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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Service Dogs for Boston Marathon Victims
Assistance pup helps Jessica Kensky navigate a new reality
On the surface, Boston looks like a city that has fully recovered from the tragedy and fear surrounding last year's marathon bombing. Nearly 9,000 additional runners are participating in today's race, bringing the number of participants up to over 35,755.  And officials are expecting one million spectators, double last year's turnout.

But for many of the victims, the journey towards recovery is only beginning. That is very much the case for Jessica Kensky and her husband Patrick Downes, two of the 16 people who lost limbs in last year's bombing. Their injuries were so severe that they were among the last marathon victims to leave the hospital.

Both Jessica and Patrick had their left legs amputated, but Jessica was at risk for losing both legs. She ultimately chose to keep her right leg, but it has made learning to walk extremely difficult and painful. Her service dog, Rescue, has been by her side to steady Jessica when she walks on crutches or with her prosthetic. The Black Labrador also helps her with a variety of tasks most people take for granted, like picking up the telephone and pressing buttons in the elevator.

Rescue is from NEADS, a Massachusetts based nonprofit that trains assistance dogs for people with disabilities. NEADS has offered a free service dog to any marathon bombing victim with a permanent physical disability and Jessica is the first to accept the offer.

Jessica sees Rescue as much more than an assistance dog. Rescue keeps Jessica and her husband physically active, a challenge for amputees.

"Here's this big animal who needs to be taken out, he needs exercise, he needs to go to the bathroom, he needs to be fed," Jessica told NPR. "On the day you just don't want to get off the couch, you don't want to get in your wheelchair, you don't want to put your prosthetic on, he looks at you with those eyes and you've got to take him out."

Rescue also provides emotional support, cuddling, giving kisses, and making Jessica and her husband laugh. It's been hard for the couple to rest, they would often wake up at 3 a.m. with feelings of depression and anxiety. After Rescue joined the family, Jessica finally started sleeping through the night for the first time.

The bombing has changed the course of Jessica and Patrick's lives. Jessica hasn't been able to return to her job as an oncology nurse and Patrick had to abandon his plan to do a pre-doctoral program in San Francisco, where they had been planning to relocate.

But for now, they can only take life one step at a time. It's going to be a long road, but Jessica and Patrick are immensely grateful for Rescue and the joy he's managed to bring to their lives.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dogs Comfort in Boston
Therapy dogs attend marathon festivities

After the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, therapy dogs from the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministries were there within 24 hours. The group consists of 70 therapy dogs (all Golden Retrievers) from 10 states. Small groups of the dogs visit churches, schools, hospitals and disaster areas, offering the soothing, healing presence that only dogs can provide. Many survivors and first responders in Boston benefited from spending time with these highly trained and lovable dogs.

This year at the Boston Marathon and associated events, four dogs from this group will again be in attendance. Ruthie, Hannah, Luther and Rufus have traveled from Illinois to offer support and lots of opportunities for petting and loving. They are making appearances throughout the four days of events that conclude with the race on Monday, April 21, 2014. It’s the fourth visit of “Comfort Dogs” to the area since the events at last year’s race.

Every year, runners and fans of the sport watch the Boston Marathon. This year the audience is bigger because the whole world is watching.  I’m so glad that these therapy dogs are a part of the celebration and that they have been part of the healing all year. They are contributing to making Boston strong.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Quality Time Without Other Dogs
Dogs benefit, sometimes in unexpected ways

“He doesn’t really play with toys,” his guardian said as he dropped the dog off for an afternoon visit with us. Their realtor didn’t want dogs at home during their open house, not even resting contentedly in their crates, and work schedules meant they needed a little help. We were taking one of their dogs and his brother was going to watch the other.

Though we were not expecting Moose to play with the toys, within an hour, that dog had played with every toy in our house and a couple of items that he thought were toys although we would not classify them as such. He flapped a Wubba around at his own face and did the same with a dishtowel, went joyfully berserk over a squeaky toy shaped like a bone, fetched tennis balls and flying squirrels that my kids threw, tossed around a fleece fox with a dead squeaker inside, and “dribbled” a dust pan around like it was a soccer ball. Moose was, no matter what his guardian said, really into toys.

When we told his guardian about Moose’s afternoon toy playing session, he was genuinely surprised. He told us, “That’s odd because at home, all he does is follow Zach, who loves to fetch.” He went on to explain that Moose never got the balls himself, but just followed their other dog who loved to retrieve. And when Zach was chewing on bones or toys, Moose just watched, no matter how many were lying around. If they specifically gave Moose a toy, Zach would come over to relieve him of it. Moose never objected so his guardian figured that Moose just didn’t have a strong interest in them.

Au contraire. Many dogs live in households in which the other dog prevents them from doing what comes naturally, but if you never observe the dogs on their own, it’s hard to know that they are missing out. In Moose’s case, he was not playing with toys or chewing on bones with Zach around, but based on his behavior at our house, he loves them. (It’s almost a sure bet that a dog who is being “mugged” by another dog who habitually takes the bones and toys would rather maintain possession of them if possible.) I believe that having regular time without Zach would improve Moose’s quality of life because he would be able to play with toys and chew on bones.

Other dogs may benefit in other ways from being away from other dogs from time to tome. Spending time as the only dog with the guardian may mean receiving undivided attention or more petting. For some young dogs, it may mean a more vigorous exercise session than the older dog in the household can tolerate. There are dogs who just want the peace and quiet that a one-dog situation bestows on them, and others who appreciate the chance to train or play without another dog interrupting the flow. A class that suits one dog, but not another, such as agility or a tracking class may provide the incentive to spend time with just one of your dogs.

With the rare exception of dogs who panic when they are not in the presence of their dog family members, the opportunity to spend quality time as the only dog with their guardians has great value. A little goes a long way, so even the occasional session can be a great treat for a dog and well worth working into even the busiest of schedules.

If you have more than one dog, do you spend time with each of them individually? If so, how do you think they benefit?

News: Editors
Foster Mom Reconnects with Rescue Dog
The Little Miracles of Social Media

At its best, social media can spark connections one only dreams about. Such was the case involving a series of photographs we posted recently on Facebook. Last week we blogged a new series of photos by Bark contributor Grace Chon, showing her 10-month-old son Jasper and 7-year-old dog Zoey in matching apparel. The photos are adorable and our followers agreed, “liking” and sharing the pix with tens, then hundreds of thousands of people. Zoey and Jasper had gone viral—appearing on HuffingtonPost, Mashable, BuzzFeed and Good Morning America to name but a few. As the images brought smiles to viewers around the world, one woman far away in China thought Zoey looked familiar. It was a woman named Joy who had fostered little Zoey in the first months of the pup’s life in Taiwan. She had been waiting 7 years to hear news of the little puppy she nursed back to health before sending her halfway around the world to a new home in California. All she knew was that a Korean girl in Los Angeles had adopted her. Following her intuition, Joy reached out to Grace, and piecing the puzzle together, they concluded that Zoey was indeed the little pup she had fostered. The two women shared photos of Zoey— of her early life in Taiwan, including her first night with Joy—and Grace’s photos of life in Southern California. Each had wondered about the portions of Zoey’s life they had missed, and are grateful for this serendipitous reunion. Deep down inside, they both knew that this little black dog was loved and well cared for—in both Taiwan and in Los Angeles. Now they have the stories and pictures to prove it. Read more about their reunion.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Revenge
Tire puncturing culprit is caught on tape
After a six month manhunt, police have finally caught the mysterious car vandal puncturing car tires in the small village of Brampton, England. It turns out the culprit was not a man at all, but a Border Collie named Jess. The wayward pup was captured on video by Anne Taylor who set up surveillance after having to replace 12 tires on her vehicle.

Apparently Jess was involved in a car accident last year and, unbeknownst to her family, has been taking out her revenge on car tires. Anne's video shows Jess biting the front tire of a car, leaving for a break, and coming back for the back wheel. The slow tire leaks brought on havoc as drivers discovered the damage as they were driving on the road.

No one knew Jess was to blame because, from a distance, it looked like Jess was just sniffing the tires. After the discovery, Jess' owner was completely surprised and promised to keep Jess on leash from now on.

Fortunately there were no car accidents caused by Jess' tire habit and residents are relieved that the damage was not done by a malicious human (only a revenge seeking dog!). It's also a good reminder to keep our pups on leash in urban areas since cars and dogs don't mix!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dying Woman's Last Wish
Patricia Cudd is looking for the perfect home for her dog
Patricia & Sherlock - Photo by V. Richard Haro/The Coloradoan.

Patricia Cudd was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and was given just six months to live last August. While others in her shoes would be checking items off their bucket list, Patricia has only one wish—that her five year old Pit Bull mix, Sherlock, finds a loving home.

Patricia adopted Sherlock four years ago from the Longmont Humane Society in Colorado. Like many rescue pups, Sherlock was initially wary of Patricia, but they eventually became the best of friends.

Patricia says that Sherlock taught her how to have fun and, after her diagnosis, helped her get through chemotherapy treatments.

Now Patricia's cancer has progressed to stage 4 and she's determined to find the perfect home for Sherlock. Patricia admits that Sherlock can be territorial and protective, but is one of the most loving dogs you'll ever meet. So a family without other pets would be ideal. For the five years Patricia and Sherlock have lived in Fort Collins, Colorado, they struggled to find landlords who would allow Pit Bulls, so Patricia was worried that it would be hard to find an adoptive home for Sherlock.

Fortunately Patricia's appeal resulted in 400 emails and 150 calls, in just one day! Patricia is currently screening the messages to find the best home for Sherlock.

“It breaks my heart,” Patricia told The Coloradoran, “But if he could go to a good home, it would help me so much. It would give me peace.”

If you're interested in adopting Sherlock, call (970) 775-0797 or email rubyphoenix36@yahoo.com. Since it sounds like Sherlock has many good homes lined up, perhaps instead consider adopting another dog in need in Patricia's honor!

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
The Weather Channel’s Therapy Dog
Butler will be easing people's pain
Butler -- Weather Channel's Dog

With weather extremes making headlines more than ever, it’s nice to know that The Weather Channel does more than just predict and report disasters. With their recent choice of a therapy dog to help those who are in the midst of crises, they are helping to alleviate the suffering caused by them.

After a nationwide search for just the right dog, Butler has become The Weather Channel’s official therapy dog. He was adopted from the Humane Society of Charlotte in North Carolina by Amy McCullough. McCullough is the National Directed of Animal-Assisted Therapy at the American Humane Association, as well as Butler’s handler and trainer.

Many dogs across the nation in various shelters were considered. Butler, a 35-pound, 18-month old Shepherd mix. was chosen because he has the traits of a perfect therapy dog. He is affectionate, social, friendly, attentive, easy to train and well-mannered. He likes to sit in laps and is comfortable in crowds.

Once Butler has completed his training, he and McCullough will visit schools, hospitals, shelters and other locations to help ease the pain of people who have survived disasters.

News: Editors
Zoey and Jasper
A rescue dog and her little boy

Grace Chon, a LA photographer, who has shot a few covers for The Bark, became a mom about a year ago. She tells us that she started to take photos of her rescue girl Zoey with her son Jasper, modeling the same head gear. How adorable are they? Definitely hard to pick a favorite, but do you have one? I think the co-pilot duo might be my fave.http://www.zoeyandjasper.tumblr.com

UPDATE: Through the power of social media, Grace was contacted by the woman who fostered Zoey in Taiwan seven years ago. Read about their virtual reunion.

 

Guess which one of us likes to work out? (Here’s a hint, it rhymes with Shmasper.) xoxo Zoey and Jasper

Shared from zoeyandjasper

Never go on adventures without your trusty sidekick. xoxo Zoey and Jasper

Shared from zoeyandjasper

Holla back! xoxo Zoey and Jasper

Shared from zoeyandjasper

Korean sauna is fun with your best friend! xoxo Zoey and Jasper

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All you need is a best friend and a silly hat. xoxo Zoey and Jasper

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Hey Polar Vortex people - stay warm. xoxo, Zoey and Jasper

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News: Editors
Jonny and Xena
An abused pup's remarkable friendship with a boy with autism.
Xena and Jonny - Who Rescued Who

April is both Autism Awareness and Prevention of Animal Cruelty month. This story of Jonny, the eight-year-boy with autism, and Xena, the horribly abused Pit Bull, present a powerful and heart-warming tale about survival and the indescribable bond we have with dogs. The pup was severely abused and starving to death when she came into the DeKalb (Georgia) Animal Services shelter, she was given only an one percent chance of survival. Jonny’s mom, Linda Hickey, had been following the pup’s story on Facebook and decided to take the chance that this pup would be the perfect match for her son. See how right she was!

Xena won the ASPCA’s Hero of the Dog Award in 2013, and is now in the running for the “emerging dog hero” award from the American Humane Association.

Linda Hickey poignantly tells their story in this video. Watch it to see why Xena deserves your vote.

For more, see this recent interview as well. 

And watch Jonny sing “You Got a Friend in Me” to his best pal, Xena.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kennel State of Mind
Study finds kenneled dogs show signs associated with mental illness
Dog in a Cage
I think all of us would agree that dogs shouldn't live in a cage all day, but the reality is that many pups, working canines in particular, do spend the night in a kennel. Although these canines have an active life, a new study found that these dogs showed signs of distress often associated with mental illness.

Researchers at University of Bristol's Anthrozoology Institute looked at the behavior of 30 police dogs living in a U.K. kennel. They were all male German Shepherds, specifically chosen to avoid other influencing factors, such as differences due to breed temperament, size, sex, etc. After their work shift, the dogs primarily lived in a facility that accommodated 40 dogs with a run and an enclosed resting area.

Analyzing video of the dogs, the researchers noticed the following repetitive behaviors:

  • Bouncing off the walls: Jumping at a wall and rebounding from it or jumping in one spot
  • Spinning: Turning in a tight circle, pivoting on the hind legs
  • Circles: Walking around the perimeter of the kennel
  • Paces: Walking back and forth along a boundary or imaginary line
93 percent of the dogs performed one or more of the repetitive behaviors. Scientists say that this kind of obsessive behavior is associated with numerous mental health problems. The root cause of these actions isn't known, but in humans it's thought that focused behaviors are an attempt to block out painful stimulation.

The researchers thought that the dogs may be reacting to isolation from humans. These kennel situations are very different from crating your pup while you're away at work. Dogs are naturally social, and because these police canines work so closely with people during the day, I can see how it would be jarring to be suddenly cut off at night.

You'd think that these repetitive behaviors would mean that the dogs had high stress levels, but not all of the pups showed exceptionally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers hypothesize that these dogs may use the actions as a coping mechanism.

I wonder what these findings mean for other working dogs, like sheepdogs that might be kenneled outside at night, or even dogs boarded while their family is on vacation. The team hopes to do further studies to explore the negative effects of these behaviors and I hope they explore other kennel situations as well.

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