A young family undertakes a cross-Canada adventure to visit literary legend, Farley Mowat.
In 2007, with their two year- old son Zev and pup Willow in tow, the couple undertook a third excursion, this time to see the venerable writer and environmentalist, Farley Mowat. Heuer has said that it was through Mowat’s books—Owls in the Family, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, Never Cry Wolf and A Whale for the Killing among them—that he learned about Canadian wildlife and threats to it, as well as gained a better understanding of his country.
When Mowat extended an invitation to visit him and his wife Claire at their Cape Breton farm, the couple—along with Zev and Willow—literally launched themselves on what turned out to be a five-month trans-Canadian odyssey, setting off by canoe from their home in Canmore, Alberta, and following a route that took them through the settings of some of Mowat’s iconic stories. From this, Allison created a feature-length documentary, Finding Farley, and Heuer is working on a book of the same name.
In 2005, we talked with Heuer about his Yellowstoneto- Yukon (Y2Y) trek, and when we learned that he had made yet another incredible dogenhanced journey—with a two-year-old child, no less— we made it a point to find out more.
Bark: On your 1998 Y2Y expedition, you were accompanied by Webster, a Border Collie mix. Is Willow his successor?
B: How does Willow compare to Webster as a trail partner?
B: What kind of relationship does your son Zev have with Willow?
B: In retrospect, what would you say was the primary benefit of traveling as you did?
B: From the philosophical to the practical, tell us how you taught Willow to ride in the canoe, and how she occupied her time while she was in it.
B: What would you say was the most challenging aspect of the trip? KH: Managing Willow and Zev. They’d be clambering around—he’d be stepping on her or she’d be stepping on him. Sometimes all Leanne and I wanted was just some peace and quiet, but that wasn’t usually an option. The bugs were another challenge. When the flies got bad, we couldn’t do much for Willow. Some of the travel arrangements were also an issue. For the maritime section— 30 hours from one land mass to the next—we lucked upon a perfect guy who was willing to take us on board. He was a total dog lover and didn’t object to having Willow on his ship, or to the accommodations we felt she needed. We made little bouquets of spruce branches and grass and left them in out-of-the way places so Willow would have something familiar to go on if she needed to.
B: Were you surprised by anything that Willow did?
B: Did having Willow along enhance the trip in other ways?
B: How would you compare the Y2Y experience and this trip?
B: Tell us about Farley and dogs.
B: What’s next? Are there more “incredible journeys” on the horizon?
Author of Marcus of Umbria
We talk with Justine van der Leun about her new book Marcus of Umbria—a Bark Summer Reads pick. Deciding to leave the big city and a good magazine job, she packs it all in to live in a very small Italian village and a chance at love. What she finds instead, and where she finds it, makes for charming storytelling.
Bark: What compelled you to leave your NY city life and venture out to a (very) small village in Italy? And why that particular village?
Justine van der Leun: For love, of course! Or perhaps lust is more accurate. I had gone to Collelungo, on vacation, and while I was there, I fell helplessly for a local gardener named Emanuele. The stereotype of the seductive Italian exists for a reason. After just three weeks, I wanted to live with him in his tiny, rural town. I was working with a businessman on a memoir about Italian wine, so it was convenient for me to settle there. I returned to New York, sublet out my place, and booked a one-way ticket back.
B: What was the one thing that surprised you the most about the villagers’ attitudes towards animals? Had you expected that?
J: Collelungo was an ancient farming culture and the people had endured centuries of dire poverty. Though this generation is relatively comfortable, the people of Collelungo, like most farming cultures, have an old-world approach to animals. For them, animals are a means of survival. They raise everything by hand—the opposite of factory farming. Because of this, farm animals like sheep, cows, and pigs roam free on untouched land. On the other hand, horses were for casual sport, and the training techniques were, to say the least, not progressive; and cats were feral and expected to fend for themselves. Dogs were caged out back and used to hunt. The idea of having a dog inside disgusted people. In Collelungo, there was little concept of an animal’s emotional life; the mere idea was absurd to them. But even in that society, there were exceptions: People who adored their dogs; who spoiled their horses; who fed and coddled kittens.
B: Marcus is a English Pointer, a dog with an “intense” connection to everything around her, how did she redefine or refocus your own connection to nature?
J: Marcus changed everything. I’ve been watching her stalk and chase birds and bunnies and squirrels for four years now, and it never gets old. Before I met Marcus, I had no relationship with the outside world. I grew up in rural Connecticut, surrounded by natural beauty, but all I wanted was to read indoors and move to New York City. But once I found Marcus in Italy, I began to walk in the woods, to look at the trees, to climb hills and ride horses. At first, I did it to see her joy, but soon I was able to feel my own joy. Now, even though we’re back in the states, I am nearly unrecognizable to myself: I run with Marcus in the morning, hike with her through parks and forests, take long strolls down the beach. We just spent a day canoeing on the Delaware Water Gap. I see nature from her perspective, as something right and necessary.
B: Since you rehabilitated a dog who was kept (if you can call it that) just for sport and had little human contact outside of the hunt, what affect did this have on you? Did it change how you viewed the human/dog bond? Did it alter your view of different cultures and how they treated their animals?
J: I rehabilitated Marcus with the help of a very generous behavioral therapist named Nikki Wood, whom I called crying when I returned to the States. I was at a loss for how to live with Marcus, who, because she lacked socialization and had been mistreated, trembled and ran whenever she saw a stranger or heard a loud noise. Nikki sensed that Marcus and I had a special connection and agreed to work with us as long as I would put in the effort. Did I ever! Training Marcus for nearly two years, I got a crash course in dog-human interaction. We think we know about our dogs, but we’re really so uninformed. I read all of Patricia McConnell’s books and really delved into the brain and heart of the dog, which was fascinating. I still have much to learn, but my new, more intricate understanding of her has really bonded us. I’ve seen such tremendous improvement in Marcus, who has overcome most of her fears. She will never be that super-confident dog with a great puppyhood, but she can now accomplish nearly anything. She’s more resilient than I could have imagined.
B: You weren’t expecting to meet up with the dog-of-your-heart when you went to Italy. If Marcus hadn’t come along, how differently do you think your experience there would have been? Would you have come home sooner or later? Do you think you could have settled there permanently?
J: I would have been home in two months, and that would have been a shame. I was wildly lonely and unfocused at first, living in such a remote foreign place. My relationship with Emanuele wouldn’t have been strong enough to keep me there. But when I found Marcus, I couldn’t leave her. Her existence also made me wonder what other surprises lay in store for me—and there were many! Marcus acted as my unwitting anchor and my little spotted tour guide. Because of her, I had the most illuminating year of my life so far.
Singer-songwriter Mary Ann Kennedy
Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Mary Ann Kennedy pursues every venture with passion, whether it’s supplying soulful backup for legendary musicians or expressing her love of animals through song. Discovered by Sting, she’s well known both as one-half of the duo Kennedy-Rose and for her songwriting and vocal work with artists such as Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride and Faith Hill. Kennedy once again combines her love of music with her lifelong passion for pets in her latest album, Who Saved Who.
Kennedy’s albums are inspired by a lifetime of relationships with horses and dogs, and celebrate the lives of her late pets Tonka and Choy. Who Saved Who is an uplifting collection of pieces uncovering the deep bond between humans and dogs. “Part of what is so beautiful about dog love,” she says, “is that it is so pure and simple—much simpler than human relationships!” Kennedy says these songs allowed her to come to terms with the loss of her animals, and that hearing them gave listeners “‘permission’ to grieve in a world that didn’t acknowledge the depths they were feeling.”
Besides entertaining dog lovers everywhere, Kennedy plans to donate a generous portion of the album proceeds to rescue groups, with the message “spay, neuter, adopt!” Her hope for Who Saved Who is to “reach the ears and hearts of many who feel as I do,” and to give back to “organizations that work around the clock to make the world better for so many creatures.”
By the Numbers
Congratulate the canines in your household for showing up on earth at just the right time, because, compared to those who lived 25 years ago, today’s dogs have many advantages.
1. Coercion training has been largely replaced by kinder, gentler positive methods. While not everyone is training with modern techniques, the trend continues to gain momentum. It is more effective and better for the relationship between dogs and people to teach dogs what to do and then reinforce them for being right—with toys, treats, play or affection—than to issue commands and deliver a leash pop or a shock in response to an incorrect response.
2. Behaviorists abound to help people with their dogs’ issues. Twenty-five years ago, it was more common to euthanize dogs for problems such as aggression, destructive chewing or repetitive behaviors than it is today. Now, many of these concerns can be resolved by working with a qualified behaviorist.
3. Options are plentiful for dogs who suffer pain due to injuries, arthritis or other causes. Acupuncture, while an ancient art, is relatively new on the scene for canine pain management, and the multitude of massage techniques, including TTouch, means that many dogs are relieved of pain rather than living with it or suffering from the side effects of medications.
4. It’s easier to travel with dogs now. More hotels accept them, and riding in the car is safer due to the use of crates and canine seat belts. Fewer dogs are left at home during family vacations and outings, and fewer are sliding around in the backs of vehicles.
5. Walking on-leash is a part of life for most dogs, and compared with 25 years ago, there are more relatively humane and effective options. It’s hard to imagine a dog who wouldn’t prefer a Gentle Leader, Snoot Loop, Halti or SENSEation harness to the choke chains that once were common.
6. Canine play is considered important in ways that were unheard of years ago. Play is widely viewed as critical for developing and maintaining good relationships between people and dogs, and as a result, more than ever, dogs are having fun with their people on a regular basis, and playing with better toys. The toy options are dizzying; from Kongs and Chewbers to Dogzillas and Nina Ottosson’s puzzle toys—the world of dog toys has moved well beyond balls and sticks!
7. Dog-centered activities are more numerous now. Agility, flyball, herding, tracking, lure coursing, rally-O and training classes as diverse as basic obedience and even tricks and games are common, as are “dog camps,” places where people and their dogs can enjoy such activities in the company of the like-minded.
8. Compared with 25 years ago, dogs are welcome in more places. Many people take their dogs to work, and more shops and businesses are allowing dogs as guests. On a more fundamental level, more dogs are now living inside our homes rather than outside as before. This greater hospitality may stem from the biggest change of all over the last 25 years, which is that more than ever, dogs are now considered members of the family. The wholehearted inclusion of dogs in our families—a perspective once voiced only by the very brave or slightly quirky—has become a mainstream idea over the past quarter-century.
Then or now, perhaps one of the greatest things about being a dog is that the tendency to sit around with friends and bark about “the good old days” doesn’t exist. I like to think that for dogs, the “good old days” are happening right now.
During the past 25 years, there have been amazing advancements in the dog world. To commemorate them, we set out to find the people behind these accomplishments—the innovators, thinkers and achievers who relished challenges and whose creativity, compassion and commitment helped reshape the world of dogs and our understanding of it. Without further ado, we present our honorees: The Bark’s 100 Best & Brightest.
Patricia McConnell combines her love for dogs with a well-grounded scientific understanding of them. For decades, she has spoken and written about the ethological aspects of canine behavior and the importance of applying that scholarship to practical work that helps both dogs and people. She brought a vast knowledge of canine visual signals to a generation of dog trainers and other professionals, and was the first to teach about the signals’ importance for reading dogs, understanding their emotional states and predicting their future behavior. She has always valued understanding people and dogs in order to improve the relationships between them; Trisha truly likes people as much as she likes dogs, and is respectful and kind to members of both species. Despite charges of anthropomorphizing, she maintains that dogs’ emotions are important and can be studied. By discussing the natural behavior of both canines and humans, she has helped dog lovers be closer to their animal companions and communicate more effectively with them.
The gospel of Jean Donaldson—cheerful training with profuse praise and gentle correction—has happily permeated the world of co-pilots like water on a sponge, thanks to her bestselling books, including Culture Clash, Dogs Are from Neptune and Oh Behave!, and the Academy for Dog Trainers—sometimes called Harvard for dog trainers—that she founded and directed for a decade.
The public gleans practical wisdom from animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman through his bestselling books, including The Dog Who Loved Too Much. But his fellow veterinarians look to him as well. The founder and director of Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Animal Behavior Clinic, one of the first of its kind in 1986, Dr. Dodman works on the frontier of behavioral pharmacology—conducting groundbreaking studies on the use of medication to tackle knotty behavioral challenges, such as canine compulsive disorders.
Couldn’t survive without a Gentle Leader? Gratitude goes to R.K. Anderson. The multi-laurelled, multi-degreed veterinarian, epidemiologist, behaviorist, researcher and professor co-invented the tried-and-true headcollar as part of his mission to gently and humanely prevent behavior problems that land dogs and cats in shelters by the millions. Dr. Anderson is also a main mover behind the Animal Behavior Resources Institute, a free, collaborative educational resource with expert videos, podcasts and articles for professionals and their clients.
Training methods using rewards and a whistle or a click—more formally known as operant conditioning and bridging stimulus—have become so ubiquitous that most of us take them for granted. We tip our cap to the late Marian Breland Bailey, who (along with Keller Breland and Bob Bailey) developed these humane approaches and taught them to others for more than 60 years; thousands sharpened up their skills and became better trainers at the Baileys’ operant-conditioning workshops, a.k.a. “chicken camps.”
Karen Pryor’s impact on dog nation has a soundtrack —or rather, a sound: click! A pioneer of positive reinforcement training (inspired by the operant conditioning she mastered working with dolphins in the 1960s), Pryor is the founder and leading proponent of clicker training. Today, marking desired behavior with a noisy click (and a treat) isn’t limited to the dog world—the sharp snaps regularly ricochet off zoo enclosures, out in pastures with livestock and even in gyms, signaling “well done” to human athletes.
Ian Dunbar’s ideas about dog training—that it should be a fun bonding experience—have become so central to the practice, it would be easy to forget someone (Dunbar!) got us thinking this way in the first place. Advocating a hands-off, reward-based approach at his Sirius Dog Training centers, the behaviorist and vet first promulgated the now-accepted-as-gospel notion that teaching good behavior to puppies before six months of age, using positive reinforcement, prevents most future problem behaviors.
For more than two decades, Robert K. Wayne has used the powerful tools of genetic analysis to revise and, in some cases, redraw the evolutionary history and relationships of the family Canidae. In constructing that evolutionary tree (or phylogeny), Dr. Wayne, a professor of evolutionary biology at UCLA, his students and postdoctoral fellows have documented the monumental loss of diversity the gray wolf eradication programs of the past three centuries have wrought here and in Europe. In the early 1990s, Dr. Wayne used mitochondrial DNA to clinch the case for the gray wolf as the wild progenitor of the dog, laying to rest that “southern,” or pariah, dogs were descended from jackals, while “northern,” wolf-like breeds came from gray wolves.
While at London’s Natural History Museum, Juliet Clutton-Brock penned many definitive texts on the archaeology of animal domestication, including A Natural History of Domesticated Mammals. In her work, Clutton-Brock illuminates our tangled history with dogs (among others), establishing a baseline for understanding the reasons, biological and behavioral impacts, and unexpected consequences of domestication.
L. David Mech, founder of the International Wolf Center and chair of the IUCN Wolf Specialist Group, has studied wolves and their prey since 1958. His is among the foundation work on canines wild and domestic.
Mark Neff, a professor at the University of California, Davis, participated in the Dog Genome Project at UC Berkeley as a postdoctoral fellow. More recently, he has been working to locate the genes that cause a variety of genetic disorders in domestic dogs. Among his research results is the identification of the gene that causes dwarfism in several breeds, and his findings continue to inform veterinary medicine about the inheritance of many canine diseases.
On the trail of human and canine cancer, Elaine Ostrander and her group map the genes responsible for cancer susceptibility in both. Earlier, as part of the Dog Genome Project, she searched for the genetic markers that make up the concept of a “breed,” and found that genotyping could be used to assign 99 percent of individual dogs to their correct breeds.
Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, co-director of the Genome Sequencing and Analysis Program at the Broad Institute, maps genes associated with cancer and autoimmune diseases in dogs. Her group developed a SNP chip that has been used to identify the genes for several canine diseases.
James Serpell, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, is currently involved in researching the relationships between domestic animals—especially dogs—and people. He has also traced the natural history of the human-animal bond, including the processes by which various species have been domesticated.
Stanley Olsen, a pioneer in the discipline of zooarchaeology, was among the first to search for the origins of the domestic dog; his work laid the foundation for later studies that significantly pushed back his original 8,000 year date.
Geneticist Jasper Rine and his Dog Genome Project collaborators began with a theory that it was possible to map the chromosomes of the domestic dog and thereby discover the genetic basis of mammalian development and behavior. In his early research on purebred dog behaviors, he crossed a Newfoundland with a Border Collie, two distinct breeds with very different breed typical behaviors, and then bred the offspring to see how these various behaviors were inherited.
Mark Derr, journalist and author, set the “fancy” world spinning in 1990 with his Atlantic Monthly article about practices in the show-dog realm. In his seminal book, Dog’s Best Friend, he proved that his range of interests in all things canine extended far beyond that topic. With an investigative reporter’s love for unearthing a scoop balanced by a wide-ranging knowledge of his subject, he is highly regarded by dog aficionados (and a nudge to some). As Bark’s science editor, he has been an invaluable advisor and translator when it comes to the latest research and discoveries.
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas took a bite out of the bestseller lists with her original examinations of dogs. Fueled by her Husky’s ramblings through civilization, field work with wolves and anthropology training, Thomas described surprising behaviors that in ensuing years have been affirmed in studies. In The Hidden Life of Dogs and The Social Lives of Dogs, Thomas deployed her keen eye and novelist’s sensibility to shed light on the mystery of dogs without erasing their magic.
Donald McCaig would be notable enough as the author of beloved dog books like Nop’s Trials and Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men. We also celebrate him as an early activist against the homogenizing perils of inbreeding, on behalf of his beloved working sheepdogs. That tale, too, is skillfully rendered in his book, The Dog Wars. He writes with an insight and subtle humor that befits his own Virginia breeding.
The first year that Caroline Knapp and I were friends, in 1996, we took the dogs on a beach run at Gay Head, on the southwestern tip of the island of Martha’s Vineyard. My Samoyed, Clementine, was not yet two, strong as an ox and full of fire. Caroline’s Shepherd-mix, Lucille, was smaller in stature and calmer in demeanor. We spent the afternoon watching them charge up and down the beach, until a series of sonic booms from a nearby naval airfield shattered our reverie. Clementine took off down the beach at a full run, as wild-eyed as a spooked horse. I got her back long enough to leash her, but she had the sled-dog ability to pull a small car, and I fell in the sand just trying to hang onto her.
Poet Mary Oliver has graced the world with her meditative eye and exquisite language for nearly 50 years, bringing the physical world—dogs not least among it—into sharper focus for the rest of us. Using humor to reconcile the intellectual with the natural, she imparts wisdom through such gems as this line, written from her dog’s perspective: Books? says Percy./I ate one once. It was enough./Let’s go.
Inspired by the late, great Earl, MUTTs creator and animal activist Patrick McDonnell is a cartoonist with a message, showing readers the world through the eyes of his animal characters.
Stanley Coren takes the canine IQ seriously, and has covered the topic in numerous articles and books. His work has done much to popularize the subject of dogs’ intelligence as well as our bond with them.
As the founding editor of the staunchly independent Whole Dog Journal, Nancy Kerns has been empowering dog owners with intel on dog-friendly training, holistic health care and practical nutrition—i.e., how to read a dog food label—for more than 10 years.
When Harriet Ritvo, a noted professor at MIT, wrote The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age in 1987, she launched an innovative animal studies curriculum that has inspired similar programs at universities around the globe.
Nationally syndicated pet columnist Gina Spadafori, author or co-author of a half-dozen top-selling books about animals, was hailed from the floor of the United States Congress for her coverage of the 2007 pet food recall.
Oh, those fabulous Weimaraners! Though William Wegman is renowned in the art world for his work in a variety of media, it is his photos of his pack of elegant, silvery-grey dogs—dressed in zany costumes and posed in tableaus reflecting his special brand of visual puns—for which he is most widely known.
Snoopy, everyone’s favorite Beagle and the quintessence of canine cool, sprang from the fertile imagination (and pen) of Charles Schulz, who created him along with the rest of the “Peanuts” crowd. Over a period of nearly 50 years, Schulz drew 18,250 cartoon strips, basing the character of Charlie Brown on himself and memorializing the dog of his adolescence in the character of Spike, Snoopy’s bedraggled, desert-dwelling brother.
For trainers who embrace science and medicine, Karen Overall has been an authoritative voice of reason and research for more than a decade. Dr. Overall’s bestselling textbook, Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, was among the first to provide techniques for the prevention and treatment of behavior problems; some consider it the bible for vets and behavior consultants. After running the behavior clinic at U Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine for more than 12 years, Dr. Overall shifted her focus to study canine behavioral genetics as a research associate in UP’s Center for Neurobiology and Behavior. Her clinical work centers on humane treatment of troubled pets and their distressed people; she focuses on understanding the neurobiology and genetics of canine behavior and cognition, and on developing natural genetic and behavioral canine models wisdom of two decades ago upside down, and undoubtedly saved tens of thousands of dogs from harm.
Brian Hare began his academic career by examining the ability of dogs to follow human body language; recently, his lab opened the Duke Canine Cognition Center to further explore the effects of domestication on canine cognition.
Shirley Johnston, an expert in the field of animal reproduction, oversees the Found Animals Foundation’s Michelson Prize and Grants, established to inspire the development of a low-cost non-surgical sterilization product for dogs and cats.
Lawrence Myers, who founded the Institute for Biological Detection Systems at Auburn University, was among the first to determine that dogs can detect disease conditions.
Adam Miklosi helped found the Family Dog Research Project at Budapest’s Eötvös Loránd University in 1994, and he and his group lead the world in the study of canine psychology.
Alexandra Horowitz’s research, which resulted in her book, Inside of a Dog, explores what dogs know and how they know it, adding an important chapter to the study of canine cognition.
It was no surprise to dog lovers when Karen Allen, a social psychologist with SUNY at Buffalo, defined the “pet effect,” or the ability of our dogs to lower our blood pressure and help us cope with stress.
Larry T. Glickman’s long-term longitudinal study of bloat, undertaken at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, followed more than 1,900 dogs of 11 breeds for five years, and the findings inform treatment of this dangerous condition.
Ronald D. Schultz is chair of the department of microbiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and one of the world’s leading veterinary vaccine researchers. His study of the science behind vaccine protocols, the harmful effects of unnecessary vaccines, and different types and brands of vaccines, particularly for canine parvovirus, has turned the conventional for human psychiatric illnesses, particularly those involving anxiety, panic and aggression.
Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has studied dogs, wolves and coyotes, finding that these animals have a notion of fair play and a kind of moral sense based upon empathy. Bekoff is also interested in the human-animal relationship, and how this relationship affects the emotional lives of animals.
Pulling back the curtain on the mysterious social life of dogs, German researcher Dorit Feddersen-Petersen demonstrated that several dog species communicate with each other, and possibly us, using a complex spectrum of barking sounds.
Vilmos Csányi, author of If Dogs Could Talk, introduced a new approach to the study of ethology, one that relies on analyzing behavior’s genetic architecture. He and the department he founded at Eötovös Loránd University maintain a profound interest in dog-human relationships.
John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller conducted an extensive study of the inheritance of various behaviors of five breeds at the Jackson Laboratory at Bar Harbor, Maine; all of the dogs were of similar size but very different in their breed-typical behaviors, providing variances that could be measured as the dogs developed. The authors were the first to suggest the concept of “critical periods” in which puppies’ social behavior develops.
Konrad Lorenz, Nobel Laureate and co-founder of the field of ethology, was one of the first theorists to write about dogs. Man Meets Dog (1953) demonstrates that he was a remarkable observer of animals, a lover of dogs in particular, and oftentimes got things wrong. But, since he was the one who, according to Donald McCaig, “started all these debates,” his book remains a classic that deserves to be read (judiciously) for that fact alone.
Since the 2005 debut of trainer Victoria Stilwell’s hit television show, It’s Me or the Dog, her no-nonsense, positive-reinforcement-based approach has endeared her to pet lovers all over the world. Her holistic methods empower families to work together to create lasting solutions to behavioral problems. Stilwell’s acting background and dog-training experience have put her in an ideal position to promote positive methods to both professional and mainstream audiences in more than 30 countries. She’s judged contestants on the television show Greatest American Dog and appeared on numerous talk shows, written for several periodicals, and authored two books: It’s Me or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet and Fat Dog Slim: How to Have a Healthy, Happy Pet (a third book is in progress). Plans are currently underway for a foundation to raise money for smaller rescues and assistance-dog organizations.
Together, Suzanne Hetts and Dan Estep came up with the concept of behavioral wellness, which emphasizes the need for baselines to determine what is “well” in terms of pets’ behavior.
Pamela Reid, director of the ASPCA’s Animal Behavior Center, not only lectures on animal behavior and learning theory, she puts it into action to improve human-canine relationships.
Terry Ryan has been a guru for a generation of trainers. Teaching others how to motivate dogs through games, lecturing, writing and presenting seminars, she is a bright light in support of good relationships between people and their pups.
Pia Silvani turned her love of teaching people and dogs into an amazing career as an internationally recognized canine coach and one of the training and behavior world’s go-to people.
For the past 30 years, Wendy Volhard—who is credited with developing the first puppy test and first drive theories—has been teaching people how to communicate effectively with their pets.
Sophia Yin is a multitalented vet, behaviorist, trainer, lecturer and videographer, with a great knack for imparting knowledge and expertise both to her colleagues—via her textbooks—and to the general public. Her site has invaluable info and fantastic videos.
Emily Weiss probably never thought of herself as a matchmaker, but to the benefit of many adult dogs in shelters, it’s worked out that way. During a career dedicated to creating positive, humane animal behavior programs, Weiss developed MYM SAFER (Meet Your Match Safety Assessment For Evaluating Rehoming), a test that helps animal-welfare professionals identify potential aggression in dogs as well as opportunities for behavior modification, which ultimately leads to more—and more successful—adoptions through appropriate placement.
If you want to become fluent in “dog,” start with Dog Language, the seminal work by ethologist Roger Abrantes, widely known for his views on social behavior and its applications to the daily understanding of pet behavior.
Well ahead of most of his ivory tower peers, Leo K. Bustad, dean of Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, perceived the healing power of animals and dedicated himself to establishing the science behind the notion that our dogs and cats make us feel better. As co-founder of the Delta Society, he promoted greater understanding of the human-animal bond, and helped create the gold standard for animal-assisted therapy in health-care settings.
Joan Esnayra, founder and president of the Psychiatric Service Dog Society, works to open people’s eyes to this more subtle form of service; much of her work focuses on assisting veterans suffering from PTSD.
From the depths of grim personal experience, Sister Pauline Quinn found the inspiration to start the Prison Pet Partnership Program that has helped heal the lives of an untold number of dogs and inmates alike.
Bonnie Bergin originated the concept of “service dogs,” canines trained to perform essential everyday tasks, such as opening doors and switching on lights, for people with mobility limitations—and then dedicated herself to getting these life-changing dogs to the people who needed them. In 1975, she founded Canine Companions for Independence, the first nonprofit to train and place service dogs. She later established a university of canine studies and spearheaded campaigns to help low-income individuals with disabilities afford assistance dogs.
Kathy Zubrycki and her late husband, Ted Zubrycki, pioneered the innovative development of “special needs” guide dog training, showing that guide dogs could be successfully trained for blind people with additional disabilities.
After a puppy spontaneously alerted Mark Ruefenacht to a dangerous drop in his blood sugar, he founded Dogs4Diabetics, which is dedicated to training dogs to detect the subtle scent of life-threatening hypoglycemia.
Inspired by her son’s cerebral palsy service dog, prosecuting attorney Ellen O’Neill-Stephens introduced canine advocates into Seattle’s criminal courts, and then co-founded Courthouse Dogs to promote the use of dogs to comfort traumatized victims and witnesses.
Sandi Martin’s flash of brilliance: Children who struggle to read will do better if reading to dogs. The success of her Intermountain Therapy Animals’ Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) program spawned a four-pawed literacy revolution.
For nearly three decades, working-dog trainer and handler Larry Allen has been transforming “problem dogs,” especially Bloodhounds, into happily employed trackers for law enforcement agencies across the country.
Retired British orthopedic surgeon John Church made the leap from anecdote to science when he and his team undertook the first scientifically robust study that proved dogs can be trained to detect cancer.
Narda G. Robinson applies rigorous scientific methods to the study of complementary and alternative medicine for small animals; she holds the first endowed position in this field at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Veterinarian Anthony Smith makes saying goodbye gentler for dog and guardian alike through his Rainbow Bridge Veterinary Services, one of the few practices in the world devoted exclusively to providing end-of-life care.
Ann Martin, author of Foods Pets Die For, was among the first to raise the alarm about the dangers of commercial pet food, and continues to monitor the industry today.
The work of the late European herbalist Juliette de Baïracli Levy was the foundation upon which many later holistic practitioners built; her book, The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog, originally published in 1947, is still in print. (Read more about de Baïracli Levy in Eleanor K. Sommer's profile for Bark, Apr/May 2010)
Barbara Fougere’s Pet Lover’s Guide to Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats fortifies the bookshelves of guardians with an interest in natural healing by providing a straightforward alternative therapy reference for layfolk.
Carvel Tiekert founded the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association in 1982 and is the heart of this organization, which explores and supports alternative and complementary approaches to veterinary healthcare.
Allen M. Schoen is one of the pioneers in holistic medicine; his writings and influential speaking have brought complementary and alternative veterinary medicine to the hearts and minds of practitioners everywhere.
Cheryl Schwartz was among the first to use Traditional Chinese Medicine in the care of companion animals; her book, Four Paws, Five Directions, spread the word and made it accessible to everyone.
Tellington TTouch—need we say more? Linda Tellington-Jones is an expert in rubbing dogs (and other animals) the right way, and shares her techniques worldwide, much to the delight of dogs everywhere.
Back in the age of kibble, Ian Billinghurst took his bible of Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (known as BARF) directly to the people. In Give Your Dog a Bone, the Australian veterinary surgeon repudiated grain-based, commercially produced dog foods and advocated a diet based on what wild dogs eat, including plenty of raw, meaty bones. While BARF has detractors, there’s no doubt it shifted the entire dog food paradigm toward better nutrition.
Well before most Americans would consider acupuncture for themselves, holistic health care icon Ihor Basko was seeing good results using the ancient Chinese technique on arthritic and pain-racked dogs. Since the 1970s, he has been a leading light for expanding treatment and prevention options for animals with alternative therapies, including acupuncture, herbs and minerals, dietary therapy, homeopathy, and massage. Dr. Basko is a founder and current president of the Veterinary Botanical Medical Association.
A veterinarian with a PhD in immunology, Richard Pitcairn was a pioneer in the field of holistic pet care and raw feeding, both of which gained their current prominence largely due to his seminal book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, published in 1982 and now in its third edition. He challenged the orthodoxy of the day that dogs and cats can only thrive on commercially formulated diets, and gave his readers an overview of the entire field of alternative medicine as it could apply to their family pets, from acupuncture to Chinese and western herbs, and chiropractic to homeopathy. He was among the first voices to question the then-common practice of routine annual immunization for dogs and cats, pointing out that such protocols could be risky and were probably unnecessary —wisdom that is now altogether conventional. Today, holistic veterinarians have their own medical association, the AHVMA, and even otherwise conventional veterinarians often recommend homemade diets and practice acupuncture. It’s a changed world, and one that might not have happened without Pitcairn’s early influence.
As founder of what is now the No-Kill Movement, Rich Avanzino changed how Americans view shelter animals. In his 22 years leading San Francisco SPCA, Avanzino demonstrated that shelters could be transformed from death camps for discards to adoption centers for pets whose worst sin was choosing their people badly. Now heading Maddie’s Fund, Avanzino anticipates the day when supply and demand balance, and a no-kill nation is achieved.
Kate Hurley, director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at University of California, Davis, heads one of the very few dedicated programs of this type in the U.S.
Motivated by a New Year’s resolution to save one dog a month, Betsy Saul and her husband created Petfinder.com in 1996; in the years since, the free website has helped more than 13 million dogs, cats and other critters land in good homes.
Lawyer, author and no-kill activist Nathan Winograd is the voice of America’s displaced pets and the conscience of the animal sheltering industry. Uncompromising and committed, he heads the No-Kill Advocacy Center.
Since 2004, vegan Wayne Pacelle has built HSUS into a public policy powerhouse; his organization now has investigation, litigation and campaign teams. He has broadened HSUS’s scope beyond companion animals, and was the force behind California’s overwhelming passage of Prop. 2. HSUS has also recently teamed up with Maddie’s
A high-profile and articulate voice for companion and farm animals from the highlands of his native England to his home in Minneapolis, Michael W. Fox takes a broad view of the world in which our humanity and the rights of animals are intimately interconnected. The professor/bioethicist/veterinarian has been a leader in the movement to foster the ethical treatment of animals since 1967, including nearly three decades at HSUS.
An expert in the human-canine bond, Randall Lockwood gave everybody a reason to care about cruelty to animals. His groundbreaking research identified links between pet- and domestic abuse, and demonstrated that early animal cruelty predicts later violence against people. As an officer of ASPCA, he has advanced the forensic techniques and training of cruelty investigators and, on the brighter side, promoted humane education.
To honor his cherished Miniature Schnauzer, software mogul Dave Duffield endowed Maddie’s Fund with $300 million to promote a no-kill nation and end euthanasia as a form of population control. Big fund, great goal.
Randy Grim and canine sidekick Quentin, a gas chamber survivor, patrol the streets of East St. Louis, seeking new prospects for his Stray Rescue; 5,000 abused, abandoned dogs owe him their lives—we owe him our gratitude.
Ed Sayres directed PetSmart Charities and led SF/SPCA before becoming ASPCA president in 2003; though ASPCA played a key role in the Michael Vick investigation, it thereafter declined to associate with his public rehabilitation.
Singer, dancer, actress, and animal activist Gretchen Wyler had a big voice and a big presence, which she used to help animals by establishing her own Hollywood nonprofit animal protection group, the Ark Trust, Inc., and developing and promoting the Genesis Awards.
Bob Baker has a well-earned reputation as one of the country’s top animal welfare investigators. Now associated with the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Initiatives effort, he is a key player in the ongoing battle to combat the cruelties of puppy mills and large-scale commercial breeding operations.
Credit Tiny, Doris Day’s loyal companion during her Ohio teens, with forging her lifelong bond with canines. Still America’s all-time favorite actress, she has used her ample supply of good will to do well by animals through lobbying via the Doris Day Animal League, now part of HSUS, and funding projects like Spay Day and assistance to seniors seeking to keep their pets via the free-standing Doris Day Animal Foundation. Good dog, Tiny!
From humble counterculture origins, Michael Mountain and a group of about 25 animal-loving friends laid the foundation for what is today a vast animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, and the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society that supports it, giving life to their simple mission: “No more homeless pets.” The continuing campaign by that name gathers momentum in the effort to achieve a no-kill nation.
Veterinarian Elliot Katz founded the animal rights group In Defense of Animals in 1983. For the past 25 years, he has campaigned against puppy mills, saved research lab canines from the needle and convinced many to call themselves “guardians.”
Nedim Buyukmihci, antivivisection vet and co-founder of Animal Place Sanctuary and Education Center, challenged the conservative status quo of his profession when he spoke out against the use of live animals in vet school training labs.
Game show host Bob Barker knows the media’s value and its uses. A vegetarian, he has fought pet overpopulation, promoted anti-cruelty legislation and donated $1 million each to five top law schools to fund the teaching of animal law.
Writer, humorist and humanitarian Cleveland Amory was fiercely dedicated to the cause of animal welfare. An early HSUS board member, he later created the Fund for Animals, for which he served as unpaid director until his death.
Take a dash of showmanship, add entrepreneurial savvy and Buddhist monk–level commitment and you get Mike Arms, adoption promoter extraordinaire. Going strong after four million animals, he recently founded the “Home for the Holidays” adoptathon.
At the helm of the Morris Animal Foundation, the world’s largest nonprofit organization funding research studies to protect, treat and cure animals, Patricia Olson wields a mighty big carrot for good. But that’s not all. Dr. Olson’s legacy includes establishing programs that foster the human-animal bond and address pet overpopulation, including co-founding the National Council on Pet Population and Policy, a coalition of organizations working to reduce the number of animals euthanized simply because they are homeless.
There are plenty of veterinary guidebooks out there, but it took Nancy Kay to compile one with essential and lasting lessons on how to be an effective advocate for your dog’s health-care needs. Speaking for Spot, Dr. Kay’s primer on everything from how to know if your pet is sick and finding the right vet, to knowing when to say goodbye, not only empowers guardians but also operates as a touchstone for many veterinarians.
Douglas Slatter literally wrote the books on small animal surgery. His Fundamentals of Veterinary Ophthalmology and Textbook of Small Animal Surgery have been used and referenced by thousands of vets.
We know that dogs’ knees blow out all too easily. What we didn’t know was that a good fix wasn’t available until the 1990s, when Barclay Slocum developed and patented the tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO).
The compassionate care of companion animals has been greatly enhanced by the work of trailblazer Robin Downing, a leading voice in veterinary pain management and advocate of a preemptive approach to the control of pain.
Before Cynda Crawford (along with Edward Dubovi from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University and others) identified the canine influenza virus—a.k.a. H3N8—it was thought that dogs weren’t susceptible to the flu.
A controversial figure, W. Jean Dodds has nonetheless persisted in questioning many “established truths” of veterinary medicine, pushing the envelope on vaccine safety and efficacy and the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disease. She also established and runs Hemopet, a canine blood bank. In the on-going Rabies Challenge Project, she is researching the period of efficacy of rabies vaccines.
You’d think being a renowned veterinary cardiologist and discovering the cause and cure for a fatal heart disease in cats would be enough for one lifetime. Not for Paul D. Pion. In 1991, Dr. Pion began building bridges among notoriously competitive vets through the Veterinary Information Network. With more than 42,000 participating colleagues, scores of databases, message boards, conference rooms, et cetera, et cetera, VIN is considered by many to be the most comprehensive online resource for and by veterinarians.
When he wrote Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets, leading gastroenterologist Donald Strombeck created a first-of-its kind volume on alternatives to commercial pet food and made canine nutrition understandable to the general public. m
The experience, common sense and insider knowledge that made Marion Nestle the go-to expert on dietary policy for humans reached the dog dish with her compelling investigation of the 2007 recalls in Pet Food Politics.
Clarence Rawlings led a team of researchers at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine in adapting minimally invasive surgical techniques for use with companion animals, reducing traditional surgical complications and improving outcomes.
Search and Rescue
Dog Park Activists
And to shelter staffers everywhere: You are all the best & brightest. Thank you for the work you do and the lives you save.
Limiting ourselves to 100 meant that we were not able to call out many worthy individuals. Read on to discover more hard-working and dedicated folks who have made life-time commitments to the well being of dogs and other animals.
Colin Allen teaches at Indiana University, and is known for his extensive research and writings on animal behavior and cognition.
Cora Bailey founded the Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW), which provides low-cost veterinary services to impoverished communities around the globe.
Lynda Barry is an American cartoonist and author best known to dog lovers for her weekly comic strip, Ernie Pook’s Comeek.
Joseph Bartges is a renowned professor of animal health and medicine, with a special focus on bladder and kidney stones in canines.
Bonnie Beaver, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, now leads the movement for an American College of Animal Welfare.
Marty Becker gets the word out on animal health as a contributor to Good Morning America and the resident vet on The Dr. Oz Show.
Ed Beltran explores the use of natural and homeopathic animal treatments at Blair Animal Hospital in Ottowa.
Phil Bergman, one of the nation’s leading veterinary oncologists, developed a vaccine for canine melanoma in partnership with colleagues at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Merial.
Dennis Chew, of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University, studies kidney function in animals, including methods to slow the progression of renal disease and interventions that can improve and extend quality of life for dogs and cats with chronic renal problems.
Dogs romp in hundreds of Billy Collins’ poems; Collins served two years as the American Poet Laureate.
Pam Constable founded the Afghan Stray Animal League, which fights for the welfare of strays in Afghanistan.
Alexander de Lahunta pioneered the containment of contagious disease in animals and is highly regarded as a scientist, diagnostician, educator, and mentor.
Thanks in large part to Christine Dorchak, co-founder of Grey2K USA, and her associates, legislation banning dog racing in Massachusetts was finally passed in 2008.
National Book Award–winning poet and memoirist, Mark Doty is the author of Dog Years, in which he bears witness to the unbounded joy dogs bring even in times of personal calamity.
Advocating for animals, Geordie Duckler heads up the Animal Law Practice, one of the few in the nation focusing on this particular speciality.
Donna Duford is not only an internationally known trainer and behavior counselor, she’s also among the early practitioners of canine musical freestyle, or “dog dancing.”
Long-time animal- and political activist Ed Duvin’s landmark article, “In the Name of Mercy,” sounded a wake-up call to the shelter community.
Ed Eames, co-founder of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, was a tireless worker for the rights of the visually impaired and their canine assistants.
Dogs are among Elliot Erwitt’s favorite subjects; his iconic black-and-white photographs capture them with both humor and dignity.
Australian Barbara Fougere is known for her advances in the field of herbal medicine for pets; her book, Pet Lovers’ Guide to Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats, is a staple on dog-lovers’ bookshelves.
Al Franken, media personality and U.S. senator for Minnesota, made it his first priority to push a bill through the Senate to increase the number of service dogs available for veterans.
Artist Lucian Freud has been called one of the greatest figurative painters of our time; he often features pets and their owners in his work.
Behaviorist Susan Friedman has pioneered efforts to train pet animals through “facilitation rather than force.”
Marjorie Garber, who teaches at Harvard University, considers dogs’ place in American culture; her book, Dog Love, demonstrates the ways dog stories have found a spot in our ongoing folklore.
Susan Garrett developed the “Say Yes” dog training philosophy, allowing dogs and owners to achieve their goals without physical or verbal correction.
At the University of Pennsylvania, Urs Giger studies hereditary and hematological disorders in small animals, as well as variations in the dog genome.
Bob Goldstein developed the “Breed Specific Healing Protocol,” using knowledge of breeds to create individualized holistic treatments for dogs.
Marty Goldstein is considered one of the foremost experts in alternative veterinary medicine, integrating both holistic and conventional techniques in his treatments.
Temple Grandin is a highly respected advocate for humane treatment of livestock and a keen observer of the relationships people have with animals, dogs among them. She has written several books on the subject, including Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human.
Among her other accomplishments, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Carol Guzy recorded the plight of animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and gives generously of her talents to help humane groups, particularly in the Washington, D.C., area.
Jemima Harrison directed the BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, revealing dangerous breeding practices in the show dog community.
Lynette and Benjamin Hart are known for their collaborations on animal behavior and their books about the pet-human connection.
California State Senator Tom Hayden and UCLA professor Taimie Bryant fought for state legislation, colloquially known as the Hayden Law, to prevent shelters from killing savable animals.
In her crusade to change the way animlas were trained, Vicki Hearne wrote about their capacity for achievement and moral understanding.
Johnny Hoskins is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the authority on geriatric medicine for cats and dogs.
David Jaggar and Marvin Cain founded the International Veterinary Acupuncture Association, which promotes the highest standards for animal acupuncture worldwide.
Roy Kabat developed methods of training guide dogs for the deaf, building the framework for what eventually became Dogs for the Deaf.
Juliane Kaminski studies the evolution of social cognition in various mammal species at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology at Leipzig, Germany. Kaminski has found that domestic dogs have sophisticated cognitive abilities, which include “fast mapping” and enhanced sensitivity to the perceptions of humans.
Chand Khanna is changing the face of cancer research by integrating research of pet animal cancer into the study of human cancer treatment.
Expert trainer Brian Kilcommons, along with partner Sarah Wilson, has developed intuitive training methods based on a patient, friendly relationship between owner and dog.
Trish King, director of Marin Humane Society Behavior & Training Department, is nationally recognized as an extraordinary teacher, writer and speaker.
Biologist and ethologist Erich Klinghammer founded Wolf Park with a noble mission: education, research and conservation.
Jim Kutsch, president of the The Seeing Eye, is also a graduate of the prestigious guide-dog school, a first in the school’s history.
Baseball’s Tony La Russa and his wife, Elaine, co-founded the Animal Rescue Foundation, which not only helps individual animals but also sponsors comprehensive outreach programs and events to help educate the public about the value of animal lives.
Al Legendre has investigated the spread and prevention of cancer and infectious diseases in cats and dogs, receiving numerous awards for his work.
Steve Mardsen practices naturopathic treatment and acupuncture in effective ways, combating the most serious of animal cases with alternative medicine.
Kong Company president Joe Markham developed the rubber, snowman-shaped Kong toy loved (and chewed) by millions of dogs.
Jeffrey Masson, a trained Freudian analyst and prolific writer, has authored many books that give us insight into the emotional lives of animals.
Shawn Messonnier is a popular speaker and author on the subject of holistic animal wellness and animal behavior, as well as the host of his own SIRIUS radio show.
Myrna Milani studies and writes about the deeper psychological effects of relationships between humans and pets.
The name of Pat Miller’s training group, Peaceable Paws, neatly sums up her commitment to positive reinforcement methods. Spreading the word via workshops, apprentice programs, books and articles, and more, she’s a positive force for harmony between people and their dogs.
Jamie Mondiano, a veterinarian and molecular biologist, is advancing research on canine hemangiosarcoma, or blood-vessel tumors.
Willie Morris gave us My Dog Skip, a powerful story of a dog’s unquestioning love.
Gregory Ogilvie, director of the California Veterinary Specialist’s Angel Care Cancer Center, has done important and comprehensive work on the nutritional needs of dogs with cancer.
Carl Osborne’s research and clinical interests focus on urinary disorders and renal failure in small animals.
Rod Page is the founding director of the Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research at Cornell University, where he studies cancer diagnosis and prevention for the benefit of all species.
Donald F. Patterson is on the forefront of canine genetics and disease research, creating the Canine Genetic Disease Information System database for use by veterinarians.
Untold numbers of animals have benefited from Michael Pavletic’s skills as a reconstructive plastic surgeon and from the techniques he has developed for rebuilding and restoring function.
Niels C. Pederson is an international authority on immunological disorders in small animals, and advocates for less pet vaccination.
Agility maven Monica Percival started Clean Run, a weekly newsletter about the sport of dog agility that has expanded into a magazine and a full line of products.
Tim Racer and Donna Reynolds, co-founders of BAD RAP, are among the leaders in Pit Bull rescue; the group’s outreach and training programs have made a life-or-death difference for hundreds of dogs.
Jane Russenberger, an expert in dog training and behavior, has served as senior director of breeding and placement for Guiding Eyes for the Blind for more than 20 years.
Michael Sapp founded Paws for a Cause, a national organization that trains assistance dogs for the disabled and hearing impaired.
Peter Savolainen, a geneticist at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, studies dog mitochondrial DNA; he has posited that domestic dogs were domesticated 16,000 years ago in Southern China.
Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher and Princeton professor, sparks controversy with his views on animal ethics and his support of the animal liberation movement.
Sheila Styron, former president of Guide Dog Users, successfully campaigned to allow guide dogs to travel to Hawaii without a quarantine period.
Stephen Withrow established the Colorado State Animal Cancer Center, the largest of its type in the world, which works to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pet animals.
Thanks to Charlene and Larry Woodward, the dog world has Dogwise, a one-stop shop for books, DVDs, hand-selected toys, foods, supplements and other useful goods.
Susan Wynn is famous for her work in pet nutrition counseling, as well as her four books on the integration of holistic medicine into traditional veterinary practices.
Extended Q&A with Geralyn Pezanoski, Director & Producer
Katrina was one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. It not only displaced thousands of people, it also left thousands of dogs and cats homeless. Too many to be cared for locally, many of these companion animals were transported across the nation to be fostered—and often, adopted—by others. As time passed and their original guardians tried to reclaim them, the stage was set for emotional confrontations between the people who had been forced to leave their beloved pets behind and the people who had taken them in. Mine records some of these dramatic and often heart-wrenching stories.
Co-founder of Smush Media, Geralyn Pezanoski makes her feature directorial debut with Mine. In the midst of getting ready for the film’s January premiere, the woman behind the camera took time to talk to us about this important new documentary.
Bark: What inspired you to create Mine?
B: Tell us about Nola; did she play a part in your decision to make the film?
B: How did you deal with the emotions this subject evokes?
B: Which film moment do you feel speaks most to its theme?
B: What message would you like viewers to take away from your film?
Mine can be seen in selected theaters, or rented/purchased through iTunes. Find out more at mine-the-movie.blogspot.com and watch a video clip here.
For lovers of lists, the end of the year brings great rewards as the ubiquitous “best of” compilations pour in from every corner of popular culture — favorite films, indispensable music, memorable news moments. Equal parts honor roll, gamesmanship and shopping list, they offer a chance for reflection and an opportunity to savor recent pleasures. We couldn’t resist compiling our own roll call of favorites for the “best dog cinema” of the past decade: nine films, one documentary subject and two canine-stealing scenes that we found enchanting or thought-provoking—and often both.
Wendy and Lucy, 2008
The Savages, 2007
Year of the Dog, 2007
Traveling with Pets, 2007
Dealing Dogs, 2006
Hurricane Katrina Documentaries
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, 2005
The Cave of the Yellow Dog, 2005
Still Life with Animated Dogs, 2001
My Dog Skip, 2000
Best in Show, 2000
Do you have a favorite dog film or canine-stealing scene from the past decade? We’d love to hear about it—post your comments below.
A rare match
IIt's the rare match of musical styles and inspiration that makes Nellie McKay's new release Normal As Blueberry Pie a tribute to her longtime heroine Doris Day so perfect. The two have been linked since the young singer burst upon the scene, as critics scrambled to note her musical kinship.
So it's only natural that McKay's new CD (on Verve) would showcase an array of Day standards-interpretations of such classics as "The Very Thought of You," "Send Me No Flowers" and "Sentimental Journey." "We were trying to connect with the many time periods in Doris's life," McKay explains. "From the big bands to the post-McCarthy era."
Music is just one of the elements that bind the two-McKay is a longtime admirer of Doris Day's animal advocacy. "Doris was out there way before it was fashionable, fighting for the well-being and humane treatment of all animals," McKay notes respectfully. An avid activist herself, McKay is a vegan, active in the fight against New York's horse-drawn carriages and a longtime animal rescuer. The two dogs lounging with the singer on her new album cover are Hank and Bessie, whom McKay has been fostering for several months. "These dogs light up my life. After a show, it's really relaxing to take them out for a walk-good for them and me, too."
Bark had the foresight to pair Nellie and Doris when we interviewed Ms. Day for these pages in 2006. Just what is it that makes Doris Day so special? "I was initially attracted to her optimism and her gaiety," McKay says. "Her approach to life is irresistible." Day possesses a trait that McKay is often cited for, a sunny but subversive smile. "The people most in need of Doris Day are the cynics," McKay observes. "She's such a breath of fresh air. People need that today."
More songs from the canine charts
Sure, the cat has sparked songs such as “The Cat Came Back” and “Stray Cat Strut.” And the horse has had his moments, from “Tennessee Stud” to “Wildfire.” Even the rat crept into the charts with Michael Jackson’s “Ben.” But for decades-spanning musical inspiration—from “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” to “Atomic Dog” and “Death of a Martian”—the dog is number one.
In our first look at dogs and popular music (“Pop Goes the Dog,” Feb. ’08), we sniffed out 10 classics from the 1950s to the 1970s. In this sequel, we dig up some treasures from the post-punk and contemporary eras. Reflecting the openness and candor of music in recent decades, many of these tunes go deeper than mere canine tributes. From the Stanislavski-like explorations of a pooch’s psyche to the dynamics of sexual attraction between dogs, here are the stories behind 10 modern all-breed favorites.
Composed by George Clinton
Performed by Parliament–Funkadelic
“Harmonic dogs, house dogs, street dogs … dogs of the world unite!” begins this supremely funky ode to the link between dog and man.
“I needed that heavy vibe,” George Clinton once said, “and I knew that the dog was the king of vibe from the old days of Rufus Thomas [“Walking the Dog”]. But I think ‘atomic’ had more to do with it than ‘dog.’ It was all this computer-age stuff and high technology. I wanted to get the two vibes, one futuristic and the other primal. That seems to be what the magic in the song is—that technology in the synthesizer, then that raw vibe of the woof. ‘I’m chasing the cat’ and lines like that, I was just doing that symbolically, like chasing a woman or whatever—those instinctive things, the automatic muscles.”
The song was later sampled by Snoop Dogg in his 1993 hit, “Who Am I (What’s My Name?)”
Composed by Tom Waits
Recorded by Tom Waits
What’s a rain dog? Tom Waits has an idea: “You know, dogs in the rain lose their way back home. They even seem to look up at you and ask if you can help them get back home. Because after it rains, every place they peed on has been washed out. It’s like “Mission Impossible.” They go to sleep thinking the world is one way and they wake up and somebody moved the furniture.”
Waits, once a vagabond who made fleabag hotels his home, identifies with these hounds, singing: “Taxi, we’d rather walk, huddle in a doorway with the rain dogs/For I am a rain dog too.”
Not only has Waits put canine themes to work on other songs—“Dog Door” and “Puttin’ on the Dog”—but as he once mused, “My career is like a dog. Sometimes it comes when you call. Sometimes it gets up in your lap. Sometimes it rolls over. Sometimes it just won’t do anything.”
Composed by John Linnell and John Flansburgh
Recorded by They Might Be Giants
While researching the digestive system back in the early 1900s, Russian physician Ivan Pavlov discovered that he could condition dogs to salivate by announcing meals with some external stimuli—a whistle, a metronome and, most famously, a bell.
A heady subject for a pop song? Not in the hands of the quirky Brooklyn duo They Might Be Giants, who honored Pavlov’s pooch in “Dinner Bell.” With its bouncy counterpoint vocals pitting “salivating dog” against a list of victuals (chowder, egg, garlic bread), the song transcends its humorous tone to address the modern human dilemma of having too many choices.
“We’ve often had this problem of people considering our songs to be novelties or jokes,” Linnell observes. “To us, our songs are very meaningful, and the whole point is that they’re saying something. But they sometimes have the structure of a joke. Part of the effect is that it lightens the song up so it’s not pretentious.”
Classical conditioning never sounded so fun.
Dixie the Tiny Dog
Composed by Peter Himmelman
Recorded by Peter Himmelman
A dog who dances like Fred Astaire in the moonlight, revels in a Germanic background and boasts about a Houdini-like ability to escape, Dixie may be tiny, but she’s proud. Or is it “he”? Peter Himmelman will only say that “Dixie is a very soulful animal, able to find joy in the minutiae of life.”
A composite of a several Dachshunds Himmelman has known, “Dixie” trots along with nimble phrasing, “mimicking a dog’s thought patterns.” Though it was released online only, it’s one of Himmelman’s most-requested live songs.
“When I perform it, I really feel dog-like,” Himmelman confesses. “Like this small, brown, coarse-haired dog who’s very sharp, very observant. I’m channeling what this dog might be seeing and thinking.”
When he’s not method acting, Himmelman makes music for both adults and children (the Grammy-nominated kids’ album My Green Kite is his latest), and scores the TV shows Men in Trees and Bones. He’s penned two other canine-inspired tunes, “Willa” and “Theo,” but it’s “Dixie” that touches the underdog in all of us. “It’s a song for everyone who feels like they’re not as good as other people,” Himmelman says.
Composed by Neil Finn
Recorded by Neil Finn
“It was written in honor of our family dog,” New Zealander Neil Finn says. “Lester was a Dalmatian, and when he was a year old, he was hit by a car. He nearly didn’t make it. I got home from the vet’s that day and wrote this song.”
In this plaintive acoustic ballad, which is featured on Afterglow, a Crowded House rarities collection, Finn promises to be a better person if Lester is allowed to live, while expressing thanks for the dog’s “good luck and strong bones inside and behind him.”
Finn wrote with such compassion that his producer, Mitchell Froom, mistook Lester for a human. “I didn’t tell him it was about my dog, and he thought I was talking about my manservant,” Finn says with a chuckle. Lester went on to star in several Crowded House and Finn Brothers videos, and was reportedly the inspiration for another Finn song, “Black and White Boy.”
Gimme Back My Dog
Composed by Brent Best
Recorded by Slobberbone
“It was mine before I met you,” sings Brent Best about the dog who’s the unwitting rope in a breakup tug-of-war.
“I remember writing it in my head while I was mowing my parent’s lot in Lucas, Texas,” Best says. “We had recently lost our family dog. Scooter was an old Dachshund and thought he was much bigger than he was. One night, he went after some coyotes. They made short work of him. I’d also been through a really bad breakup, so somehow, it all meshed together as one thing. The dog ended up representing all the things that you have in place before you enter a relationship, and then you don’t have in place when things go wrong.”
The song, one of the now-defunct Slobberbone’s most popular, grabbed the ear of novelist Stephen King, who name-checked it in Black House, and later called it one of the “three greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs of all time.” (The group took their name from a doggie chew toy.)
Best, who now fronts alt-country band The Drams, recalls, “A friend once said, ‘This will be the song that will end up driving you mad because people will want to hear it all the time.’ And he was right.”
Composed by China Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale
Recorded by Pink Martini
Girl and boy dog pass on the street. Eyes meet. Hearts and tails flutter. They go their separate ways, and boy dog is stricken forever. That’s the story in this playful salsa number.
Singer China Forbes says, “Lilly was inspired by my dog Foxy, and the male suitor was inspired by Thomas’s dog Heinz. Basically, they had this really cute flirtation. Foxy is a Corgi/Papillon mix, so she looks like a little red fox. Heinz is this enormous yellow Lab mixed with St. Bernard. He had one of those enormous bones that was bigger than Foxy’s entire body. But Foxy would always get it away from him immediately when she came to visit, then totally terrorize him. So she became this femme fatale every time she saw Heinz, and had him wrapped around her tiny paw.”
Forbes and Lauderdale thought their song was “a jokey little throwaway,” but their producer convinced them to put it on their Hang On Little Tomato album. “It’s become really popular with the fans,” says Forbes, adding with a laugh, “especially our fans who are under 12.”
The Dog Song
Composed by Nellie McKay
Performed by Nellie McKay
McKay’s childhood dog Joey inspired her jaunty sing-along tune.
“I named him after Joey Buttafuoco,” the Brooklyn-based songstress and animal activist reveals. “It just seemed to fit. He was a mix of all kinds of crazy and contrary breeds. And he was my brother. I always remember how he wore his scarves, and he would jump like a deer when he was chasing a stick. He was the best dog.”
But not the best audience, even for songs written in his honor. “Joey always hated my music,” she sighs. “He’d put his paws over ears and start yelping.” Fortunately, McKay’s fans have had a much more positive response to her signature tune.
“It’s optimistic and joyful, and people respond to that,” says McKay, who’s currently scoring a stage version of the film Election. “What I really love is how people have used the song for video footage of their own dogs. On YouTube, there’s one called Annie who is just the happiest dog. I can’t imagine my music being put to any better purpose than showcasing those lovely, happy canines.”
My Dog Was Lost But Now He’s Found
Composed by Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger
Recorded by The Fiery Furnaces
Matthew Friedberger knows there’s nothing’s worse than the feeling you get after you lose your temper with your dog.
His rousing song starts with a confession—“I kicked my dog/I was mean to him before/I guess that’s why he walked out my door”—then leaps into a desperate search for the fugitive pup.
“The lyrics were inspired by my dog Jargon,” Matthew has said. “When you adopt a dog, you’re excited. But then you also have frustrations because maybe you don’t realize what you’ve gotten yourself into. And so it’s about the kind of remorse you feel at sometimes being annoyed at walking your dog at 6:30 in the morning when it’s 15 degrees below zero. Not that he wanted to go out then either. But sometimes, just like anyone you’re living with, you get frustrated with them.”
Happily, the song ends with a reunion. Friedberger reckoned, “Adopting a dog is really an opportunity to restructure your life in a way that is very rewarding. I think as long as you think of it like that, then it’s a great thing to do.”
Death of a Martian
Composed by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Self-enlightened, perfect in conduct, a teacher of humans—is it coincidence that the three essential characteristics of the Buddha also happen to be those of the dog who inspired this song?
“She was kind of a weird pillar of love and happiness and strength,” singer Anthony Kiedis says. “I was coming out of some dark times, and Flea [the Chili Peppers’ bass player] was going through a difficult period. And here was this 200-pound dog who was just very chill and very calm and very loving who was there every day, crashed out in front of the garage while we were rehearsing. Martian was sort of like our little spirit guide.”
Sadly, as the Chili Peppers neared completion of their Stadium Arcadium album, Martian fell ill. Kiedis recalls, “When it became clear that she was dying, I felt a huge sense of loss. But this beautiful energy. This little angel, it was time for her to be on her way.”
Of the band’s heartfelt tribute, Flea says, “She was such a great dog. I’m glad that she’s going to be immortalized in history.”
It isn’t often a musician finds herself compared to both Doris Day and Eminem. But Nellie McKay, a 19-year-old singer/songwriter born in London and raised in Harlem, draws such comparisons. It also isn’t often that songs are inspired in part by dogs named after Joey Buttafuoco. But McKay wrote such a song.
"The Dog Song", a bouncy piano-driven number that recalls Tin Pan Alley, is one of 18 songs on McKay’s first album, a double-CD set entitled Get Away from Me. The song came to McKay (pronounced Mick-eye) while walking through New York City as dawn broke and dog-walkers filled the sidewalk. She was reminded of Joey, a mangy-eared mutt that appeared on the doorstep of her childhood home one New Year’s Day morning. “I was so, so, so fond of Joey,” McKay recalls, “He was wonderful, even though he peed all over my mother that first day.” She already had the melody of "The Dog Song" in her head; the remaining pieces began falling into place that morning.
McKay grew up in a home that cares about animals. Her mother helped found Voices for Animals, an advocacy group that, among other things, protests the use of animals in circuses. And the liner notes on the back of Get Away from Me include the following statement: “Nellie McKay is a proud supporter of PETA.” But she doesn’t just support them—she once volunteered as an intern at a PETA office. “There were dogs everywhere,” she says with a laugh, “You had to step over a little gate every time you walked into a room!”
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