News: Guest Posts
Postcard from Turkey
With dog as my co-pilot in Byzantium

After completing my MBA, I decided to get a dog and was united with Maya, a five-month-old Border Collie mix. While living in San Diego, we had many adventures on road trips, at dog parks and dog beaches and everywhere else. In October 2010, I accepted a position in Antalya, Turkey, as a head teacher of a language school. Maya and I spent a year there.

We lived in the city center, near Kaleici, the old city, which was once surrounded by stone walls. It has lots of little shops and bars and cafés.

Maya and I became a central fixture in this community. Many of the shop owners came to know her by name. Small kebab shops line the streets with lamb and chicken roasting in the window. Since our first days, Maya would automatically sit and look up at the men serving the kebabs with her bright brown eyes and they always gave her some chicken. Even if we walked on the other side of the street, they would see her and yell, ”Hi, Maya.”

When I went out with friends, she usually accompanied us. She became so intertwined with my identity, that if she wasn’t with me, it was almost guaranteed that I would be asked, “Where is Maya?” Frequently, toddlers beelined for her (while their parents temporarily stopped breathing in fear); Maya would sit as straight as possible to let children pet her. Maya has set her paws on ancient sites such as Termessos, a city Alexander the Great failed to conquer, and taken road trips along the coast and boat rides on the Mediterranean. 

Among my constant concerns in Antalya were the street dogs. Some of these dogs have been strays from birth, while others were abandoned after they were no longer puppies and couldn’t serve the purpose of luring customers into shops. Given that Maya is a social pup, she enjoyed playing with the Turkish street dogs. For the most part, they are friendly and we encountered few problems with aggressive dogs. Considering everything I read before I left, this was a much-welcomed surprise.

I have seen and experienced the best and worst between humans and dogs while in Turkey. There have been times when I was yelled at in Turkish because Maya made eye contact with someone. Maya has been kicked as we walked past and had stones thrown at her. People have screamed and run to the other side of the street, simply at the sight of her. I have seen abused street dogs and those with their ears cut off. But I also saw those dogs fed and other abandoned puppies rescued from the street.

The most amusing thing that I learned in Turkey is how children imitate barking differently. If you ask a Turkish child how a dog barks, she or he will say, “How how.” American children will say, “Ruff ruff” and English children say, “Woof woof.”

People often asked me if I regretted bringing Maya with me because of the complications involved. But the way I see it, if on our journey, she helped one old man smile before he went to bed alone, two traditional Muslim women become a little less afraid after a lifetime of fear, or three children giggle as she gently licked leftover sesame paste off their sticky fingers, if bringing her helped anyone forget about their troubles for just a second as they laughed at her silliness, then the cost, sacrifice and perceived burden was worth every penny, kur or euro.

Life is hard. Life in a foreign country is even more difficult. Having Maya with me was the best thing. No matter how challenging my day had been, I knew that she would always be there with her unconditional love and acceptance, wagging tail and kisses.  

Dog's Life: Travel
Explore Southwest Utah
Have Dog, Will Travel

While fall days find New England country roads clogged with leaf-peepers, southwestern Utah’s high desert is wide open and radiant. Here, the autumn sun illuminating sandstone bluffs rivals any maple grove. And in September and October, still-warm days and cool nights make this a great time and place for outdoor adventures.

An excellent home base for dog-friendly fun is Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah, just a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, Nev. (If you have dinosaur fans in your life, you may know the name; St. George is home to Johnson Farm, where some of the world’s oldest and best-preserved Dilophosaurus tracks were discovered in 2000.) The adobe-style resort and spa offers a full complement of dog-centric amenities — among them, organic treats and food and water dishes upon arrival — plus a 55-acre backyard that looks like something out of Stagecoach and access to Snow Canyon Park, where pups can bound under towering red-rock cliffs. (Remember to carry water and keep an eye out for not-yet-hibernating rattlesnakes).

Red Mountain goes beyond providing merely a dog-friendly backdrop. The resort’s wellness focus incorporates several volunteer- and pet-oriented programs, including a hike for guest dogs (launching later this year) that ends with a picnic lunch, entertainment and canine treats. The $35 charge for the hike goes to support Ivins Municipal Animal Shelter, the only shelter in the state designated “no-kill” by municipal ordinance.

Because most of Utah’s national parks, including nearby Zion, have few or no trails open to pets, hiking in and around the resort is a great way to experience this region’s jaw-dropping beauty without the strict prohibitions and the crowds.

Those unable to bring their pup can take heart. Red Mountain’s Pound Puppy Hike pairs guests with a friendly canine from the Ivins shelter for a hike through St. George Valley and Padre Canyon. Dogless guests are also welcome to join Blondie, a Golden Retriever and certified Canine Good Citizen, for a four-hour trek, or spend time with real-life Mustangs, part of a program supporting care and adoption efforts for these wild horses.

Eighty miles east of St. George — next door in desert terms — is Kanab, home to the famed Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, where about 2,000 dogs, cats and other animals receive special care. Some will be adopted; others will live out their days here. Consider folding in some volunteer time at Best Friends during your vacation. (Keep in mind that the focus is on the sanctuary’s animals, so bringing your own pets is discouraged.) You’ll return home with a sense of accomplishment and moving stories instead of a camera full of leaf photos no one really wants to see.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Top Pet Friendly Airlines
Petfinder rates the best airlines for pets

Flying with pets can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you travel with a large dog. I go through great lengths to avoid putting my dogs on a plane, even if that means driving over 1,000 miles from New York to Florida!

But for those of you who have to travel by plane, Petfinder just released their annual list of most pet-friendly airlines. The airlines were reviewed based on the following criteria: most pet-friendly overall, best amenities for pets (and pet parents), best for transporting pet variety, best for budget-conscious consumers, best for flying multiple pets in cabin, and best for big furry friends.

Most important, all airlines that made the ranking were required to have zero pet deaths in the past reported year (according to official government reports).

Here are the top airlines for 2011:

  • Most Pet-Friendly Overall: Pet Airways. This choice isn't surprising, given that Pet Airways caters to animals, but hopefully this airline will inspire others to up their game.

  • Best Amenities for Pets (and Pet Parents): JetBlue. JetBlue goes above and beyond with the perks. Amenities include a pet carrier baggage tag, a travel “petiquette” guide, 300 frequent flyer points each way, and a comprehensive e-booklet with pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, parks and animal hospitals in some of JetBlue’s major cities.

  • Best for Transporting Pet Variety: Frontier Airlines. Frontier allows the most types of pets including rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds.

  • Best for Budget-Conscious Consumers: WestJet. WestJet has the cheapest pet fee at $50. AirTran Airways was a close second at $69.

  • Best for Flying Multiple Pets in Cabin: Frontier Airlines. All airlines have a limit as to how many pets can ride in the cabin. Frontier allows up to 10 pet crates on board, however only one container is allowed per passenger.

  • Best for Big Furry Friends: Pet Airways. Again Pet Airways rules with its pets-only flights.

I hope that reviews like Petfinder's list will encourage more airlines to become more pet friendly. Maybe one day all pets will be able to travel in the cabin alongside the humans. One can only dream!

Have you flown with a pet? Who would you nominate as the most pet friendly airline?

News: Guest Posts
Attn: Road Trippers—Campsites with Dog Runs
Bark reader creates a campgrounds list for dogs that need fenced, off-leash options

I frequently write about people who are volunteering their time and expertise to help rescue dogs and cats, or taking measures to support therapy and guide dog programs and more. I really love how dogs inspire random (and not so random) acts of kindness and generosity.

Another way people contribute is through information—compiling free listings of parks and services, spreading the word about events and organizations on their personal websites. It’s amazing all the great stuff you can find on the web. Add to that list, a new directory of campgrounds and RV parks with at least one fenced dog run. Bark reader Molly Lorenz, who keeps the personal website/blog, Vegan Flower, pulled together the 145-strong listing as a hobby. It’s the sort of hobby, like a gorgeous front yard garden, that benefits many.

Molly, who lives in Wisconsin—with human, Mike; two cats, Crystal and Sophie; and two dogs, Emma and Rowan—likes to take road trips to explore state and national parks and spend time outdoors with Mike and the pups. “We grew tired of the hotels and resorts, as nice as they can be, and have longed for a better way to travel,” she says about how her directory got started.

But they have one travel challenge, their dog Emma. “She won’t do her ‘business’ on a leash and cannot be trusted off-leash,” Molly explains. “Having an enclosed area that’s safe for her to be off-leash is a must for us when traveling, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones.” So Molly started to do some research and was pleasantly surprised to find a campground with a fenced dog area.

“It got me wondering if there were others out there. After a while, the list grew pretty large and I decided to organize it to share with others,” she says. “I was very surprised at how many places have dog runs, but then again, many campers travel with their dogs, so it only makes sense!”

Check out Molly’s list and, if you have a suggestion, send it her way.

Dog's Life: Travel
The Dogs of Inisheer
When Irish dogs are smiling

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to visit Ireland, you undoubtedly found yourself standing at the edge of a cliff or the top of a grassy hill looking out on what seemed like a glimpse of heaven. During a recent trip to Ireland, I had an opportunity to spend some time on a tiny slice of bliss known as Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands in County Galway.

Inisheer, or as the Irish refer to it, Inis Oírr, meaning “east island,” is a sparsely populated cluster of rock-walled farms whose inhabitants still speak the original Irish language. The landscape is rugged and breathtakingly beautiful. I had many “heaven-glimpsing” moments on that island — among them, of the dogs who call Inisheer home.

These weren’t strays; rather, they were loved and cared-for pets, complete with collars and tags. I’d often pass by them on my evening walks; they’d be lying curled up on rugs in the doorways of their homes. But during the day, they roamed the island, perhaps meeting a few friends down at the playground, thumbing their noses at the signs reading Cosc Ar Ghadhair, illustrated with a dog in a red circle crossed by a diagonal line. Though I guessed what it said, I couldn’t read it and, obviously, neither could the dogs. However, no one on the playground seemed to mind. The kids ran and tossed sticks for the gamboling canines, who playfully greeted each and every person. When the dogs tired of the entertainment, they went off in their own directions in search of new adventures.

My family and I ran into a couple of beautiful Border Collies romping in the surf. One had a cinnamon-red coat and a chest of wooly white. The other’s coat was a picture-perfect black and white, and her eyes were as blue as the Irish Sea. Both had sand clinging to their whiskers, and their sea-soaked coats were dusted with salt. As we approached, they ran up and greeted us. There was no body-slamming, jumping up or over-the-top excitement — just “Hey! You’re here! Mind tossing us something wet and slimy?” One of the dogs ran down to the rocks and grabbed a long piece of thick seaweed and politely dropped it at my feet, then dipped into a play bow and looked up at me expectantly. I bent down and tossed the soggy weed into the air, and she dashed off. In no time, she was back, and dropped the limp weed on top of my shoes. I decided that the dogs probably hung around the beach all day, waiting for saps like me to entertain them. Sure enough, a few hours later, a little boy was tossing that same piece of seaweed for the same two dogs.

In the afternoon, we fed bits of cheese to a well-groomed and obviously well-fed Terrier mix, who followed us around until another dog came along with a more attractive offer. Together, they ran off to the playground.

On Inisheer, I saw a lot of contented, happy dogs. What I didn’t see were dogs on leashes barking and lunging, or dogs at the picture window of a home destroying the mini-blinds, trying to get at my family as we walked by. Believe it or not, I didn’t see a single pile of dog doo; I guess if people saw it, they picked it up. There was no aggression, no fighting. The dogs on this island were balanced, socialized and, from the looks of it, extremely happy — they were allowed to be dogs.

Unfortunately, our dogs don’t have that luxury. We don’t live on a small island with more tractors than cars. We need to keep our dogs safe behind fences or controlled on a leash. For the most part, aside from the occasional romp in an open field, our dogs live in our world. They are coddled, secure, warm and fed. Their paws are wiped and their coats are scrubbed clean. No salt. No sand. But when our dogs are curled up on their fluffy monogrammed pet beds at night, I bet they’re dreaming of the dogs of Inisheer.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Road Trips with Dogs
Was a good time had by all?

Typical advice for happy travels by car with dogs includes some basics such as having your dog up to date on vaccinations and in good health. It also makes sense to have your dog microchipped and to check on any parasites or diseases that may be common at your destination and take the proper preventive measures. For travel safety, it’s wise to have your dog restrained in the car, perhaps riding in a crate in the back of the car.

These simple suggestions belie the true nature of traveling by car with dogs. It’s a lot more exciting with many more unexpected events. In simple terms, taking your dog on a road trip is one of those experiences that never looks quite like it did in the brochure. Everything from fitting the crate into the car to walking your dog at rest stops to cleaning up 20 pounds of kibble from the back seat can lead to tears, laughter, or even tears of laughter.

What experiences—good or bad—have you have on the road with your dog?

Dog's Life: Travel
Dog-Friendly Travel: Boston
Have Dog, Will Travel

Let your dog sniff the ages in the country’s oldest park, where cows once grazed. The Boston Common has a small zone where leash-less dogs are permitted in the early mornings and evenings. In addition, the city’s extensive Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks make for excellent, mostly leashed, walking, especially Jamaica Pond. Of Boston’s two official off-leash parks, the Peters Park Dog Run in the South End is nice, but the off-leash go-to is Fresh Pond, across the river in Cambridge.

With a staggering number of eggheadsper- square-mile, Boston has wonderful bookstores (remember those?) and quite a few permit canine browsers—including the Harvard Bookstore, Rodney’s Bookstore and Schoenhof’s Foreign Books in Cambridge. Stretch your legs during a leashed walk around Harvard Yard.

Rock the Cradle of Liberty during a self-guided revolutionary history tour along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail—from Boston Common to Bunker Hill. You can catch the T home; leashed, well-behaved dogs are allowed on the subway during off-peak hours.

Leashed dogs are welcome at the SoWa Open Market. The thriving Sunday market on the South End is a market mash-up of artisan and vintage wares and farmers’ market, plus, food trucks! Look for Polka Dog Bakery, named for a one-eyed former stray from Puerto Rico. Sundays, May to September, 10 am–4 pm.

Bring your pup shopping in the Back Bay neighborhood. They can join you at Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie, Lord & Taylor and Filene’s Basement, among others. Then chill with pups on the patio at the Globe Bar and Café (565 Boylston St.) or treat your buddy to Boston-made organic Yöghund Frozen Yogurt from Fish & Bone pet boutique (217 Newbury St.).

Doggie heaven is just a ferry ride (and a short drive) away from Rowes Wharf at Bare Cove Park, a former shipbuilding center and depot in Hingham, Mass. Dogs under voice control can meander wide, paved pathways through 400-plus acres of woods and meadows. While your four-legged buddy sleeps off the run, buzz around the seaside village, which is home to America’s oldest continuously worshipped-in church, the Old Ship.

News: Guest Posts
Hitting the Road with our Furry Co-Pilots
Summer is almost here!

In our summer issue of Bark, we rounded up some of our favorite dog-friendly destinations from camps and swimming holes to happening neighborhoods and rustic lodges. Our readers chipped in as well with their favorite go-to spots and travel advice. We had so many great ideas, we couldn’t fit them all in the magazine, so check out our catalog of fun here. Also, we’re still collecting your ideas, and since summer is still four days away, there’s still plenty of time to make plans.

Several reader tips related to keeping dogs comfortable on trips—a very important concern. This is supposed to be fun, after all. And as anyone who has ever packed for a trip knows the challenges begin the moment you pull out the travel gear.

“I bring out my suitcase the same time I bring out my dogs' ‘suitcases,’” Georgia Herpel of Pennsylvania wrote us. “If my dogs saw a suitcase they would know they are being left behind—albeit with a wonderful dog sitter. I have them watch me pack their ‘bags,’ add their favorite toys and tell them they are going in the car. No anxiety!”

Trudy Halvorson of Montgomery, Tex., sent us a photo (above) of her English Springer Spaniel, Sammie (short for Samantha). “We were packing for vacation and she wanted to be sure that she was not left behind,” Halvorson says. “She did go with us and we called our trip ‘Sammie’s Big Adventure!’” I love this photo because Sammie does look about as casual as you could want.

In my house, when we are loading up the car for a road trip, the dogs are the first in the vehicle. Otherwise they will be constant UFOs (under-foot objects). Once they are settled in the car, they don’t seem to care how long it takes, as long as they are sure they’re coming along.

What are your tricks for launching a journey smoothly?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Turning A Dog’s Behavior Into a Trick
“Capturing” behavior is part of training

One of the secrets to teaching dogs tricks is starting with what they naturally do. If the dog has a tendency to perform a particular behavior, then it will be easier to make that a cute trick that is performed on cue than trying to get her to do some behavior that is not part of her natural repertoire.

  The term “capturing behavior” refers to reinforcing your dog for performing a behavior that she does on her own so that she will be more likely to do it again in the future. Once your dog has figured out which behavior is the one that causes you to give her a treat, it is time to start introducing the cue that you will use to tell her to perform that specific behavior.   For best success, try capturing behavior that comes so naturally to your dog that she does it often. You can then reinforce it often, which makes the process of turning it into a cute trick that she does on cue both faster and easier. You may have to fine tune the behavior to get the trick to be perfect, but you still start by capturing a behavior that your dog already does on her own.   A dog who tends to use her paws a lot naturally is a great candidate for high-five, wave, or shake. Dogs who tend to creep when lying down or even when they are supposed to be in a stay are easy to teach to crawl. Dogs who rest on their backs with their legs in the air are already doing a behavior that many trainers call “belly up.”   Spinning on cue is easiest to teach to dogs who naturally go in circles when they are excited. (However, I don’t like to teach this to dogs who spin and spin when they get revved up because I’m worried it will develop into a habit that they will have trouble stopping.)   Part of training is teaching a dog to perform a certain behavior and another part is teaching them to do it on cue. If your dog already exhibits the behavior, then all you have to do is capture that behavior and put it on cue, which means that your work is already partly done before you officially start the training.   Have you taught a trick based on a behavior your dog already does?


News: Guest Posts
Dog watching in NYC
Do city dogs have it better?

Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years, adapting to nearly any living condition man throws their way. Whether living in a cave or on a snowy mountaintop, dogs and humans have weathered many different conditions and lifestyles together. And this weekend I witnessed perhaps one of the most interesting (and overwhelming!) environments dogs share with us: New York City.

  My best friend Carrie moved to New York earlier this year, and pretty much since the day she moved we had been planning my visit. Carrie gets me, and she gets dogs. For the past few years, she has willingly shared her birthday party with my Schipperke Leo, so she knew when I came to visit I would want to do something dog-oriented. We hung out in dog-friendly neighborhoods, sipping on tea in cafes and catcalling every dog that walked by, “Oh look at that Terrier, he’s got a good attitude!” “Work your thang, Puggle!” “Rock them dreads, Puli!”   While New Yorkers are famous for their no-nonsense, fast-paced approach toward life, they surprised me in how willing they were to stop and chat about their dogs. They’d offer up stories, discuss potty habits (“Lola always has to potty right in front of Club Monaco, it’s her thing.”), even show off their pup’s impressive tricks. (An Afghan Hound I met in Chelsea knew his right from left; I know humans that don’t know that.) Even more surprising was how dog-friendly the entire city was: Bowls of water were placed outside of storefronts, parks readily had Mutt-Mitts available, and one bakery had a tray-full of treats available.   Each neighborhood seemed to have it’s own canine attitude: Central Park West dogs hang in packs and bark a lot. SoHo dogs are laid back, watching the world go by, while their people drink coffee at cafes. Brooklyn dogs look like they have somewhere to be, with no time to stop and chat (unless sniffing for food around a taco truck).   It seemed like dogs were everywhere. Considering most New Yorkers don’t own a car and dogs aren’t allowed on the subway or in taxis, I found myself wondering if these dogs lived most of their lives within a 20-block radius of their homes walking the same sidewalks everyday, encountering the same dogs and smells, or if there were ways for them to get out of the city. Maybe take the Staten Island Ferry?   I don’t know what I expected, considering my previous notions had been informed by Disney’s Oliver & Company. Somehow street dogs singing Billy Joel tunes just didn’t seem realistic. No matter what the living situation, from lofts to brownstones, it was amazing to see how well dogs adapted. While I can’t imagine Skipper or Leo living without weekend trips to the beach or hiking trails, maybe there are benefits to city life I have never considered. Do you know a city dog who could set me right?