You have to look really close but you'll see a little head in this pile of fall leaves. Isn't it great when dogs invent games for themselves? For the sheer joy of watching them play, you have to watch this video of a Husky who loves her leaf heap. Would love to see your "autumn dogs" at play too.
In honor of National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month the good people at The Humane Society of the U.S., Maddie’s Fund, HALO, Purely for Pets and the Ad Council (the country’s largest producer of public service advertising) have produced an online video series, “Meet My Shelter Pet,” to inspire shelter dog adoptions. These charming videos are part of their larger campaign to change people’s perceptions of shelter animals, and ultimately increase adoptions across the country.
Their series leads off, appropriately, with none other than Late Night with David Letterman band leader Paul Shaffer, with his daughter Victoria talking about their amazing four adopted dogs.
Would love to hear from you why you picked your shelter dog, and what encouraging words you would give to someone thinking of adopting a shelter dog. It really is up to all of us to get the word out!
News: Guest Posts
Ellie is now nearly eleven years old. She still loves going to work every day and has no plans to retire. “She loves coming to work with me, and just seems to be getting better and better at her job,” says Page Ulrey, a King County Deputy Prosecutor and Ellie’s handler.
Ellie is the first facility dog who was trained specifically for use by a prosecuting attorney’s office, to assist victims of crime during witness interviews and courtroom testimony. I first wrote about Ellie, and Jeeter—the facility dog who helped get the idea going in Seattle, Wash.—in 2007. While Page prosecutes cases involving elder and vulnerable adult abuse, Ellie continues to help with a wide variety of cases within the office. Ellie has been working almost nine years now, and in that time has attended a trial every few months, perhaps as many as forty total. She’s had a huge, beneficial impact on how many victims of crime experience the legal system.
Ellie—and other courthouse dogs like her—had to do some convincing along the way. As in other states where facility dogs have been introduced into criminal courtroom proceedings, defense counsel and/or judges in counties across Washington State have often objected when a facility dog accompanies a victim or witness to the stand for testimony. This is especially true the first few times a facility dog is used. Some cases, after a conviction at the trial court level, are appealed in part on the basis that the dog created a bias in favor of the prosecutor’s witness and case, interfering with the defendant’s right to due process. In Washington, most of those cases ended in the state’s appellate level courts with convictions affirmed and the use of the facility dog approved.
Now, however, the Washington State Supreme Court has weighed in. After an appellate court affirmed a conviction and the use of Ellie to comfort a victim while testifying, the case was appealed again to the state’s highest court. The Washington State Supreme Court issued a decision September 26, 2013—State v. Dye— making it clear that the use of facility dogs in the courtroom should be allowed so long as certain facts are established and precautions are followed.
What makes State v. Dye an especially strong case for the use of facility dogs is that the defendant’s counsel made several common objections to the use of Ellie at trial—preserving the issues for appeal—so that the Supreme Court could address them in detail. The victim in the case, though 56 years old, was a developmentally delayed man who functioned at a mental age of six to twelve years. When interviewed by defense counsel prior to trial, Ellie comforted him. Page, as prosecutor at trial, laid the foundation for using Ellie to assist the victim because he felt anxious about testifying, much like any child would. Ellie accompanied the victim to the witness stand. Not only did defense counsel object to Ellie, saying her presence with the victim was extremely prejudicial to the defendant, but also because the prosecutor on the case was Page—Ellie’s handler—who could possibly signal Ellie in some way. And finally, defense counsel objected on the basis that the defendant and even defense counsel might have allergies to dogs, or be intimidated by the dog.
The Supreme Court said that trial judges may exercise their discretion in allowing a special measure such as a facility dog to accompany vulnerable witnesses. The analysis is the same in situations when child witnesses are allowed to take a doll or teddy bear with them to the witness stand. There should be a showing by the prosecutor that the witness would have difficulty testifying without the special measure. The trial judge can then determine whether the special measure would unduly prejudice the defendant.
The Supreme Court noted that Ellie’s behavior in the courtroom was never disruptive; she never left the witness’s side; and she never made any gesture (growling, lunging) toward the defendant that would cause a jury to consider him dangerous or untrustworthy. And finally, the trial judge instructed the jury to not make any assumptions based on Ellie’s presence.
The allergy objection has been a common one in the early stages of using facility dogs like Ellie in courtrooms. In the Dye case, the judge offered to allow the defendant to prove such an allergy with a note from his doctor, and if proven, make accommodations for him. The defendant never produced such a note and the objection was overruled. The Supreme Court approved this approach.
Both the Washington Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court upheld the trial judge’s decision to allow Ellie to assist the victim while testifying. A concurring opinion to the Supreme Court decision did voice some concerns, however. Justice McCloud felt that because Ellie was such a powerful symbol in the courtroom— “…her mere presence conveyed a deeply reassuring, yet silent, message of comfort, security and support”—that in the interest of fairness to the defendant, the trial judge might consider additional steps, for example allowing a facility dog to accompany the defendant’s key witness to the stand, to balance things out. Defense counsel didn’t seek such balancing steps, so no error occurred at the trial level. Justice McCloud was also concerned that a simple instruction to the jury to not draw any conclusions from Ellie’s presence was insufficient, that it’s well known that jurors often fail to follow a court’s instructions. “[T]he presumption that jurors follow instructions is especially inapplicable where the challenged procedure—here, the presence of the adorable dog Ellie—is a procedure that works only because it provides such powerful symbolism.”
There is still room for novel objections to the use of facility dogs in the courtroom. Those objections will wind their way through the appeals process. It’s all part of how our legal system sorts through these concerns and comes to the best possible solutions. Page isn’t worried. Ellie, and facility dogs in general, have become a common sight in King County’s courtrooms; most of the judges have become quite comfortable with their use. I’m sure that’s the case in many other jurisdictions across the country as well, and will become more common in the future.
As for defendants also having access to facility dogs in the courtroom, as suggested by Justice McCloud? “I think that's fair,” said Page. “Although I don't think the prosecutor's office is under any obligation to supply defense with a dog.”
State v. Dye, No. 87929-0, published September 29, 2013, can be found at:
Courthouse Dogs Foundation (www.courthousedogs.com) - promoting justice with compassion through the use of professionally trained facility dogs to provide emotional support to everyone in the justice system.
For the first report on courtroom dogs by Rebecca Wallick see, or for previous update .
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
AKC grant goes towards gastric dilation-volvulus research
For almost everyone with a deep-chested or large breed dog, gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), commonly known as bloat, is always lurking in the back of their mind. Bloat causes the stomach to fill with air or fluid, which can progress to GDV, a twisting of the stomach. GDV is one of the leading causes of death in dogs, second only to cancer for some breeds. The scariest thing is how fast GDV can become fatal. The condition can progress to a critical level in a matter of minutes or hours.
Despite its prevalence, the cause of bloat remains unknown but is generally thought to be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.
Laura Nelson, assistant professor at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, has been awarded a two year grant to fund research on the causes of GDV in dogs. The money was awarded by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation earlier this month.
Not every dog, even those with a high predisposition, will get bloat and Laura wants to know why. Her team will be looking at the relationship of motility--contractions responsible for the digestion of food--with increased GDV risk, and hopes to define the biochemical and genetic alterations that may be associated with hypomotility--abnormally weak contractions. The researchers also will evaluate the expression of the hormones motilin and ghrelin--regulators of GI motility--as a predictor of predisposition to GDV.
The research team hopes to use their findings to help veterinarians make informed decisions about how to treat dogs at risk for bloat, increasing survival rates. Given how common bloat is, it would be amazing to have a better understanding on how the condition develops and how to treat it.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
In my job as an Animal Control Officer, I spend 10 hours a day working with dogs and then come home to a houseful of my own dogs. I love dogs and it’s such an honor to spend my life in their company. Anyone who has a close relationship with a dog would likely agree that dogs share many of our emotions, social needs and characteristics. Dogs are often our closest non-human companions. Horses, cats, birds and some other animals can bond very tightly to humans too but dogs most consistently choose to willingly follow us on almost any adventure or trial.
Studies have shown that dogs communicate better with humans and understand us better than any other animal on earth. In studies asking multiple species including dogs and non-human primates to interpret human body language to find a treat, only dogs understood human communications consistently.
People get very excited to think of dogs as little people in fur coats but I find the best thing about dogs is their very “dogness.” I have a lot of wonderful people in my life but sometimes no one can comfort or share a day with me in the way a dog can. My human family loves me but they don’t go into transports of delight ever every time I walk into the room. When I get home from work and my dogs greet me and then I take them for a run, I can feel the stresses of the day start to fade. They race and play with the same joy and abandon every single day.
Dogs live so fully in the moment. They never say, gee, I’m tired of this same walk, same ball chase, same Dog Park etc. It’s new, and fun, each time. Dogs find joy in the simplest of things. Just about anything I want to do, my dogs think is a blast. My wonderful friends and family are great to spend time with but they aren’t always available, or don’t always want to do the things I want to do. My dogs have never once said no thanks or I’m not in the mood, to a car ride, a hike, a cuddle or any other adventure. Not once.
Dogs are the perfect blend of similar enough to us enough to enjoy most of the things we do, and unique enough to be fascinating in their own right. Dogs are just perfect as they are.
Let us know what special “dog” things your furry companion does that make you glad he’s a dog.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Succeeding where people have failed
Some friends of ours owe their marriage to their dogs. Their four-legged friends didn’t have anything to do with their original meeting, but without them, they never would have gotten together.
Before the dogs took matters into their own paws, Margaret had asked Nick out at least four times at the coffee shop where he worked. Nick claims Margaret was too subtle and he didn’t realize that comments like, “Oh, we should take the dogs out for a walk sometime,” were actual invitations. Margaret says what little she knew about Nick included that he had a new puppy. She also says, “Keeper has always been my comfort blanket, so I figured that if Keeper could come on the first date, that was enough encouragement to put myself out there and ask him.”
That’s all there would have been to the story if it had not been for Keeper and Zuma. Luckily, they had the power to bring these two people together, though it was a year or so after Margaret’s first attempt.
After their interactions at the coffee shop, Nick and Margaret next ran into each other while out walking their dogs. She was hiking with her dog Keeper, who ran way ahead on the trail. When Keeper returned, she had Zuma with her. Though Margaret had no idea whose dog it was, it was clear that Keeper was enthusiastic about her new canine friend.
Hoping to return this new unknown dog to her rightful guardian, Margaret continued hiking, now with two dogs. The three of them went on together for a little while until they joined up with Nick, who was searching for his dog Zuma. Naturally, Zuma has long been forgiven for running out of sight since her actions led Nick to his wife.
It was immediately obvious to the dogs and to Margaret that they were meant to be together. Nick didn’t realize it until after the dog walking encounter, but then he quickly got with the program. They started dating and about two weeks later they moved in together. Almost two years to the day after their dogs connected them, they were married. That was three years ago and their dogs remain best friends, too.
Margaret and Nick can thank their dogs for prompting them to date, become engaged, and to marry. What relationships in your life do you owe to your dogs?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Autumn is the perfect time to spend outdoors with your dogs
People often think of summer as the prime time to be outdoors with your dogs. The weather is warm and there's countless activities to do together, such as playing at the beach and walking around the many outdoor festivals that happen during that time of year. For those reasons I've been sad to say goodbye to summer, but the crisp cool air and colorful leaves remind me that autumn in the North East has it's own benefits.
Last weekend I went on a beautiful waterfall hike to enjoy the fall foliage with my Border Collie, Scuttle. Afterwards we stopped at a dog friendly Oktoberfest event on the way home to enjoy bratwurst and beer (only bratwurst for Scuttle, although I saw a Miniature Poodle sneak a sip of an open beer!). The weekend activities made me think that autumn is one of the best times to spend time with outdoors with your pets. It's not too hot and not too cold, many beaches open up after Labor Day for off leash play, and hiking trails are less crowded.
I'm hoping that our next adventure will be apple and pumpkin picking at one of the many local orchards that welcome dogs. One of them even lets the pups on the hay rides! Not all farms allow pets, so if you're looking to do some apple picking, call ahead to verify that you can bring your dog.
Do you have any fall adventures planned with your canine crew?
News: Guest Posts
For most, car trips are the preferred method of travel with our dogs, from running errands and trips to the dog park to longer excursions to visit family/friends or enjoying a dog-friendly destination—dogs are our co-pilots. The amount of time dog owners spend in the car with their dogs is growing—not really surprising considering how much dogs have become part of our daily lives. With the increase of outwardly mobile dogs comes the responsibility to keep them (and all passengers) safe. According to the AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Study, many drivers practice a host of behaviors prompted by their dogs — from petting to restricting a dog’s movement — that expose potentially dangerous consequences. As much as we love our dogs, the excitement of a road trip and the visual and audio stimulation of a drive can produce a variety of behavior in them that is best dealt with when not behind the wheel. Distracted drivers are unsafe drivers, which can lead to accidents and serious injury.
In order to ensure the safety of yourself and your charges, these basic safety tips are recommended.
Leash Your Dog Before Opening the Car Door to Exit
Every year hundreds of pets are lost or injured as they dart out of cars uncontrolled. Be sure to collar, id tag, and leash your dog before opening the car door to let them out. When in a strange and busy environment, pets can be frightened and run off into traffic or to places that are difficult to find. Maintain control of your dog(s) at all times.
Keep Heads, Arms, & Legs Inside the Car
Many dogs love to put their head out of the window or ride in the back of a truck. But if it isn’t safe for children, then it isn’t safe for a pet. Not only are there risks of being hit by other traffic or roadside objects, the ASPCA reports that dogs can also get debris in their eyes and lungs leading to illness. Some dogs have been known to jump out of car windows while driving or stopped, running into traffic or getting lost.
Keep Pets Out of the Front Seat
Increasingly, accidents are being caused by distracted driving. 30% of people admit to being distracted by their dog while driving, according to the AAA/Kurgo Study.
Pets should not be in the front seat of the car while driving and never positioned on your lap. Dogs should be in the back seat or the cargo area. If you have a hard time keeping your dogs in the back seat, there are a number of products that can contain them—Backseat Barriers that fit between the two front seats are effective at keeping pets in the backseat. Innovative products, such as the Auto Grass, sit on a car console and deter Fido from taking a step forward and into the front seat.
Restrain Pets for Safety
Restricting your pet’s movement and access to the front seat can be achieved by utilizing a crate or harness to restrain them. Many people prefer to crate their pet in the backseat or in the cargo area. Be sure that the crate is secure by using a pet carrier restraint attached to the car’s seatbelt system.
If your pet requires a little more freedom, you can use a dog harness and seat belt tether to give them lead to sit or lay down but still protect them in case of a crash. If your dog insists on more movement, you can also connect a dog harness to a zipline that goes the width of the backseat allowing them to walk back and forth. This is not as safe as a seat belt tether, but it will keep them out of the front seat.
Make sure your pets have plenty of water to drink in the car or stop frequently to re-hydrate. A dogs’ panting may increase significantly in the car making hydration even more essential. A dog travel bowl is essential gear for car trips of any length.
Never Leave Your Dog Alone
Hopefully, it goes without saying that dogs should never be left alone in a car regardless of the weather. The obvious danger is heat, even in moderate temperatures. On an 85-degree day, within 10 minutes the car inside temperature can rise to 120, even with the windows cracked open. The other danger is that your pet may attract thieves.
These tips were provided by Kurgo, which is the leading manufacturer of pet travel safety products. With over 10 years of experience developing innovative products, Kurgo’s mission is to help pets and their owners get out and enjoy the world together, safely.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Events include webinars and contests
The focus of the fourth annual Train Your Dog Month in January 2014 is on training the family dog with the manners necessary to improve the daily life of both people and dogs. The basic skills are those in the Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) program of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT).
In honor of Train Your Dog Month, APDT will offer free webinars to anyone who is interested in learning more about teaching basic skills to dogs. The behaviors that will be covered include sit, down, stay, coming when called, loose-leash walking, and wait. Additionally, there will be Facebook events promoting the value of taking dogs to training classes and the quality-of-life advantages enjoyed when dogs know basic behaviors and can perform them when asked.
In addition to webinars and chats on Facebook, there are contests to celebrate and support this event. Two of them involve the creation of videos, so get ready to find your inner filmmaker! The Training Testimonials contest is open to anyone, so whether your credentials consist of being a dog guardian or being an experienced professional dog trainer, you can enter. Awards and $25 VISA gift cards will be given to the three people who create the best one-minute or shorter videos of testimonials about the improved relationship and quality of life due to training your dog. Winning videos will be those that best illustrate the benefits of training a dog to the general public.
One contest that is only open to APDT members involves making a C.L.A.S.S. “Viral” Video. The object is to show the everyday dog guardian the basic principles of the Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) program in two minutes or less. The winner will be given free registration to the 2014 APDT Conference.
Having trained dogs personally and professionally for many years, I’m a huge believer in the value of having dogs who are trained well. It’s a lot of work, but also a labor of love to train your dog and teach good manners. It’s also a great kindness since it really can make your dog’s life better. It’s easier to give trained dogs freedom, to take them all kinds of places, and to allow them to be a greater part of your life. Also, the ability to communicate what you’d like your dog to do minimizes the frustration, misunderstandings and danger that can damage quality of life and put a strain on the relationship.
Train Your Dog Month is a great way to begin a whole new year of training your dog!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
CPS finds only one car restraint system that passes their tests
Keeping dogs safe in the car has long been a concern of mine. Previously I wrote about the crumple zone in the back of the car, which made me consider moving my pups to the safer back seat area using harnesses since I can't fit my crate in the passenger area. However, I was not impressed testing or lack of standards on car restraints, so I stuck with my crate (To be fair, crates don't have much testing either. There is only brand one on the market, Variocages, that is crash tested and designed with the crumple zone in mind, but they come with a hefty $1,000+ price tag!).
The results of a new study on canine car restraints doesn't exactly boost my confidence in these "doggy seat belts." A study by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru found that only one of the eleven systems they tested provided adequate protection to the dog and passengers of the vehicle.
CPS designed their crash test on the standard that is currently used to certify child safety seats. The testing occurred in two phases. First, each harness was subjected to a preliminary strength test. Only seven passed and continued to the crash test portion. The systems were tested using specially designed crash test dummy dogs in three sizes: a 25 pound Terrier mix, a 45 pound Border Collie, and a 75 pound Golden Retriever.
Only one system passed all of the tests, the Sleepypod Clickit Utility, meaning the dog remained restrained during every test and offered protection to the passengers.
Klein Metal AllSafe, Cover Craft RuffRider Roadie, RC Pet Canine Friendly Crash Tested, Bergan Dog Auto Harness, Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength, and IMMI PetBuckle did not have optimal performance. Some allowed dogs to launch off of the seat or did not control the pet's rotation (something I wouldn't have even though about). The worst products, IMMI Pet Buckle, Kurgo, and Bergan, allowed the dog to become a full projectile or to be released from the restraint.
CPS plans to use the data from their study to help develop standards for performance and test protocols of restraint systems since there are currently no industry guidelines.
Founded in 2011, CPS is a registrered non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to companion animal safety. They are not affiliated with the pet product industry and do not endorse products. I can't wait to see what they have in store next!
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