Culture: DogPatch
Fair Trade Signs
Reviving a Nepalese folk-art tradition
Fair Trade - Dog Signs

Since 1986, Nepal has been a respite for Michelle Page, a former assistant film editor who lives in Santa Monica, Calif. The country’s friendly residents and low cost of living made it an attractive escape after she had spent countless 14-hour days in a dark room working on movie projects such as Spiderman II.

But in 2007, just as her own job security was starting to wane, Page noticed a similar trend on the streets of Kathmandu. “There used to be these beautiful hand-painted signs everywhere,” recalls Page. “Then suddenly, all the new signs seemed to be digitally printed on vinyl.” Hoping to help keep traditional artists employed, Page developed an art program inspired by her favorite Nepalese signs: the ubiquitous “Beware of Dog” warnings decorating gates throughout Kathmandu. Painted in colorful enamel, the metal signs often feature a German Shepherd, but also many other breeds that obviously live at the home or business in question —Beagle, Dachshund or Dalmatian. Page has documented 360 examples during her vacations.

Since opening Danger Dogs in 2007, Page has visited Nepal twice a year— a 60-hour round-trip commute—to connect U.S. pet owners with signboard artists who need work. Armed with photos customers have given her of their dogs, she spends six hours a day traveling in the sardine-can confines of minibuses to various painters’ studios, where she hand-delivers the photos for transformation into signs announcing “Danger Dog,” “Zen Dog” or whatever the customer prefers in both Nepali script and English.

To date, Page has overseen the creation of 2,700 pieces by 58 artists, who set their own prices for the work they craft for this unexpected U.S. audience. “There’s a big well of talent, and arranging the paintings is more fun than you can imagine,” says Page. “The artists are thrilled because they get to paint. They take it very seriously.” For each commission, Page hires three different artists. Although she tries to accommodate people who request a specific painter (“They do move around a lot”), she usually gives the portrait to whichever signboard artists she “would like to see do that dog.”

“Some artists do innovative lettering, while others do really well with hair or particular facial expressions,” Page explains. A handful of artists can work from “problem pictures,” ones in which the only shot of a deceased pet is out of focus or has “green eye” from the camera’s flash.

Once the signboards are complete, Page emails digital images to the customer, who can buy one ($250) or as many as they like—or none if they feel the painter missed the mark. Page then sells the other versions through her website (nepaldog.com), galleries and museum shops.

Narrowing the choice to only one proved impossible for Kristin Anderson of Malden, Mass. “Charles’ eyes are just perfect in one painting. It really captures his expression,” says Anderson, who commissioned a painting of her friend’s Cocker Spaniel as a wedding present this spring and ended up buying two signs. “We got a real rendition of Charles Barkley.”

Culture: DogPatch
Zuke’s—Living What They Believe
Finding a balance of work and play

Zuke’s began over a decade ago, when Patrick Meiering was hiking in the Colorado Mountains with his energetic dog, Zuke. Noticing that Zuke had become exhausted, Patrick broke off a piece of his energy bar and tossed it to him—Zuke perked right up. The idea that pets need healthy, all-natural treats was born at that moment. Today, Zuke’s offers a host of treats that are formulated with only natural ingredients providing the specific nutrients needed by dog and cats. The company embraces a healthy lifestyle of work and play, including a dog-friendly workplace—making them the perfect partner to sponsor The Bark’s Best Places to Work contest in 2013.

Tell us about Zuke’s office environment and an average day on the job …
Zuke’s offices went to the dogs a long time ago. In fact, they have really always belonged to the dogs. Zuke, a chocolate Lab who had the honor of being the company’s inspiration, namesake and mascot, was the first employee, setting the stage for over a decade of canine-inhabited cubicles and offices furnished with as many dog beds as chairs. Now, on any given day there are as many dogs as humans at work. They are welcome everywhere by everyone. During work hours, they are our taste testers, quality control experts, de-stressing specialists and relaxation authorities. On their breaks, which are frequent throughout the day, there is a beautiful creek that runs through the property with trees, grass and toys for the pups to enjoy. They are an integral part of our team, the reason we come to work each day and our reminder that life with dogs is the only way to live.

Is there an official dog policy in place?
Although there is no official policy in place, there is wide latitude given to all of Zuke’s canine employees. They can come to work whenever they want to, their humans can take a break at any time to feed, walk, play or care for them, and they are permitted to sleep on the job.

What is ownership/management’s view of allowing dogs in the workplace?
Living our lives with our dogs in tow is the Zuke’s lifestyle. From the top down, Zuke’s is guided by our passion for pets and our desire to show them our devotion. The management at Zuke’s honors this passion and upholds the values that make us a unique company. While having your loyal companion at your heels all day, everyday may be overwhelming to some, for us it’s a way to give back some of the unconditional love our dogs show us.

Can you give some specific examples of how the dogs add to the work environment in a positive way ....
Whether we are putting in long hours of overtime to develop the newest treat recipe or debating the best name for a new product line, our dogs help to diffuse the stress, lighten the mood, increase collaboration and restore our energy. Although, some of us go running with our dogs or play in the backyard during break times, it is really more about having a dog stroll through a meeting and rest his head on your lap for a quick pet or curl up under your desk as a sleepy sidekick. Their quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) presence is ingrained in the culture at Zuke’s and a great reminder of why we do what we do.

What are some of the tips and pointers you can offer a company who is looking to start a dog-friendly work policy?
We believe a dog-friendly workplace works best if it is embraced and promoted by management and human resources. Rules should be put in place to ensure the safety of the people and pets in the office and there must be a high level of respect and patience shown to the pets, their owners, and the non-pet-owners in the office. There will be the occasional accident and barking will become part of the background noise, but as long as all of the dogs are well-trained, confident, dog-friendly canines, it will be a fun place to work.

Though we are a pet products company and are thus unfairly biased, we believe that the positives outweigh the negatives for workplaces considering dogs. Aside from having a ready and willing taste test team on hand at all times, our management and employees universally believe that there are huge benefits to having canine coworkers.    

News: Guest Posts
James Gandolfini: Brilliant Actor & Dog-lover
Tough guy persona melted away with dogs
James Gandolfini & Duke

By now, most everyone is aware of the sudden death of 51-year-old actor James Gandolfini. The actor died on Wednesday of a heart attack while vacationing in Italy. His death came as a shock to his many fans and admirers, and we count ourselves among them. Like millions of others, we looked forward to sharing Sunday evenings with The Sopranos. Gandolfini’s nuanced portrayal of Tony Soprano, the violent yet charismatic crime boss in HBO’s critically acclaimed show was nothing short of brilliant. His performance connected with the audience in ways not seen before, and thus his passing seems particularly sad, and personal. Still, I doubt few of his fans will miss him more than his dog. In addition to being a loving husband and father, Gandolfini possessed a deep affection for dogs. He was an admirable advocate for Pit Bulls, believing them to be a misunderstood breed. His own pooch, a rescue dog named Duke, remained an important part of his life. The slew of photos found online of Gandolfini and Duke walking together, getting coffee, and driving around attests to their bond. Gandolfini’s last film will stand as a legacy of his passion for canines: Animal Rescue, a crime drama slated to come out in 2014, stars Gandolfini (with Tom Hardy) and revolves around a lost Pit Bull pup. We offer our condolences to his family and friends, celebrate his illustrious career and admire his contributions to the animal world.

Culture: DogPatch
Q&A with author of Wilderness
In Conversation: Lance Weller and Katherine Griffin
Q&A Weller, Wilderness

First things first: tell us about your dogs.
We have a Border Collie, an English Mastiff and one who has a lot of Shepherd in her, and maybe a little Dane. And then we have a mutt we found in a parking lot; he was really on his last legs. We were going to take him to the pound, but he gave me the look, and that was that. Then he promptly threw up all over the car.

Who was your first dog?
Her name was Tessie—she was a Miniature Collie. My parents got her for me when I was three or four. She wandered away when we were on vacation and I never saw her again. That helpless feeling of loss found its expression through Abel’s journey.

The book is many things, but at heart, it’s a story of woundedness and healing. How do you see dogs as a part of that?
I’ve never gone through the sort of travails I put Abel through, but I spent a long, long time trying to be a writer—trying to get Wilderness to the table. I could not for the life of me figure out how to get anybody interested in it. And then I got sick and couldn’t work on anything for the longest time. It was a nasty bout of Bell’s palsy—a nerve branch that feeds half of your face seizes up and dies. So half your face is paralyzed. For six months, I didn’t leave the house, and it really started to wear on me.

But I had my dogs. And they didn’t care what I looked like, and they licked my face. (Not to say that my wife wasn’t the same way, except for the face-licking.) But I could always count on throwing an arm around my dog, or my dogs, and feeling a lot better. People have said that Abel suffers from PTSD. I don’t know about that, but I do know that dogs will heal you.

How do your dogs help you write?
I always have a dog here in the room with me—usually two. One lies right behind me, or right on my feet. It keeps me connected and honest.

Dog's Life: Humane
Earth Angels NYC: Dog Rescue
People Who Matter: Emelinda Narvaez, founder of NYC’s Earth Angels
Emelinda Narvaez, founder of NYC’s Earth Angels

Emelinda Narvaez, an animal rescue advocate working in both Manhattan and the Bronx, has become a familiar face to people visiting the city’s pet stores. She calls her rescues “earth angels,” and fittingly, that is also the name of her animal-rescue group. Narvaez Emelinda, who says she’s rescued over more than 10,000 animals over a span of 45 + years, was a nurse in a Bronx hospital. Until she retired about 15 years ago, she (and her late husband, who helped her) devoted evenings and weekends to animal rescue. Since then, it’s become her fulltime occupation.

A long-time admirer, I always dropped something in the donation box when I saw her in front of one of lower Manhattan’s pet stores. Then one day, I sat down and asked her to tell me more about herself and her work. That particular day, she had a terrier-mix puppy and an adult Poodle, as well as an elderly Chihuahua and a Shih Tzu who were not available for adoption; she felt the two seniors were too fragile to weather a big change, so she was caring for them herself. As we talked, she continued to work, answering my questions as well as those asked by passersby interested in her “angels.”

Catherine Johnson: I understand that you were born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and raised in the South Bronx. Where did you get your gift?
Emelinda Narvaez: My connection with animals came from my parents; they both loved all animals. My father was very dedicated to rescue work and would take us to the ASPCA to volunteer at very young age. We cleaned cages and learned to handle both cats and dogs.

CJ: Did you have any favorite animals growing up?
EM: I can’t say I had a favorite. We had so many—we were always taking in animals. My mother had a rule that we would not have more than 15 at a time. The whole family helped her take care of them. She had a lot of help!

We lived across from St. Ignatius church in the Bronx, and every Sunday at the end of the mass, the priest would recognize my family’s work with animals. He would also let the congregation know they could adopt one from us, which is how we found homes for many of our animals.

When I was around 15, I realized that we needed to be more formal about these adoptions. So we started having the person adopting fill out an application. We developed a screening process—that was my idea.

CJ: What were your early years working in rescue like?
EM: It was a very different time. Of course, there have always been animals who are neglected because of people’s ignorance or lack of education as to how to care for a pet. People losing their job and not being able to afford their pets has always been a problem, and will continue to be a problem. But cruelty cases were rare. Today, our ugly culture of violence has also affected the way people treat their animals. The stuff you see in NYC regularly is hard to understand. It really is.

CJ: What do you consider to have been the worst crisis period in the city’s history?
EM: It is now. Here’s why. Rules to protect animals and people living in apartments have been established, but those rules are too broad and not always reasonable. The public housing law that doesn’t allow pets over 25 pounds and certain breeds is ridiculous. A dog who is considered unsafe by tenants should be evaluated. A gentle dog who is considered too large thrown out of a project? That is inhumane and cruel to both the owner and the dog. The big-dog law banning big dogs from housing? This has created an unnecessary crisis.

[In 2009, the public housing authority prohibited residents from keeping purebred or mixed-breed Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers, as well as any dog (with the exception of service dogs) expected to weigh more than 25 pounds when full grown. This ban affected residents of approximately 178,000 public-housing units.]

Dogs should be fairly assessed. Behavior has nothing to do with a dog’s weight. Of course, there is no place for a vicious dog in any apartment situation. But a policy for evaluation on a case-by-case basis needs to be put into place.

CJ: How could our state government help city shelters?
EM: The top priority should be a more thorough and fair assessment of whether an animal is fit for adoption. You cannot fairly assess a dog who has just been brought in from an abusive situation and is hungry, cold and traumatized. Rescued animals should be allowed to sleep, eat and heal. And then be evaluated. I don’t think money is the answer. I think policy and procedure need to change. The rules are random and arbitrary. That has been my experience (and my opinion).

I also think they should be more proactive in letting people know they can foster an animal. Most people don’t know that’s an option.

The best thing the government has done within the last 10 years for the rights of people and their pets was the law that allowed owners to keep their pets after three months, regardless of what the lease states.

[Section 27-2009.1 of the NYC Housing Maintenance Code essentially says that if the owner of a multiunit rental has a lease prohibiting pets but doesn’t object to the presence of a tenant’s pet within three months, the lease provision is considered to have been waived.]

CJ: Where do Earth Angels’ animals come from?
EM: People know me and know what I do. I work directly with my community. People call me or drop off pets. What about your own life?

I have cancer, which is in remission, and lupus, but I think my work heals me and gives my life meaning and purpose. I truly believe that. And I have a son and a godson whom I adopted and raised. They are both homicide detectives and I am so proud of them. My family of animals and my sons keep me going.

CJ: Do you have one particularly memorable story from your rescue work?
EM: About 20 years ago, my husband and I were caring for and feeding Pit Bulls who were living in the garage of an elderly man who was ill. One night, during a blinding snowstorm, I went to feed them and accidentally locked the door behind me. I was locked in, and I was freezing. The cold was intense. The dogs huddled around me and kept me warm. I kept yelling until someone heard me; I asked them to go the precinct where my son was working and send him to help me. I was stuck in there for hours, but the dogs kept me from freezing.

CJ: What keeps you going?
EM: I love knowing that I saved an animal from a kill shelter or from harm or starving in the street. I love what I do, and I believe it is my gift. I couldn’t do this alone, however; I have foster homes and volunteers who help. For a $200 to $250 adoption fee, my animals receive all their necessary shots and are neutered or spayed; a few vets help by donating their services.

Also, the angels that I have had in my life: my mother, father, sister, brother and husband. I had a strong family. And I could not have done this work without a woman who helps me, Judy Ross. When I am no longer alive, I hope to still be of help; my will states that my house will be given to an animal rescue group working in the Bronx.

CJ: How would you describe the bond between a rescued animal and the person who takes that animal in?
EM: That bond is very strong—a magical connection. They know what you have done, and are grateful. And if you doubt me, rescue an animal and you will see!

Editor's Note: There is going to be an adoption event and fundraiser for Emelinda this Sunday, June 2 from noon to 3 pm at one of NYC's finest dog parks, Stuyvesant Square Park. Her friends and admirers are hoping to raise enough money to buy her a new van to replace the very old one she uses to transport the animals. If you are in NYC, do try to attend. See their flyer for this event.

Culture: DogPatch
Lily Tomlin Talks
The legendary comedian stands up for animals

When we think of Lily Tomlin, what comes to mind first isn’t her star turns in films like ShortCuts and 9to5 or on television’s The West Wing—or even Ernestine, the snorty, sassy, snood-sporting operator she played with such aplomb. Rather, we think of Edith Ann and her loyal dog Buster. A precocious tot, squirmy but serious Edith Ann often discussed the adventures she shared with Buster, from ice skating and bath time to making him a sandwich that included mustard, pickles, oatmeal, cheese, pretzels, tuna fish, peanut butter, salami, raisins and one black olive. He didn’t care for it, so Edith Ann decided to order pizza: “Buster likes pepperoni with double cheese and so do I. And that’s the truth!”

Underlying this comedy routine is another truth: Tomlin’s love of dogs, which comes through even when she speaks in the charming, halting voice of a five and- a-half-year-old girl explaining how she made a sandwich so unappetizing that it even went bust with Buster.

Tomlin—who, upon seeing a stray running by the roadside, has been known to pull her car over and attempt to lure the frightened pup off the busy street by means of a fast-food sandwich— has lived with animals all her life. Recently, she headlined “Stand Up for the Animals,” a comedy-and-causes benefit at the Comedy Store in West Hollywood devoted to bringing attention to the work of Voice for the Animals.

We hopped on the phone to chat with her about her work to improve the lot of Los Angeles Zoo’s Billy the elephant and other animal-related topics, and she also shared a few stories of the dogs she has known. As it turns out, Lily has lived with and loved beasties of all stripes throughout her life. She speaks movingly of Chi Chi, the dog she had as a teen; a Corgi-mix named Princess she doted on for years; and her current critters, cats Murphy (who came into her life when she joined the cast of Murphy Brown, natch) and Roddy McDowell, so named because, Tomlin says,“he’s elegant…and sensitive.”

She has vivid and emotional memories of her pets, including the death of one of her beloved dogs. “I knew she wasn’t well. I went out in the yard with her, and we lay on the grass for a long time, looking into each other’s eyes. She died later that evening.” We both paused to consider the moment, and then she continued.“ They’re our creatures, they’re just everything.”

Although Tomlin has lived with a number of dogs, she hasn’t worked with all that many, except for a comical elevator scene from Big Business, in which a dog she’s walking gets on an elevator and the doors shut. I asked about the connection between Hollywood and hounds beyond the larger topic of animal actors, and if there were any lessons humans working in showbiz could take from dogs in general.

She spoke about the authenticity of pups—“They have an innocence and a goodness because they’re not ambitious …”—and what performers can learn from that. Summing it up perfectly, Tomlin observed that “dogs want to love their people, and actors need to love their audience. Dogs have all the empathetic qualities that a good actor should have.” Dogs seem to inspire just about every calling, it seems.

Including conflict resolution. Remembering a time when she had a lot of animals in the house—including a goat named Bucky that she would take on outings with her dogs (“You’d have to walk behind him with a little lobby dustpan and a broom, sweeping up his pellets.”)— Tomlin recalled how one of her dogs would take on the role of mediator. “We had two cats in the house; the cats loved to torment Diva [a Doberman] because she was so easily cowed. One day, the cats were at the bottom of the stairs and Diva was at the top: They were at an impasse. Tessie [a Terrier], who was a little bossy thing, ran through Diva’s legs and stood there, barking at the cats and Diva too, as if to break it up.”

While tales of Bucky and Diva were not told during the “Stand Up for the Animals” night, Edith Ann did make an appearance, to much applause. Later, I learned more about Voice for the Animals from executive director Melya Kaplan.

Kaplan’s approach to animal assistance could be described as multi-dimensional. Among her organization’s projects are Billy the elephant’s well being, an animal assistance hotline, a senior-animal rescue program, and efforts to help the huge population of dogs and cats living on the streets in Greece. She’s also assisting families facing foreclosure with keeping their pets. And she isn’t shy about sending praise to one of her most front-and-center advocates. “Lily is absolutely phenomenal,” says Kaplan. “She’s been the celebrity who took the lead, just saying it like it is.”

Hearing about Tomlin’s work with this group, and her animated tales of Tessie and Diva and Chi Chi, it’s not surprising that she’s a friend of the furry. Now, whenever we catch a clip of Edith Ann bragging about Buster, we’ll think of all the real Busters Lily’s loved along the way, and her willingness to extend that love to dogs and cats (and elephants) today.

Culture: DogPatch
The New Trust
Family Dog: Touring band’s pups.
The New Trust - Band

Things we learned:
La Quinta has no pet fee + no limit to number of dogs.
The best dog park in the US is in Minneapolis.
The first time a dog sees snow is hilarious.

Our band, The New Trust (Josh Staples, bass, vocals; Sara Sanger, guitar, vocals; Julia Lancer, drums) just returned from a five-week, nationwide tour, accompanied by our canine entourage: Josh and Sara’s Border Collie Murray and Julia’s Border Collie/Heeler mix Stella. We were in a new city every day, and we always started with a visit to the local dog park, where we’d chat with other dog owners. The friendliness we found at the dog parks offset the tour’s hard moments, lack of comfort and too much time spent in gas stations and diners.

We had a good night at Rubber Gloves, a great live-music venue in Denton, Texas; the dogs were allowed in after the show was over, and they had their very own mosh pit. In Chicago, they hung out in the Electrical Audio studios while we recorded our new album, Keep Dreaming (Josh wrote the dogs into the lyrics of the title track).

Culture: DogPatch
The Future of Dogs
Q&A with Ted Kerasote, author of Merle’s Door

In 1991, while rafting Utah’s San Juan River, award-winning writer Ted Kerasote came upon the dog he would later immortalize in Merle’s Door. According to Kerasote, Merle, an adolescent stray who had been surviving on his own in the high desert, told him, You need a dog, and I’m it. It didn’t take Kerasote long to agree with him. Heartbroken after Merle died in 2004, Kerasote vowed to do all he could to ensure that his next dog— Pukka—would enjoy a long and healthy life from the very beginning. His quest began before Pukka was born— researching genetics and how to choose healthy parents, finding a breeder willing to rethink standard early vaccinations—and continued after Pukka came home, delving into quality-of-life concerns for all dogs, such as food, birth control and routine health care. Pukka’s Promise is the culmination of Kerasote’s extensive research. Bark contributing editor Rebecca Wallick recently spoke with Kerasote about some of his experiences and observations.

Bark: On your quest for longer-lived dogs, what were some of the more encouraging things you learned?
Ted Kerasote: In the United States, Wayne Cavanaugh at the United Kennel Club is making an effort to change breed standards, encouraging breeders to select for function. He has taken to heart the efforts of the Swedish and Finnish Kennel Clubs —hip and genetic testing, and standards that highlight function over form—and has begun to apply them in the U.S. Next, the American Veterinary Medical Association has started recommending triennial vaccinations. That’s still too often, but a move in the right direction. I also hope the Rabies Challenge Fund is successful; its researchers are working to prove that duration of immunity for the rabies vaccine is at least five and possibly seven years. Finally, pet food manufacturers are starting to offer grain-free dog food in response to consumer demand.

B: What did you find that disturbed you?
TK: One, breeders continue to breed for looks, despite a great deal of evidence that many of their dogs are unhealthy. Two, many breeders do not use genetic tests—for example, in Labrador Retrievers, they do not test parent dogs for PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), centronuclear myopathy (a muscle-wasting disease) and exercise-induced collapse. Three, some vets, when confronted with a lump on a dog, still say, “Let’s just watch this,” instead of doing a low-cost aspiration or biopsy, or at least recommending one and letting the client decide. Four, no one has yet conducted long-term tests on genetically similar dogs to assess the health benefits of grain-based kibble versus raw food. Such a study would show us which group of dogs has more chronic diseases, and the time of their onset. It would also tell us which group lives longer. Without such a study, there’s no way to say, definitively, whether grain-based kibble or raw food is better for our dogs. It’s not a difficult test to create, which should tell us that the pet food industry probably doesn’t want to know the answer.
But the most disturbing thing I saw was dogs being killed in a Los Angeles shelter. It was particularly hard because I could have saved any one of those dogs. But which one to save? It was my own “Sophie’s choice.” I did get one dog out—Chance—but I still think of the ones I didn’t choose. That was the hardest single day of the five years I spent researching the book, and my saddest memory.

B: If someone wants a dog of a particular breed, what should they think about?
TK: If looking for a puppy from a breeder, don’t buy one whose parents have not been genetically tested, or one who’s been bred with little thought to function. For example, many breeders of short-muzzled dogs are creating dysfunctional dogs who cannot breathe. I wouldn’t say don’t buy such a dog, but instead, look for those who retain their historical appearance; at the end of the 19th century, many of these dogs actually had snouts.

B: Of all aspects of canine care and companionship, are there things you feel are happening too slowly?
TK: What I wish would change faster is the amount of freedom dogs enjoy. In most places in the U.S., dogs can no longer roam because of leash laws or traffic or both. Off-leash dog parks are nice, but most are too small. We accept them in lieu of giving dogs true freedom. In many European countries, on the other hand, dogs can go into restaurants, they can ride on buses and subways, and they have more freedom in big urban parks.

B: You spent a lot of time at shelters, investigating what makes some successful in becoming no-kill, while others can’t seem to reach that goal. What do you think makes the difference?
TK: A proactive, compassionate director who can change how a shelter operates. There are roughly 3,500 shelters in the U.S.; approximately 200 are no-kill and quite a few more have not yet reached the goal of having 90 percent of the dogs going back out into the community, but are close. A good fostering system connected with the shelter helps, as does outreach to the community—taking dogs off-site to be adopted. A really simple thing that can be done is to keep the shelter open at night and at least one day on the weekend so working people can get to the shelter and adopt a dog.

B: In Pukka’s Promise, you take on some big players in the dog world—breeders, veterinarians, dog-food and toy manufacturers. Are you concerned about their reactions?
TK: I tried very hard to not trounce people, but to gently point out how we can improve the health of dogs. Those I took to task most are breeders who continue to breed for extreme form even though we all know this leads to unhealthy dogs. I also described pet-food manufacturers who wouldn’t have an honest conversation with me. I hope the weight of the evidence helps people make healthier choices.

B: What is the big take-away you want readers to get from Pukka’s Promise?
TK: Pay more attention to your dog. Get on the ground with your dog, see what it’s doing and what it’s telling you with its body language, its eyes and its facial expressions. I’m often disturbed by how unobservant many people are when it comes to their dogs. Their dogs are asking them a question, but they’re talking on their cell phones. More and more people also treat their dogs like children, giving them a gazillion toys instead of exercise, which is far more important than a bunch of rubber bones and stuffed animals. Dogs need to run, they need to smell, they need to meet other dogs. And it’s important that they get to do that almost every day. For a dog, toys can’t replace running, or reading the world through its nose or having canine company.

For the full interview, see The Bark, Issue 73, Feb–Apr 2013.

Culture: DogPatch
Petfinder.com Founder Betsy Saul
Making lifelong love of animals an international success

Almost every neighborhood has one—a young girl or boy who’s constantly bringing home all sorts of stray animals. While the responsibilities of school, sports and jobs lead many kids to put aside this selfless kindness, others make it their life’s calling. Betsy Saul is one of the latter. As a child, Saul rescued kittens, puppies, birds, squirrels and even an ailing snake. Today, as founder of Petfinder.com, Saul’s rescue efforts have gained international recognition and praise.

As Petfinder.com celebrated its 10th anniversary, Saul recalled that her original intent had been to harness the power of the Internet to reduce euthanasia rates; her initial goal was to save a few animals each month. Fast-forward 10 years, and it’s clear that Saul has achieved more than she ever imagined. As of June 2006, Petfinder.com had helped facilitate over 10,000,000 adoptions.

Rising to the Occasion
In September 2005, as the nation watched, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast, resulting in widespread flooding, destruction and disease. Tragically, many were forced to leave their beloved pets behind to fend for themselves; others were unable to locate their pets, and feared for their well-being.

In the midst of this natural disaster, Petfinder.com became an integral part of one of the largest animal rescue efforts ever undertaken in this country when the Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund and the ASPCA approached it for assistance. Already in the process of building a universal database, Petfinder.com—with input from these agencies—began one of the most successful collaborations in animal disaster-response history.

In just a few days, with Petfinder.com’s programmers working 20-hour shifts, the Animal Emergency Response Network (AERN) web-based system went live. Information from more than eight databases—including those of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and United Animal Nations (UAN)—was made available to people who were frantically searching for missing animals, or those who wanted to help rescue animals left homeless by the storms. Thanks to the AERN database, 3,200 companion animals and their owners were reunited.

Cause for Pride 
As the one-year anniversary of the Gulf Coast disaster approached, Saul reflected on Petfinder.com’s involvement with the previous year’s rescue effort. As she recalled, “Approximately 17,000 pets out of perhaps as many as 150,000 animals that lived in the affected region went through the rescue system. Given the magnitude of the disaster, the length of time it took for folks to get to a point when they could begin searching for their pet, and the huge number of pets that had no identification, the fact that we achieved 3,200 reunions is nothing short of miraculous.” 

Saul was also proud of Petfinder.com’s response to Hurricane Rita. “Before [Rita] hit," she said, "we trained a 24-hour call center to use AERN. We issued ongoing radio news releases as people were evacuating, urging listeners to call a toll-free number to find temporary lodging [foster homes] for their pets along their evacuation route.

“The response was awesome. This system allowed people to take care of their own pets rather than give them up to a shelter. Imagine driving up a highway in Texas, not knowing if you would find a hotel that accepted pets, and being able to find a caring family who would help out. It was very cool and I’m really proud of that.”

When I asked her for some final thoughts on the rescue efforts after both hurricanes, her response was clear: “With the help of shelter staff, the rescuers who responded and Stealth Volunteers [a grassroots group who worked tirelessly on reuniting animals]… what a dream! I couldn’t have conceived of a more inspirational response. I’m so proud of everyone. I think tragedies like Katrina might shake the foundation of one’s faith in some things ... but my faith in people after that response is huge.”

From the beginning, Petfinder.com has been both an industry leader and a maverick. Saul herself considers it a “social profit” organization. She believes that Petfinder.com’s success proves that companies can be both profitable and successful in making social change a reality. Corporate sponsors including Purina, PETCO, Merial, Bissell and the Animal Rescue Site support the business through advertising, which allows shelters and rescuers to participate at no cost.

Betsy Saul has come a long way from the young girl who rescued neighborhood strays. Today, she is a dedicated woman who skillfully combines technology, caring people and socially responsible business practices to help improve the lives of animals, day after day. Her faith, vision and commitment are an inspiration to animal-lovers everywhere.

For more information, contact Petfinder.com.


Culture: DogPatch
Learning by Walking Around
Q&A with Alexandra Horowitz

In her new book, On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, Alexandra Horowitz—author of the wildly popular Inside of a Dog—enlists the attention and insights of others to discover more about the neighborhood in which she lives. But when it comes to really getting the inside scoop, who better to turn to than dogs, those “creatures of the nose”?

Bark: What was the inspiration for your new work, On Looking?
Alexandra Horowitz: Dogs, naturally. The book relates a series of walks I took “around the block” in Manhattan with various people whose expertise allows them to see aspects of the ordinary landscape that I might have missed—a geologist, a naturalist, an artist, a sound engineer. I got the idea from taking so, so many walks with my dogs over the years and starting to see what it was that they saw (smelled). Their aesthetic, their way of experiencing the block, rubbed off on me, and eventually, I found a block without trees or fireplugs boring (even if I couldn’t smell their trunks or bases like the dogs did). I was interested in all the different things there are to see on an ordinary walk, so these walks helped me look at a familiar scene with new eyes.

B: In one of the chapters, you “look” as you see your dog does, more by smell than by vision. How were you able to get into a dog’s “nosescape”?
AH: We naturally view dogs’ behaviors as being about what they see: if a dog faces us, we assume that she is looking at us. But if you look closely at dogs’ noses, what they are mostly doing is smelling. Watch a dog sit face into the windwith a boring landscape but her nose is twitching wildly and you’ll see what I mean. All I did on the walk with my dog, Finnegan, was let him lead—and I followed where his nose took us.

B: What did that tell you about a dog’s experience of the walk?
AH: The dog’s perception of a “walk” is radically different than ours! For a dog, the street is not the same each time you step out of the house—it has “evidence” (odors) of all the people, dogs, other animals, passing cars and trash and rainstorms that have happened since you last left the house. And, of course, the elements of the scene that are interesting to a creature of the nose are going to be quite different than those we visual creatures like to look at.

B: Did you observe other differences in the ways a dog perceives the landscape/environment? For example, in the time it took to do the walk?
AH: We humans tend to walk straight from A to B, not loitering much. For a dog, I think, the ideal walk is non-linear—it is pursuing that scent underfoot into the breeze and around the corner. It’s not an even pace: dogs will walk with us, at our plodding rate, but most would rather rush ahead and then hang back. The interesting things don’t pop up at our pace.

B: Did your dog linger at landmarks, and if so, why do you think he did that?
AH: He did, but the landmarks for him were things like a stoop where (we discovered later) another local dog and his person live; the many, many balusters along a building at our corner, all of which held, presumably, odor-prints of past canid visitors; and an unusual commotion in one building entrance. He didn’t seem that interested in a local Fireman’s Memorial, which is sometimes visited by clutches of tourists, guidebooks in hand.

B: Do you think we can refine our sense of smell by watching our dogs? Perhaps using our sense of smell differently, or doing more sniffing?
AH: I love this question, as it assumes that we might want to smell more. I sense that most people don’t want to, given that, unlike to dogs, we tend to find so many smells unpleasant in various ways. But I have gotten more interested in smelling as information: I walked with a doctor who talked about how many diseases can be diagnosed by smell, though this practice is no longer common. But simply by bringing attention to smell—by bothering to inhale through your nose and think about it—when you’re walking, you can take advantage of the considerable olfactory ability that we already have. There is a surprising lot there. If you don’t want to do this, just watch your dog carefully, and enjoy knowing that she is seeing the world through her nose.