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News: Editors
Therapeutic Trees
Another health bonus from walking your dog

The New York Times had an interesting article about studies examining the health benefits of nature. Researchers have found that spending time in places with trees aplenty, such as parks and forests, is good for us and has a positive affect on our immune functions. Seems as if stress reduction is one factor that the scientists attribute to phytnocides, the “airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect them from rotting insects.”  The Japanese have taken this to heart and even partake in a practice called “forest bathing.” 

 

As The Times notes, “the scientists found that being among plants produced lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure, among other things.” So for all of you who walk your dogs in the woods, not only are you doing the right thing by providing sensory stimulation and exercise for them but you too get a healthy boost from the trees!

 

News: Guest Posts
A Pup with A Message
Video: Green Puglet returns for World Oceans Day

Our favorite little green pug turns blue for World Oceans Day.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Collecting Fur
Donate your dog’s hair to clean up oil spills

Living with long-haired dogs, it seems all the brushing in the world won’t prevent hair from ending up in every possible crevice of my house.  So last week, when I got an e-mail from Best Friends Pet Care announcing a canine hair drive, I couldn’t wait to sign up. 

It turns out hair is great for absorbing oil, including the oil from the BP spill currently wreaking havoc in the Gulf of Mexico.  The non-profit organization, Matter of Trust, collects donations of human and canine hair to make mats and booms with recycled nylons (yes, the ones you wear under your skirts!).  The mats and booms are then placed in the ocean to soak up oil.

If you’re interested in making a hair donation, visit the Matter of Trust web site for more information.  Your local human salon or canine groomer may also collect for the cause.

According to Matter of Trust, the United States has over 370,000 hair salons, each cutting an average of a pound of hair per day. Dog groomers usually cut three pounds per day. Imagine how much oil could be soaked up using material that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Check out this video for more information on how hair goes from dog to ocean.

News: Guest Posts
Furballs to the Rescue
Your dog’s hair can help clean up the Gulf oil spill

Every day news of the expanding oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico gets worse. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil gush into bio-rich waters. Looking at satellite images and reading the stories, it’s easy to feel helpless. But there is a unique opportunity for pet owners to help out. The nonprofit charity Matter of Trust is facilitating donations of clean pet fur, mostly from groomers—as well as human hair, mostly from salons—which are woven into hair mats that are extremely effective at soaking up oil or stuffed into donated nylons to create oil containment booms for the Gulf clean up. Matter of Trust estimates that one pound of dog hair can soak up one quart of oil in one minute! I have a new respect for my dogs' furballs.

 

We learned about this ingenious reuse program from two participants: Pet Paradise Resort, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based pet boarding, daycare and grooming operation, with 13 locations including several along the Gulf Coast; and Camp Bow Wow, a boarding and daycare operation with more than 200 franchisees in the U.S. and Canada. Both organizations are collecting and donating hair and fur to the effort, which won’t end with this spill. There are an estimated 2,600 oil spills each year.

 

Learn more about the program and witness hair mats in action in this video from Matter of Trust:

News: Guest Posts
It Ain’t Easy Being Green
Video: Recycled Pug sets high bar for Earth Day

Have you seen the “Green Pug Recycles” video? The short by Amanda Bradshaw, a 37-year-old dog photographer in San Francisco, stars Puglet, a recyclables-sorting, water-conserving, carpooling Pug. “The Green video was inspired by Puglet’s mission to help ‘recycled dogs.’ I thought Puglet’s talents might earn him 15 seconds of fame—then he could use the spotlight to campaign for recycled dogs.” (Rescuing dogs is a pretty righteous shade of green.) We’re happy to jump on the bandwagon.

  Follow Puglet’s adventures on The Daily Puglet, a blog Bradshaw started a year ago when “this goofy little pug came into my life and made me laugh … whether I wanted to or not. Every. Single. Day.”

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Is My SUV?
Book on sustainability takes aim at pet ownership.

In Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living, Robert and Brenda Vale of Wellington, New Zealand, condemn pet-ownership claiming companion animals guzzle resources, devastate wildlife populations, spread disease and add to pollution, according to reviews in New Scientist, Salon and The Telegraph. Many of these complaints aren’t new (since I haven't read the Vale's book yet, I can't testify to the soundness of their science), although I was startled by one their oft-quoted conclusions: The production of a protein-rich diet of a mid-size dog has the equivalent environmental impact as a Toyota Land Cruiser driven 6,000 miles per year. Time to turn the Land Cruiser in for a Husky?

My gut reaction: Get out. And the sensational title will probably drive more than a few dog lovers away. From what I’ve read about the book so far, the authors aren’t putting dogs in a larger context that is essential for a serious consideration of the topic. Choices about sustainability don’t take place in a vacuum. Nearly everything we do has a cost, and we make our choices on a cost/benefit basis. Are all the good things that dogs bring to our lives worth an impact? Not only do dogs provide enormous benefits (companionship, assistance, protection, engagement, access) that can’t be waived away, they may even offer some positives for the planet. Blogger Jim Gunshinan attempted to quantify these eco-advantages, such as providing love and comfort, necessitating less travel to see friends and family, and additional exercise, which should cut down on our food intake.

Still, I think there is probably food for thought in here. As in our choice to buy a car, light bulbs, food, to have children, to build a house, and on and on, we shouldn’t ignore the environmental costs of our choices have—including living with dogs. Of course, I’m not suggesting we eat our dogs (horrors), but we need to be responsible and accountable. An editorial in New Scientist recommends simple modifications such as feeding dogs more table scraps to offset some of the industrial pet food production. That sounds like a pragmatic start.

News: Guest Posts
Waste Not, Want Not, Part II
Will Black Soldier Fly grubs in biopods be the worm bins of the future?

Last week, I wrote a post about municipal efforts to cope with dog waste. Today, the Green Inc. column in The New York Times takes up the conversation with a story about a poop-composting pilot program in Ithaca, N.Y. Unfortunately, Ithaca's "strategy" involves a growing pile of yard clippings, wood trimmings and poop in biodegradable collection bags made from corn. Exactly, what to do with the pile is unclear. While this appears to be serious case of putting the pile before horse, the reader comments are filled with constructive and informed suggestions. I'm intrigued by the idea of deploying the Black Soldier Fly to do our dirty work. Will biopods filled with fly grubs be the worm bins of the future?

 

 

News: Guest Posts
Must Read: Pesticide Report
Buyer beware of over-the-counter, spot-on pesticide products.

Reading between the corporate disclaimers and regulator hedging, my takeaway from the thorough and impressive investigation into over-the-counter, spot-on pesticide products for pets by The Center for Public Integrity is: Why risk it? And it’s beginning to look like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might be asking the same question.

Based on an unprecedented review of 10 years’ worth of adverse-reaction reports filed with the EPA by pesticide manufacturers, The Center reported in December an alarming number of deaths had been linked to topical pesticide products with pyrethrins and pyretroids. These reports include chilling accounts of chemical burns, nerve damage, anorexia and 1,600 deaths over the past five years. On April 16, the EPA “announced that it would intensify its evaluation of these products ‘due to recent increases in the number of reported incidents.’”

I strongly urge anyone currently using over-the-counter, spot-on pesticide treatments to read the report through to the end. (If you’re wondering about the reporters’ angle: The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to producing investigative journalism on a broad variety issues of public concern. Past stories have included an expose on the use of the Lincoln Bedroom for political contributors in the Clinton administration, publishing secret Patriot II Act draft legislation, and reporting that Halliburton was the largest private contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Certain details in the story jumped out at me, including the fact that the high concentrations of pyrethroid used in pet products range from between eight to 17 times stronger than the strongest pyrethroid product currently approved for use on humans. Plus, recent findings that pyrethroids in young rats “could result in detrimental effects on neurological function later in life” even when there are no immediate, acute symptoms.

The report also points out that EPA approval is no guarantee of safety. Since 2000, pet products with chlorpyrifos, diazinon and phosmet were successively “approved, defended aggressively by the chemical industry, and then yanked off the market.”

Culture: DogPatch
Wheels of Change
Green transportation for around-town travel.

These days, anyone who slaps Bark’s bumper sticker—Dog Is My Co-Pilot™—on a car is conscious of rising fuel prices and looming environmental crises. More and more, people are paying attention to the fuel economy and emission levels of that bumper-sticker-bearing vehicle. Some, especially in urban areas, have opted to go the old-fashioned route and get around town on two, or in some cases three, wheels. And, more for fun than for grocery shopping, there’s even a dog-powered scooter. “Emission” levels notwithstanding, is there anything more eco-sensitive than paw power? Whatever mode we choose, one thing’s for sure: Our pups will want to come along.

Purchasing a vehicle that makes a low contribution to air pollution and greenhouse gases is one way to do less harm to the world. Last fall, J.D. Power and Associates published the Automotive Environmental Index, a study based on information from the Environmental Protection Agency as well as on data collected from consumers. In the study, they listed 30 of the top environmentally friendly cars, eight of which were, as expected, hybrids. One interesting statistic that came out of the survey was that more than half of consumers who were thinking of buying a new car in the near term were considering a hybrid.

In fact, the research firm forecast that hybrid vehicles (which use gas to get the car going and power from a battery when cruising) would increase to a 5 percent share of the U.S. market by 2013.With fuel prices rising to a national average of nearly $3 per gallon and with images of drowning polar bears and shrieking hurricanes scrolling across our TV and movie screens, these results are no great surprise. (For a rundown of hybrids currently available and in development, visit Hybrid Cars.)

Though hybrids have been getting most of the attention when it comes to environmentally friendly cars, there are other ways to hit the road these days. For example, if you’ve got the dollars, you can join the likes of George Clooney and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and plunk down a cool $92,000 for a Tesla—a new, 100-percent-electric car that’s slated to hit the streets this year. These aren’t just emission-free vehicles, they’re also truly performance cars that go from zero to 60 in four seconds and have a top speed of 130 MPH. Their technology is also notable. Rather than a heavy lead-acid battery (such as was used in the original fleet of GM-developed electric vehicles, for example), they employ a lithium-ion battery—a larger cousin of the battery used in laptops—which is lighter, energy dense and much more efficient when it comes to miles-per-battery-charge.

Around Town
If you’re looking for electric technology with a less than stratospheric price, the Twike may be more your speed. An aerodynamic two-seater, it’s a zero-emissions three-wheeler that combines an electric motor with pedals. The Twike’s range can be extended by pedaling as you go, and a regenerative braking system also recharges the battery while you drive. Joystick-controlled, it can go up to about 50 miles an hour. If you’d like to brag to your dogpark friends that you’re getting the equivalent of 300 to 600 miles per gallon, and if you’re patient (reservations are now being taken for 2008 models), one of these snappy vehicles can be yours for a base cost of about $27,500.

Another attention-grabbing motorized vehicle new to the U.S.—but a familiar sight on streets from India to Sri Lanka—the Bajaj autorickshaw might be just the ticket if you’re looking for something that, with its three wheels, is more stable than a two-wheel scooter and gets a whopping 80 miles per gallon. When he was looking for a clean alternative vehicle, Bark reader and Santa Cruz resident Larry Lewis did his homework. As he says, “I chose the Bajaj autorickshaw, which is low in cost and just a complete work horse and charmingly ugly, but burns clean and is simple to maintain.” It may be the only one in town, but Lewis likes the fact that it makes a statement.

ArgoUSA started importing these autorickshaws from Pune, India, about two years ago, making sure that, unlike the golf carts they somewhat resemble, they were street legal and safe; among the added features are dual headlights and a fully hydraulic braking system. At about $6,400, the Bajaj autorickshaw is also priced right. In terms of emissions, the autorickshaws have a clean four-stroke engine, though ArgoUSA President Al Kolvites thinks the fact that they come only with manual transmissions may limit their popularity in the U.S. Nevertheless, these vehicles, which are designed to go no more than 40 mph on city streets, are definitely a novel and environmentally friendly driving alternative.

In cities these days, it’s not just bike messengers who are pedaling the streets. It doesn’t get much more environmentally friendly than pedal power, and manufacturers have taken notice and are producing a wider range of recreational cycles for those of us who aren’t quite up to the Tour de France. For example, you just might see a tricycle pass you by on the way to the store. That’s right, three-wheeled tricycles aren’t just for kids anymore (actually, tricycles—or trikes—for use by adults actually date back to the 1860s).

Today’s trikes offer a range of amenities. You can opt for a cool (and expensive) electric version, such as the eZee Carro, which includes a front-mounted motor that, with the turn of a throttle, takes over the pedaling chore. Among the more traditional, non-electric trikes are the Port-o-Trike three-speed and the folding Trifecta single-speed, both of which are sold online and at some of the big-box stores and go for between $300 and $400. Most tricycles come with wide seats, safe and efficient dual brakes, and a large basket that fits between the two back wheels.

For those who wouldn’t be caught, um, dead, on a three-wheeler, the Dutch Citybike from Vancouver-based Jorg & Olif supplies buckets of retro panache. With its wide seat and traditional bell, this bike is built for city riding; among its niceties are fender guards; pre-installed lights; and Shimano gear systems that come in one, three, and eight speeds (great for those hilly cities). The technical styling and beautiful design don’t come cheap, however—the Citybike runs between $795 and $1,295. (According to the manufacturer, a lower-cost but equally reliable model will be available soon.)

A Dog’s Place
So, where’s the dog’s place in all this discussion of gears and distance and performance? For vehicles with two or more seats, help your co-pilot hop in, fasten her safety harness and off you go. If, on the other hand, a bicycle is your chosen mode, you don’t need to leave your dog at home. Similar to models developed for children, trailers that attach to bicycles and allow any size dog—from a Yorkie to a Great Pyrenees—to ride behind as you cruise city streets or seaside trails are available.

Speaking of city streets (and bike paths), many are too crowded for your dog to run safely at your side, which is another good reason to look into these handy accessories. Dog trailers come in a variety of styles, support a range of weights and incorporate several safety features; most are easy to assemble and to attach to your bike.

The base kit usually includes the dog wagon itself, a towing bar that attaches to the bike and the bike connection. Since there are no American Society for Testing and Materials standards for pet carriers, it’s up to the consumer to take a close look and do some comparisons when making a buying decision. Among the things to look for are a strong but lightweight base, a low center of gravity to keep things stable, reflective materials for visibility, good ventilation and a frame that can be zipped closed. Three to consider are the Burley Tail Wagon, the Pet Ego Sport Wagon and the Wike Wagalong.

The newest Burley Tail Wagon (about $400 with the stroller kit), has a 75-pound carrying capacity and is suitable for most dogs. For more than 30 years, Burley has been known for its well-crafted bike trailers for children, and the company applied this expertise to its dog trailers. The Tail Wagon has a UV-resistant, water-repellent, fabric-enclosed frame; a suspended floor; and large mesh screens that allow the free flow of air through the trailer. It comes with a bright orange flag for good visibility in traffic, and the zip-up frame helps ensure that your dog doesn’t make an unscheduled exit en route. Factor in the fully removable sun and rain cover and optional We! Ski kit and you’ll have everything you need for year-round dog transporting.

The Pet Ego Sport Wagon is another new trailer on the market, and at about $500, one of the most expensive. But for big dogs, its size and strength—it holds up to 165 lbs.—make it a good option. This one also has zip doors for easy access, and to keep your dog (or dogs) cool, it has a nice sunroof that can be removed and stowed. (If you have a smaller dog, there’s a Sport Wagon sized for her as well.) For small dogs, the Wike Wagalong ($300) may be the way to go. A lightweight trailer, it comes in two versions, one of which is appropriate for dogs under 30 pounds. It has ventilation panels, a bug screen in the front, and rear and side reflectors. Your pooch will also appreciate its two-inch cushioned floor.

Just because a dog is elderly, less mobile or recuperating doesn’t mean she wants to stay at home, and optional stroller kits make outings both practical and safe. Attach the front wheel and a handlebar and voila! The kits make it possible for even bikeless dog folks to take advantage of these trailers, which can be particularly useful for navigating crowded sidewalks with your dog.

Paw Powered
Dogs play a direct role in Oregonian Mark Schuette’s alternative vehicle, the Original Dogpowered Scooter. Watching people on rollerblades or skateboards trying to exercise both their dogs and themselves inspired Schuette to build a better mousetrap, so to speak. He modified a kick scooter with a custom base plate, then attached a hooped harness. The dog is strapped into the harness, which is positioned on the right of the scooter. This allows the scooter rider to control both steering and braking, which is easier to do when the dog is to the side, pushing, rather than out in front, pulling. The harness is designed so that it can be used by one to three dogs.

As you might imagine, this scooter is practical for medium to large dogs. To determine whether a dog is strong enough to power a rider’s weight, Schuette’s rule is to add 100 pounds to the dog’s weight; so, for example, a 60-pound Boxer should be able to power a 160-pound person. As Schuette joked with San Francisco Chronicle writer Paul McHugh, “People talk now about generating energy by combusting pet poop. Well, using this, you get work out of the kibble before it even leaves the animal.”

It’s doubtful that dogs care whether your vehicle is powered by gas, diesel, ethanol, a battery or muscle power. But in the long run, if we think green, our co-pilots will benefit.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Is My Décor?
Wearing your heart on your lawn.

Lawn jockeys, flamingos, gnomes and windmills—our front yards have long been a platform for inorganic self-expression. For my part, I have always exercised restraint in these matters, but after receiving an email from Bark contributor Helene F. Rubinstein, I’m thinking that’s been my loss. During a recent drive on the roads outside Reno, Rubinstein saw lawn ornaments for sale—the sort you never see in traditional stores. You know what I’m talking about, silhouettes of a cowboy leaning against a fencepost, grazing sheep, a gardener’s posterior, and dogs in variety of poses. “I couldn’t resist this one [see photo] and had it shipped back home,” Helene wrote. “I finally put it up yesterday. I love it!" Her dog has been growling at it like crazy. Fun for the whole family, but what will the neighbors think?

These aren’t that easy to find. Other than a rural road trip, your best bet is probably D-I-Y. I’m eyeing plans for a digging dog.

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