Recent events in Northern Africa have turned the spotlight on Gene Sharp, PhD, a scholar and social scientist anointed by the Daily Beast as “the 83-year-old who toppled Egypt.” For decades, Sharp — through his manuals and books, including From Dictatorship to Democracy, The Politics of Nonviolent Action and 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action— has argued that nonviolent action is the best way to overcome repressive regimes.
Sharp has a PhD from Oxford University, taught at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard, and is now senior scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution, a nonprofit he founded in 1983. His office is on the ground floor of his East Boston home, where he lives and works in the company of Sally, a Golden Retriever mix; before Sally, he had a black Great Dane, Caesar, who was said to serve as Sharp’s chief confidant.
As we were trying to find information about Dr. Sharp’s relationship to the world of dogs, we were pleased to discover an article he wrote in the March 1976 issue of the magazine Fellowship. In this article, “Disregarded History: The Power of Nonviolent Action,” he offers empirical historical evidence for the power of active resistance, including the fact that “it wasn’t Gandhi who introduced fasting as a political weapon”; it was Thomas Jefferson, who, in 1765, urged colonists to fast in their struggle against Great Britain.
Sharp goes on to offer the observation that nonviolent actions of this kind can be seen in nature as well. He starts his argument by demonstrating the ways a recalcitrant child tries to win over a parent with “hunger strikes” and similar resistance, then continues to the canine side of the family:
“Many animals and pets do all these things. Haven’t you had dogs or cats act this way? They want to go with you in the car somewhere—when they know they are not supposed to—they go and jump right in. It’s a ‘sit-in.’ Or, they know very well what you’re saying to them and pretend they don’t, just like you’ve done yourself. Or you say ‘move,’ and they lie down, whimpering, and look up at you with the saddest possible look—like some demonstrators do to police. Sometimes they’re being ignored, particularly if there’s company coming and there’s a big fuss in the house and nobody’s paying attention to them when they’re trying to say, ‘Come and play with me.’ The dog then goes into the middle of the living room rug and does a ‘nonviolent intervention’—not biting anybody, not growling at anybody but getting attention! So we don’t have to change human nature—or even animal nature—in order to be nonviolent.”
Leave it to a visionary like Gene Sharp to incorporate lessons learned from our animal companions in the quest for human freedom.
A documentary about Gene Sharp, “How to Start a Revolution,” directed by Ruaridh Arrow, is expected to premiere in spring 2011. genesharpfilm.com
Dog Inc. author explains the high cost of canine cloning.
Canine cloning businesses like to tout their services as akin to resurrection—but the reality is much more complicated. In our video interview, John Woestendiek, author of the new book Dog Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend, exposes the high cost of canine cloning—for both the people who invest their money and emotions in the procedure, and the laboratory animals used to create the clones.
It sounds counterintuitive: dog and cat food, litter and leashes aren’t at the top of animal shelters’ wish lists, but paper, pens, phones and fax machines are, according to the 250 animal nonprofits registered on TheGivingEffect.com, a free website launched this summer. By connecting individual donors with stuff to spare directly with organizations in need, TheGivingEffect.com helps people clear away clutter and benefit a favorite charity.
GivingEffect founder Mitchell Silverman was initially inspired to create the site by the outpouring of support after Hurricane Katrina but, he says, “the idea really solidified after seeing the Liberty Mutual commercial where one kind act inspires another, and then another, etc.” The website’s online thank-you notes are designed to be shared, with the hope they’ll motivate others to “pay it forward.”
So, after office supplies, what do animal welfare organizations need? Cleaning supplies, blankets, sheets and towels, miscellaneous items that can be sold to raise money, and building supplies.
Dog's Life: DIY
Immortalize your pup in yarn by following the patterns in Knit Your Own Dog by Sally Muir and Joanna Osbourne. Using just simple knit, purl and loopy stitches, capture a Bulldog’s wrinkles, a Poodle’s curls or an Afghan’s flowing mane— 25 breeds in all. Download the pattern below to try your knitter’s hand at the Jack Russell Terrier pattern.
Men, dogs, 3,000 sheep and 150 miles
Anointed as the “first essential movie of this young year” by the New York Times, Sweetgrass holds promise for appearance on our next decadal list. This cinéma vérité documentary, made by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, follows—and perhaps is engulfed by—a herd of 3,000 sheep as they, their shepherds and assorted dogs make their way 150 miles up into Montana’s mountains to their summer sweetgrass pasture. While most reviewers extol the visual and vocal impact of the fascinating sheep, dogs—both Border Collies and Great Pyrenees (see if you can find the dog in the photo)—also play a part. This arduous trek was one of the last made by the Allested family and, as the filmmakers note, was undertaken to “carry on tradition against all odds.” A compelling backstory to an American pastoral. We, for one, can’t wait to see it. For a schedule of showings, check out sweetgrassthemovie.com.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Restaged classics to the rescue
Since the dawn of advertising, lovely ladies have been used to sell everything from soap to pickup trucks. But the women of Pinups for Pitbulls are more than simply beauties or burlesque queens. Founder Deirdre Franklin, whose stage name is Little Darling, describes a modern burlesque artist as “a strong woman who’s expressing herself in an art form that’s liberating.” Part of a subculture that’s revived a classic American art, they’re also using their talents to save a classic American dog.
Franklin’s first encounter with a Pit Bull was a lesson in the lifeand- death consequences of breed prejudice.When a stray was brought into a shelter where she was a volunteer, policy not only dictated that she couldn’t adopt the dog, but also that the dog couldn’t be released to a breed rescue; the dog was later euthanized. Franklin’s response was to adopt Carla Lou, her first Pit Bull, from a rescue group; Carla Lou quickly became what Franklin calls “the love of my life.”
Carla Lou inspired Franklin to get involved in Pit Bull rescue locally, but she was pushed to another level by her experience in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Determined to help, she turned to MySpace, where Pinups for Pitbulls still does a lot of its networking. There, she says, “friends who knew I was into animal rescue and was kind of a loudmouth about it” contributed to a plane ticket so she could go to New Orleans. After persisting through a few days of being turned away from the rescue efforts, she got out on the street to find that a huge percentage of the dogs were Bully types. “That’s what lit the fire under me,” she says. “Seeing it as a national, not a local issue, changed my perspective.”
Using her talents and connections, Franklin was able to start something that helps in a unique way: Through benefit performances and sales of their calendar, Pinups raised about $20,000 last year for the Bully rescue cause.Now they’re planning to branch out into selling prints and more merchandise, and have just received nonprofit status. Franklin has big plans of her own as well: she’s studying for the LSAT so she can go to law school and gain new tools to further her cause, especially the fight against breed-specific legislation.
You might think that with such a specific theme, there’d be a limited pool to draw upon, but last year, 50 models applied to pose in the calendar with their own Pit Bulls. Could it just as easily be “Pinups for Poodles,” or Pugs? Maybe, but Franklin thinks there’s a special connection between the modern burlesque artist and the beleaguered Bully breeds. They’re both outsiders, used to being stereotyped, she says. And Franklin, a woman who isn’t easily kept down, seems to be a kindred spirit to the many Pits, who, like her own, have kept their loyal and loving characters despite adversity. Describing one big dog rescued after Katrina who wagged his tail so much that it had a bare spot where it hit the ground, she says, “They’re triumphant in the worst of times, and I appreciate that.”
Order the calendar at pinupsforpitbulls.com
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Catch one from your dog.
A new study provides the first scientific evidence that dogs yawn in response to human yawns. The contagious nature of yawns has previously only been demonstrated in humans and other primates, but in a recent issue of Biology Letters, scientists Ramiro M. Joly-Mascheroni, Atsushi Senju and Alex J. Shepherd report that dogs can also “catch” human yawns.
The dogs in the study each spent five minutes with a human stranger. In these trials, the experimenter said the dog’s name; when the dog established eye contact, the experimenter gave a fake yawn, complete with vocalization. The experimenter continued doing this for five minutes, which resulted in 10 to 19 yawns, depending on how long it took to establish eye contact. In the control condition, the experimenter followed the same procedure, except that instead of yawning when the dog established eye contact, non-yawning, mouth-opening actions without vocalization were displayed. Of the 29 dogs in the study, 21 yawned in response to the experimenter’s yawns but none did so in the control condition.
Even reading or thinking about yawning can induce yawns, perhaps most notably among people with high levels of empathy. If you find yourself yawning right about now, take the opportunity to get your dog’s attention, yawn some more and see if your dog catches it.
Make the season brighter for animals in need.
Dog Days Perpetual Calendar
If you visit the Polka Dog Bakery in Boston’s South End, you’ll notice a huge gallery of Polaroids featuring every dog who visits the shop. Those photos provide the inspiration for this perpetual desktop calendar, and a portion of the proceeds go to the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
$24 from Polka Dog Bakery
“Hooray for Shelter Dogs!” Notecards
$5.95 for a set of three cards
Freedom Tails Handmade Collars and Leashes
These embossed leather collars and leashes are handmade by inmates at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center and the proceeds support Freedom Tails, a program where offenders train shelter dogs to make them more viable for adoption. The dogs get a second chance at a life in a loving home, and the offenders receive a renewed sense of purpose. These leashes and collars are available in a variety of lengths, widths and colors, and can be custom-embossed with your dog’s name.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for pricing and information. Collars start at $15, leashes start at $20.
Sponsor a Shelter Dog
If you have a dog lover on your list, consider sponsoring a shelter dog in their name. Sponsoring a dog ensures that shelters can cover that dog’s food, shelter and medical needs and helps alleviate the financial strain many shelters face. If they live near the shelter, your gift recipient can even visit their sponsored dog. You can sponsor a dog at the Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition (BARC) for $25 a month, or find a sponsorship program at a shelter near you.
Shop for a Cause
Even if dog-themed gifts aren’t on your list, you can still support canine causes with your holiday shopping. iGive lets you choose your favorite charity and sends money to that organization when you shop at any of over 800 stores online. You can send your shopping dollars toward your local shelter, your favorite rescue or any number of humane societies while shopping for clothing, electronics, books, airline tickets and more!
Robocalls to the rescue
Many pets go missing in September, says Colleen Busch, spokesperson for FindToto.com, the country’s first lost pet phone alert system. She thinks it may be due, in part, to all the distractions of getting kids back to school. But whatever the reason, when your dog escapes or, worse, is stolen, FindToto is there, like a search party in your laptop. Simply input the details of your dog’s disappearance, a physical description and a photo. The service sends out recorded phone alerts to residents in the area where your dog disappeared (as quickly as 5,000 calls in 45 minutes). Costs run from $85 for 250 calls to $875 for 10,000.
As of June, the nearly three-year-old start-up claims to have located more than 3,000 pets, from a Siberian Husky in Brooklyn to a Toy Poodle in San Francisco. It’s logging a 75 percent success rate for alerts ordered within the first 48 hours of a disappearance. And it’s not just for dogs and cats — FindToto has helped track down goats, turtles, birds and a wallaby.
When the Dog Yawns, Sleep Follows
Getting catty over cats — jealous even — is not our intention. But it seems like every really juicy superstition, every prickles-on-the-back-ofthe- neck story, every bit of old-fashioned, been-around-forever folklore is in the cat’s corner, leaving dogs out in the cold, pawing at the back door, dolorously.
Exhibit A: A black cat crossing your path at midnight stirs up all kinds of heck. Forget animal superstitions; this is probably one of the best known of all superstitions, ever. And we’ve been a mite jealous about the whole thing. Not just the mystery and allure and glamour of inspiring such an oft-told tale, but that it is hard to even think up a dog-based superstition when put to it.
Being fond of folklore, and being fond of pups, we went nosing about for some told-and-not-so-true fables inspired by canines. Many millenniaold stories are based on wolves, wolf packs and all manner of moan-at-themoon lycanthropes, of course; few are as potent and as widely repeated as the ol’ black cat chestnut. But we were more curious about myths surrounding dogs living as pets or companions, not those animals found running over moors, howling romantically (and creepily).
We came across an eyebrow-cocker in the 1949 Encyclopedia of Superstitions, which reads, “It is unlucky to meet a barking dog early in the morning.” Really, though, does that make just about every dog owner on the planet unlucky? Hardly a day goes by when, before noon, the furry ones at our feet aren’t yipping to go out, giving the mailman what for, or simply telling one another to step away from the chew toy, pronto.
That said, the same encyclopedia predicts that “a strange dog following you is a sign of good luck.” True. We would add that it is a sign that you’ll be on the phone for most of the afternoon, looking for the dog’s family, and you’ll be photocopying fliers, and you may well be adopting that strange dog if no one ultimately claims him. That’s the modern retelling of the superstition.
Superstitions from Europe, translated by D.L. Ashliman, features a number of delightful folkloric nuggets, especially this: “Girls should pay attention to where the dogs bark on Saint Andrew’s Eve. Her groom will come from this area.” Mutts as mystical matchmakers? We like this.
The Dog Hause, a website with a bevy of beastie-based yarns, touts a superstition we adore, mostly because we’re mad for Matt Groening. According to the creator of The Simpsons, “A dog with seven toes can see ghosts.” You believe this, right? We do. In fact, we’ll call this one nearly verifiable truth. Call in the paranormal researchers. Art Bell, even.
Gaze between a dog’s ears while the pup is staring at seemingly nothing, says the same site, and you’ll see a ghost. We might add that if the dog has seven toes, you’ll be in for a major supernatural startle.
And while we’re always fond of a spirited spirit tale, we like the timeliness of this superstition, which we eyed at HistoryofDogs.com: “If you scratch a dog before you go job hunting, you’ll get a good job.” Positive words. Of course, we’re curious how thorough a scratch is required — are we talking a quick ear-stroker, or a full-on, get-thegrowler- on-his-back scratch-a-thon of the belly? Two different things, as every dog lover knows, though the justpressed interview suit might need to take care before heading out to the big meeting.
(The asterisk on that one, of course, is that if your interviewer is a big dog person, then a little Pug hair on your lapel may inspire instant rapport.)
Over at Writing.com, we came across a bit of folklore for fans of the Dalmatian, that celebrity of spotty snouties: “It’s good luck to meet a dog, particularly a Dalmatian.”
And dog + eating grass = rain, a superstition we’ve come across somewhat frequently, also receives play in the same list. Maybe the grass is dewier, fresher and tastier before a rain? Again, a question for the experts.
The more we perused, the more we got to pondering: Superstitions are always developing, changing, evolving; the tales we know now will be different 500 years hence. And the negative bent of some old superstitions — the barking-at-the-beginning-of-the-day bit — wrong-way-rubs us. So why not develop some of our own sayings, even if we mean to enjoy and retell them just within the confines of our own home?
Here’s a few we’re toying with: “When the Golden Retriever lingers at the door, a walk you shall take within the hour.” Tell us this isn’t nearly 100 percent accurate!
Or, “Stand not over the kitchen sink, but over the Brussels Griffon, as you consume your buttered toast; the morning sun shall later reflect a clean, un-becrumbed floor, and a dog that is licky-of-lip, and well-satisfied.” Also true. Might we add, we’ve seen the sun’s first rays reflect off the buttery lip of a Griffon, and there are few sights more heart-gladdening in the world. This is lucky indeed.
And, while we’re on a roll, let us consider the two words before us: dog superstitions. Doesn’t this also mean superstitions held by dogs? Our own pups hold (we think) a couple of credos: “If lady stands near treat bin, within minute, treat.” Or: “When water in tile room runs, soon fur shall be wet.”
All dog-loving humans should possess at least a half-dozen household superstitions of their own, to lend color, joy and fun to their houndfilled households. And likewise, every dog should be the taddest bit superstitious. After all, one needs something to ponder in the long hours stretched out in the sun or snoozing on the couch. One’s thoughts can’t be about “next walk, next treat, next walk, next treat” all the time. A hint of mystery, a little superstition, does the heart good.
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