at the age of 92. Mowat’s prolific writing ranged from the trailblazing Never Cry Wolf to People of the Deer and numerous children’s book. In Never Cry Wolf he recounts his experience studying Arctic wolves in 1946, living in a den close to them in the Keewatin Barren Lands in northern Manitoba. As The New York Times noted in their obituary:
He portrayed wolves as patient and gentle with their own, sometimes even fond of practical jokes. They adopted orphan puppies and babysat for other wolves’ pups. They never killed more than they could eat. In one passage he described the father of the wolf family, whom he named George: “His dignity was unassailable, yet he was by no means aloof. Conscientious to a fault, thoughtful of others, and affectionate within reasonable bounds, he was the kind of father whose idealized image appears in many wistful books of human family reminiscences.”
George, he added, was “the kind of father every son longs to acknowledge as his own.”
One of my favorite books of all times was his totally enjoyable, hilarious The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be a story of his boyhood on the Canadian prairies with a pair of owls for pets and a dog named Mutt who was an irrepressible playmate and fellow adventurer who could climb trees and road in the back seat of the family’s roadster wearing goggles. This is an unforgettable glimpse of country life in the 30’s where boys and their dogs roamed free. Many reviewers note that this is the most entertaining book they have ever read, I couldn’t agree with them more. Both of his classics, this book and Never Cry Wolf, are must reads for every dog lover. Even as recently as July, 2009, Nicholas D. Kristof, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, listed Mowat's The Dog who Wouldn't Be (first published in 1957) as one of the best children's books of all time.
Farley Mowat died only days away from his 93rd birthday, and was working on another book at the time of his death.
See a story in Bark about a young family's adventure to travel across Canada to meet with Farley Mowat.
News: Guest Posts
A conversation on pets with Heidi Roizen
We welcome once again as a guest blogger, Carol Novello, Humane Society of Silicon Valley President. In this post Carol talks with Heidi Roizen, a Venture Capitalist, and a great animal lover. They talk about the communication, friendship and respect they have for pets. We also congratulate Carol and the HSSV for their very successful benefit event, the Annual Fur Ball, held on April 12. They broke all records this year and raised an amazing $885,000!!—Editor's Note.
Humane Society Silicon Valley friend and supporter, Heidi Roizen, is currently an Operating Partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), a leading global venture capital firm in Menlo Park, CA. A Silicon Valley native, who grew up in Palo Alto and Portola Valley, attended Leigh High School in San Jose and received her undergraduate and MBA degrees from Stanford University, Roizen always had animals growing up. Her family always owned a dog. There was Tippy—a Chihuahua mix—who wasn’t the friendliest dog, but still lovable. Then came a terrier mix named Buffy who was a very smart dog with a dramatic under bite.
It wasn’t until she married that she adopted her own dog, a German Shepherd mix named Rocket. “The first thing we did was get a dog,” said Roizen. “Rocket was a fantastic dog, and Ramjet, who we adopted from Humane Society Silicon Valley six months later, was her sidekick. I really believe Rocket was a human in a dog’s body. Rocket could really communicate with you about what her needs were. Ramjet, on the other hand, was very much looking out for number one. He was a truant, who would frequently sneak out of our yard, roam down the street to the local high school and watch the students have lunch.” Roizen further recalled one instance where Ramjet escaped and crashed a New Year’s Eve party. “We went to a well attended Millennium party nearby and to our surprise, we found Ramjet sitting on stage while the live band played. The next day, his stunt was featured in San Jose Mercury News New Year’s Eve party photos.”
Today, Roizen, with her daughter, Marleyna, have a nearly nine-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer/Doberman mix named Ruby while her college-aged son, Sabel, who resides in Seattle, cares for Max, a Golden Retriever/St. Bernard mix. “Ruby almost died right after we adopted her,” remembers Roizen. Ruby had acquired a virus the day after she was adopted. The vet put her on antibiotics and advised Roizen to hold her, keep her warm, and feed her chicken broth. “Because of this early bonding experience, she truly loves me in a very special way. I’m definitely Mommy,” says Roizen.
So when asked what her animals have taught her and her family about compassion, awareness, and wisdom, Roizen replied, “They teach us so much. They are so non-judgmental, and they have a much higher emotional intelligence than people give them credit. When I went through my divorce, my dogs knew. They knew when I was upset, and they were really there for me. I find that even just looking at Ruby, or thinking about her, can be calming. When I need to conjure up an image that makes me happy without having to think too much, it’s of my dog, Ruby.”
What also makes Roizen happy is her “Ruby Cam,” a live-stream camera that monitors Ruby in her usual spot by the front window. Roizen embraces living in this fast paced, high technology era and the instant digital gratification it provides when it comes to her dog. “Ruby is a proud user of technology even if she doesn’t know it. It allows me to check up on her when I’m not at home. She is a fierce protector, my ‘fur security,’ but it gives me peace to see her on the Ruby Cam. I know not only that is she okay, the house is okay, too.”
In terms of how her pets have influenced her leadership skills and how she interacts with people, Roizen says, “At some level, dogs are so simple and basic. At our core, people are simple and basic too. We all want to be loved, have friendship, feel safe—fulfilling our basic needs are the most important. When you get so wrapped up in the complexities of life in Silicon Valley, it’s important to reflect on how content our dogs are and what that teaches us. I think about the basic needs; I think about the sense of respect. I treat Ruby with respect, and I treat people with respect. There shouldn’t be any difference.”
In an effort to help enhance and save lives, Roizen is an ongoing Humane Society Silicon Valley supporter. As for DFJ, they have an annual "Take Your Dog to Work Day" in the fall.
I was looking up “notable” (dog lovers) birthdays today (May 6) because that seems to be a favorite newsy item, and I saw that this date celebrates the birth of both Sigmund Freud and George Clooney. I knew that Freud was a huge dog fan with a partiality towards Chows, so checked to see what I could find about Clooney’s affiliation with our favorite species. And lo and behold, I found that not only does he love dogs, as attested to from this Esquire interview (conducted by Tom Junod, another great dog lover, whose own wonderful story appears in our book, Dog Is My Co-Pilot) but he adopted a rescue Cocker Spaniel mix, from LA’s Camp Cocker named Einstein.
From the Esquire's Dec. 2013 interview:
A few years ago, however, he lost one of his dogs to a rattlesnake. He is a dog guy—a little sign about men and dogs adorns a living-room wall otherwise dominated by signed photographs of dignitaries—and he set about to get another, preferably hypoallergenic. He saw a black Cocker-Spaniel mix on the Web site of a rescue organization and called the number. The woman who answered said she’d be happy to bring the dog to his house, but then she explained that the dog had been abandoned and picked up malnourished off the street. “He has to love you,” she told George Clooney, “or else I have to take him back.”
At first, he found himself getting nervous—“freaking out.” What if the dog didn’t love him? Then he responded. “I had some turkey bacon in the refrigerator,” he says. “I rubbed it on me. I’m not kidding. When she came over, the dog went crazy. He was all over me. The woman said, ‘Oh, my God, he’s never like this. He loves you.’ ”
As for Freud we published a great piece about him back in 2002, but here is a memorable quote from him:
"Dogs provide affection without ambivalence, the simplicity of a life free from the almost unbearable conflicts of civilization, the beauty of an existence complete in itself."
For a video of Einstein’s story see here .
For a People article on Einstein/Clooney see here.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
In my last blog, I wrote about my little hydrocephalic foster puppy, Hernando. He was born with a potentially fatal condition and a poor prognosis, yet he pranced through every day with the greatest of joy. At five weeks of age he saw a neurology specialist who was amazed by his confidence and attitude. First time away from mom? No problem, let me lick your face. Being poked and prodded by a stranger in a white coat? No problem, let me chew your shoes. He appeared to be a classic case of hydrocephalus but was perfectly functional without the cognitive deficits that are usually seen with the condition. Hernando’s zest for life was contagious and he gave no thought at all to the future. I felt like there was a lot to be learned from this tiny morsel of a dog who weighed barely a pound. He was a lesson in living for the moment and finding your joy.
I really wanted Hernando to be the one who surprised everyone. He was born into my hands, never knew a flea or a harsh word. His little world was warm and clean and sweet, with a loving mama, siblings to play with and gentle humans to cuddle. The vet felt that he had some chance of a normal life, although not a great one. He seemed too full of personality to do anything but thrive. Hernando’s mama, Pippa, was an amazing mother who doted on her litter of 9 in spite of the mild cough she had when she came to me as an abandoned pregnant stray. The puppies were wormed several times and got their 6 week vaccines right on time.
I had no way of knowing that the vaccines were too late. Mama Pippa was already harboring a deadly virus that was slowly infecting all of her body systems and those of her puppies. As Pippa and the puppies began to show some mild symptoms of illness, I took them to the vet and started them on meds and sub-Q fluids. I treated them diligently and when they didn’t respond the possibility of distemper was mentioned. We saw a new vet and added more medications.
I wish I could say that Hernando never had a bad day, but he hated being poked with needles and would have a tantrum and cry and bite me when I did it. I would cry with him, but the fluids were keeping him alive and I couldn’t stop. I realized that there was a lesson even in the hard days, for as soon as the treatments were done, Hernando would immediately forgive me and cover me in kisses.
As the illness progressed, I sought the experience of yet another vet. I was desperate for hope but distemper is a relentless, brutal disease that often leaves its rare survivors with lifelong problems. In more than 25 years of fostering hundreds of dogs and puppies, I had never even seen a case of distemper and the more I researched it, the more I worried.
Hernando continued to decline and died in my arms on his eight week birthday, of a disease that would have been entirely preventable had Pippa been vaccinated as a puppy. I dripped anguished tears on his tiny body and tried not to torture myself with what-ifs.
Sadly, I lost the entire litter and sweet Pippa too. I was so grief stricken that I wanted to quit rescuing. I didn’t feel able to continue to have my heart broken this way. Yet almost immediately I realized that I couldn’t quit. There are so many in need. It is critical to do more to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. I decided to donate money from sales of my book to a local charity, Compassion Without Borders. They go into the very kind of poor, uneducated communities where Pippa came from and provide vaccines, spay/neuter services and other veterinary care to dogs in need. Every vaccine and surgery saves lives.
I will never forget the tiny lives that shared my home for two months. My heart will never be totally healed but seeing other dogs get the care they need helps to ease the pain.
Sweet dreams Hernando. You were loved by many.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Putting words into the minds of dogs
As we drove away and saw Marley’s face in the window, watching us drive away, my son said, “I’ll bet he’s thinking, “Please come back! Why are you leaving me?” His woebegone expression did match the words my son had chosen for him.
We began to discuss how different individuals react to the same situations in different ways and express themselves in unique ways, too, and why shouldn’t that apply to dogs as much as to people? From there, we had a lot of fun imagining what some of the other dogs we know would say in the same circumstances.
Watson is super smart, always worried and typically a couple of steps ahead of everyone else, mentally speaking. He’d probably be thinking, “Let’s see, if they are in the car going east at 40 miles per hour for 20 minutes, and spend the usual 35 minutes at their desired location plus or minus 5 minutes, and return by the scenic route to avoid the traffic at rush hour, and travel at 30 miles per hour, they should return by 4 pm, so I will not commence with any serious worrying until that time.
We next discussed our old dog Bugsy, who nobody would ever describe as an intellectual. (A trainer friend of mine once actually described him as a couple of ants short of a picnic.) We decided that even in our imaginations, he never would have mastered standard English grammar and would simply think, “You go. I still here.”
Schultzie is so well-adjusted that she would probably think, “The timing of their departure is very sensible. It’s time for my nap, but I’ll be ready for playtime and a good walk by they time they get home.”
Kiwi might very well have thought something along the lines of, “Sure, I’ll miss them, but they always come back, so this provides a perfect opportunity for me to check to see if the latch on the cabinet holding the garbage can is as loose as it looks. Today could be a trash party day—here’s hoping!”
Super Bee is as fit as she is fast, and her brain is as speedy as her body. If we left her behind, I could imagine her thinking, “If they head out Fremont Avenue going the speed limit and turn right at the light and then go 45 miles per hour on Route 180, and take a right at the light at Humphreys, and drive with traffic until they are downtown, I could leap out this window, head to the urban trail and through the park and still beat them by at least 17 seconds to the coffee shop on San Francisco Street, which I’m sure is where they are going.
Of course, the idea of dogs thinking these things is pure fantasy, but it’s fun to imagine, based on a dog’s personality and behavior, their response to a situation and to put it into words. What can you imagine your dog thinking as you leave the house?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Penn Vet and FEMA team up to answer questions about preparing for emergencies
At Bark we've written a lot about being prepared for emergencies. It still seems up for debate whether or not the frequency and severity of natural disasters is actually increasing, but there is no question that our pets rely on us to make plans for their care and safety.
In honor of Thursday's National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day, Penn Vet and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region III are teaming up with a number of other animal related organizations for a social media awareness event. Dr. Deborah Mandell, an emergency care professor at Penn Vet and pet adviser to the American Red Cross, will participate in the #Petpared Twitter Chat to help pet families understand what they need to do to prepare for emergencies.
On Thursday, May 8th at 12:30 p.m. EDT, Dr. Mandell will begin taking questions tagged with #petpared on Twitter and tweeting answers on @DebbieMandell1. Penn Vet will retweet on @pennvet. Some of the topics that will be addressed include, developing a family emergency plan, having an emergency supply kit or "go bag," and learning about your risks.
The Twitter chat is part of the larger 2014 Petpared Initiative to increase the number of people who include their pets in planning for emergencies. Other resources to prepare your pet and your family for disasters are available at Ready.gov/caring-animals.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Puppy died at a training center
Gracie, a 6-month old Boxer-Great Dane mix, died when her choke collar got tangled while playing with another dog at a training center. By the time the staff intervened by cutting the collar off with wire cutters and administering CPR, she was too far gone.
The Humane Society of the United States says that it is best for your dog if you avoid using one and I agree. Choke collars function by causing pain and can injure the esophagus, trachea and neck. They can cause nerve damage as well as damage to the blood vessels in the eyes. To see a dog coughing because of the pressure applied with one is distressing.
Choke collars are an aversive training tool and are not used by trainers who stick with positive reinforcement methods. Other options such as head collars and front-clip harnesses are effective at preventing pulling. Additionally, positive reinforcement techniques are more effective for training dogs since dogs learn what to do rather than learning what not to do through punishment.
Gracie’s guardian did not initially use a choke collar, but the training center had a policy that all dogs had to wear one. They have since changed this policy and use martingale collars instead. If adjusted properly, these limited-slip collars tighten around a dog’s neck but cannot tighten enough to choke a dog.
Though I’m not a fan of choke collars, I understand that there are people who will still choose to use them. Two important safety tips can save the life of a dog who wears one: 1) Never allow a dog to play with other dogs while wearing a choke collar. 2) Never leave a choke collar on an unattended dog. There is some disagreement over whether Gracie and the other dogs involved were unattended when the incident occurred, but certainly unattended dogs are at greater risk of an accident than those who are under human supervision.
Accidents can happen with collars of any type, but choke collars are particularly risky. Choke collars are true to their name—designed to tighten around a dog’s neck with no mechanism to limit how tight they can become—and unfortunately, being choked by one is what happened to Gracie.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Speech returns in presence of dog
The man in this video has Alzhemier’s, and according to the daughter who posted it, he has lost almost all of his speech. However, when he is with the dog, he talks in a clear voice and makes perfect sense.
It’s not clear why his speech abilities return in the presence of the dog, but it’s well known that dogs are helpful to people with dementia. The benefits go beyond the usual health benefits provided by dogs such as lowered blood pressure and alleviating depression. In people with Alzheimer’s the presence of a dog lowers anxiety, decreases outbursts and increases social interactions.
No matter what the reason for this man’s behavior when with this dog, it is beautiful to watch. That is partly because we’re seeing a part of a man that was thought to be lost. It’s also because the healthy, powerful dog in the video is so calm and attentive around this elderly gentleman. I found myself absently saying, “Good dog, good dog,” while I watched.
I haven’t reacted so emotionally to a video since the 2014 Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial. Did it similarly affect you?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Wildlife photographer celebrates dog diversity and soccer
With the World Cup coming up next month, wildlife photographer Eric Isselée decided to combine his profession with his love of soccer by creating images of national dog breeds wearing their country's jerseys. One of my favorite parts about watching world agility competitions is seeing the diversity of dog breeds, so these portraits are a fun way to celebrate the upcoming sporting event, while highlighting different pups around the world.
Eric normally photographs animals for the Life On White project, capturing images of domestic and wild animals on white backgrounds. The initiative has taken pictures of over 1,000 species since its inception eight years ago.
Unfortunately there is no American dog represented, perhaps because we don't have a clear iconic breed. If you were to create a photo for team U.S.A., which dog would be featured?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mo. animal shelter holds an event to increase adoptions and gather donations
This spring, the Cascades Humane Society in Jackson, Mo. found themselves with 21 puppies on their hands. First a pregnant Husky mix gave birth to seven puppies, just days after being abandoned at the shelter. Then three Border Collie mix puppies were brought in, so undernourished and weak that they went straight to a foster home to be nurtured back to health. Next 11 more three week old puppies were abandoned in a nearby home and were brought to the shelter. Being so young, the little guys required round the clock hand feeding.
As you can imagine, the care for these pups has been expensive and the sudden influx meant the shelter had to find a lot of good homes. So earlier this month, Cascades put together a Puppy Shower to create awareness, find adopters, and gather donations. The event was a success with over 200 attendees and a personal shelter record for the most cats and dogs adopted in a single day. In all, 18 puppies, six cats, and four adult dogs found forever homes through the event.
Having a Puppy Shower is such a great idea to gather animal lovers together to help a good cause with an adorable theme!
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