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Dog's Life: DIY
Cozy, Comfy Dog Sweaters
Knit Picks

Recently, a bark reader turned us on to Ravelry.com, an incredible online community for knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers and those who simply need a dose of inspiration to get started. Beginners can find instructional videos, and numerous groups and forums offer personalized advice, expertise or just enjoyable crafting chat.

A search for “dog” returns a long list, ranging from “Dog Rescue Knitters” and “Big Dogs Need Love Too” to “Spinning Dog Fiber” and “Gone to the (Small) Dogs.” The Snuggles Project, with its mission to make comforting blankets for shelter animals, has a group there too. There are also patterns galore; some are free, while others are available for a modest fee.

When we visited the site, we came upon these fabulous, eye-catching designs for three adorable doggie sweaters. Knitwear designer and knitting maven Lorraine Hearn created the patterns for her charity e-book project, which helps raise funds for her daughter’s school, the Aspley Guise Lower School in Bedfordshire, UK. The human models are students at the school and the Pug pup, beguiling Gladys, is now the school’s mascot.

All of Hearn’s charity e-book designs, including those she created for the children, are made with Cascade Yarns’ Ecological Wool (Cascade, along with Rico Design, supports Hearn’s cause).

Karen Parker took these charming photographs. Catch the video and slideshow of the photo shoot on mypdfpatterns.com, and while there, be sure to purchase an e-book and sign up for Ravelry.com.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Eyes in the Sky
Dog-specific GPS takes the worry out of exploring

Early one morning as I was running trails with my Aussie Finn MacCool and my friend Suzanne, the three of us rounded a bend and were greeted by a woman who said the words I always dread hearing: “Have you seen a dog?” We were in the heart of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park outside of Seattle, a 3,100-acre protected area with 36 miles of trails winding throughout its thickly wooded and hilly landscape. The dog could be anywhere.

As we gathered details from the woman — the dog’s name (Boone) and description, if he was tagged with current contact info, where he was last seen, where her car was parked — Finn sat patiently beside me. Around his neck was a bright neon-orange collar with an antenna extending from it. It made him look kind of like an enormous bug.

Finn was sporting a Garmin DC 40 dog-tracking collar, which uses GPS to transmit information to my Garmin Astro 320. This snappy bit of technology lets me know where Finn is, whether he’s moving or stationary and, if moving, which direction and how fast — all via an on-screen display. While I didn’t pile guilt on top of the poor woman’s distress, I thought to myself, If Boone had been wearing one of these, she’d know exactly where he was.

Multiple Metrics
I got the Astro dog GPS because I had always been curious about just how far Finn travels when he and I are out in the woods trail-running. He covers more ground than I do, dashing ahead and back, or off to the side after squirrels. But just how much additional ground? I’d always assumed that he traveled at least twice my distance. Once I got the Astro, I could finally answer that question.

Initially, the Astro seemed like just a really cool, high-tech toy, similar to the gadgets many of my running friends wear on their wrists to track their own mileage. Faced with the lost-Boone scenario, though, I realized its broader and more critical value for those of us who take our unleashed dogs out into the big world: being able to find them quickly if they become separated from us. Whether you’ve had your dog for years and she normally stays close, or you’ve recently added a new dog to your household and aren’t sure how he’ll react off leash, this “toy” can prevent hours, even days, of misery.

GPS-enabled dog-tracking devices aren’t new; there are several types on the market, all designed to do one straightforward thing: help you find your lost dog. But with most of those products, you pay a monthly fee (roughly $15, depending on the product) to access the GPS signal, and the only information you’re given is where your dog is at that specific moment.

The Garmin Astro 320, on the other hand, will track both you and your dog (up to 10 dogs, actually), recording tons of fun data along the way. It logs distance, speed, stopping time, elevation change and map coordinates — as well as a number of other optional variables that you can program in — all while creating a track, or map, of your movements. You can toggle back and forth between your own information and your dog’s while the two of you are out walking, hiking, horseback riding or cycling (you, not the dog), or running. Then, after saving the tracks, you can upload them to your home computer and view them either in one of Garmin’s programs or in another, such as Google Earth (which is free). The Astro 320 retails for $599, but you never pay a monthly fee for GPS signal access. In three years of use, the unit will pay for itself over the other GPS tracking options.

The Astro is also more reliable and accurate than smartphone GPS apps, which rely on a combination of cell towers and satellites. Garmin Astro’s 12 parallel channel receivers quickly lock onto satellites, and they maintain those locks even in dense foliage or urban settings with tall buildings. Also, smartphone GPS apps have an accuracy of about 50 feet, while the Astro’s is generally accurate to within three feet. I tested this out while running with a friend; he used his smartphone app and I used the Astro. My distance data closely matched the Green Trails topographic map of our route; my friend’s data was off (short) by about 20 percent. (Besides, the smartphone app can’t track your dog.)

Back to the question I really wanted answered: How far does Finn actually travel? I was surprised to learn that he typically runs only 10 to 20 percent more than I do, which was much less than I expected. Apparently, training him to stay close has been successful. But I was even more surprised by the difference in our respective elevation gains. I’ve always joked that Finn is part gazelle, and it turns out I might be right. According to his GPS data, on a run during which I cover 6.7 miles with 1,399 feet of elevation gain, Finn covers 9.0 miles with 5,651 feet of elevation.

Tech Specs
The Astro 320 is a hand-held receiver with two antennas; it looks like a walkie-talkie, is lightweight and fits easily in your hand. The screen displays a map, or whatever other data you choose, using the various navigation buttons. Because I use the unit while running, I tuck the receiver in a pocket with the antennas sticking out and just let it record as I run. The dog collar (DC 40) is bright orange with plenty of room for adjustment. I used a permanent marker to add Finn’s name and phone number, and attached a loop of material for quick grasping (although the collar does have a small metal D-ring).

The brain of the device — the GPS receiver — is housed in a small black box from which a long, thin VHF antenna extends and transmits signals to the Astro hand receiver. The antenna curves with the collar so that it’s positioned above the dog’s neck. Finn, a small Aussie, weighs about 45 pounds, but the collar and its antenna don’t bother him or slow him down as he crashes through thick undergrowth in enthusiastic pursuit of ever-elusive squirrels and chipmunks. He associates the collar with fun!

The Astro 320 is designed for use with hunting dogs, and it took me a little while to get used to the terminology. For example, when I start a run, I select “New Hunt” and mark the starting point as “Truck” (although I could change that if I wanted to take the time). The factory default settings include various alarms to let you know if, for example, your dog has stopped moving; the first time I used the Astro with Finn, the only settings change I made was to customize it with his name. Another bit of hunting terminology came up after a run with friends, as we returned to our cars. My well-trained friends always offer treats to the dogs in the group. Hearing a chirping alarm on my Astro, I looked at the screen. It said, “Finn MacCool has treed his quarry!” Indeed: His quarry was Tracy, who was holding out a treat!

Day Tracker
Ted Kerasote, author of Merle’s Door, has an Astro and uses it in an unusual way with Pukka, the dog he adopted after Merle died. “I’ve never used it on Pukka while we hike or ski together,” says Ted. “He is virtually always in sight, and when he departs, he returns within about five minutes. Instead, I’ve used the GPS on him when I’m home, writing. I put the GPS screen on my desk so I can see where Pukka goes during the day. This has been a fascinating look into how a dog who has his own dog door spends his time when not constrained by anything but his own curiosity.

“When the GPS has said ‘Pukka has treed quarry,’ I’ve been able to bike over to where he is and spy on him: lying on a friend’s deck waiting for them to come out and play fetch; over at Buck’s house, taking a snooze; or at the Kelly Café, hoping for a handout from the tourists.” (Ted’s new book, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, is due out February 2013.)

While my passion is trail running, there are many uses for GPS with dogs — driving to and touring new places, geocaching, even kayaking, for example. Cecil Moore, who works for Garmin and cheerfully answered all my questions, said he once put the Astro GPS collar on his small dog Jack at the start of a 5K race and handed the receiver to his wife. Because his family knew exactly when Cecil and Jack were nearing the finish line, they were able to jump in and run the last several yards together. He also uses it on family vacations to the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, a large area where dogs are typically allowed off leash in campgrounds and on trails.

Finn wore the Astro during a recent session of my Maian Meadows Dog Camp, which offers a weekend’s worth of off-leash fun: hiking, swimming, lots of games, stick-chasing and playing. Campers were intrigued by the Astro, and impressed that the collar was waterproof (although the GPS antenna on the collar will lose satellite reception if it’s totally submerged). The final tally at the end of the weekend: I covered 10.9 miles; Finn covered … 54.3! Each morning, we did a hike of about 3.8 miles to a nearby lake. Romping with the other dogs and fetching sticks in the lake meant that Finn covered nearly four times my distance. No wonder he’s tired. Finn’s “route” on Google Earth from that weekend of dog camp looks like a child’s wobbly drawing of a lollypop (swimming and playing in camp) on a stick (the morning out-and-back hikes). Garmin, headquartered in Kansas, is known for its personal product support. Friends who use Garmin’s running and mountain-biking products rave about its customer service. I found that also true with the Astro, which has lots of bells and whistles. Availing yourself of their customer service will help you get the most out of it (plus, they love dogs at Garmin).

And Boone? Within half an hour, a hiker found him and called the phone number on his tag, and the woman’s husband drove to the park to pick him up. They were very lucky. With the Astro, I can relax while running through the forest with Finn, knowing that if one day he disappears after a deer, I can at least track him until we’re reunited, eliminating guesswork, worry and dependence on Boone’s sort of luck.

For more info on the Astro 320, go to sites.garmin.com/astro

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Setting the Table
Healthy Eating

Whether you’re feeding your dog kibble, canned food, a raw diet or home-cooked meals, how you feed him can also make a difference. In his new cookbook/nutrition guide Feed Your Best Friend Better, Rick Woodford has some basic tips for setting the table at floor level that can be applied to all dogs.

  • Let your dog know that patience is a virtue. “We ask our to dogs sit and stay in place while we’re dishing up their food. This helps prevent accidents as well as dogs getting into one another’s food bowl.” If the dog moves while you’re filling his bowl, let him know it’s time to sit back down by freezing in place and waiting for him to go back into position. With practice, your dog will catch on, and mealtime will be just a little calmer.
  • A bowl licked clean is not a clean bowl. Dog bowls should be washed after every meal to prevent a build-up of bacteria, dust or pet hair. “We have a collection of bowls that we rotate through the dishwasher, so every dog gets a clean bowl at each meal. You can add to your dog-bowl collection by keeping an eye out at thrift stores or garage sales,” suggests Woodford. Make sure they’re ceramic, glass or stainless steel, all of which are preferred over plastic, which can leach toxins.
  • When serving, always put down two bowls: one with water and one with food. Your pet may not empty the water bowl, but throughout the day, it accumulates bacteria, dust and even pollen that can aggravate environmental allergies. There’s nothing like a fresh bowl of water to wash down a meal.
  • A scoop is not a very well defined measurement. A month of feeding your dog just 10 percent more than he needs can easily pack a pound or two on him. Measure the appropriate amount of food for your dog into a glass container and mark with a permanent marker to create a more precise measuring tool.
  • Feed twice a day, which will help keep your dog from being either frantically hungry or overfull. Smaller meals also put less pressure on dogs’ digestive systems.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kit's Corner: Recycle
New products for dogs and their humans.
cycledog.com

Dual Function
Non-stink, quick-drying, no-fray and multitasking: what more could you ask of a dog collar? The Pup Top bottle-opener collar, made from recycled bicycle inner tubes, features a secure latch-lock buckle.
(Medium/Large) $25 cycledog.com

Hold That Bag
No matter how much we love our dogs, walking along holding a full doody bag (or two) is no one’s idea of a good time. This clever gizmo provides a secure, tangle-free way to carry up to three bags, freeing both hands for leash control. (Check out the video on their website.) $14.99 thefifthpaw.com

Keeping It Clean
From Crypton, those folks who bring us all manner of useful doggie accessories, comes the easy-care Show Mess Mat. Made from the brand’s Super Fabric in a signature pattern designed exclusively for Crypton by William Wegman, the mats not only protect the floor, they also keep bowls from sliding around.
(18" x 26") $19 cryptonathome.com

Rock Your Brew
Your pooch will be the envy of his dog park pals in his PupCap dog tag. The custommade, up-cycled bottle cap tags are also eco-friendly, with ID info sealed in by a layer of non-toxic clear resin. Plus, $1 from each sale goes to Tucson’s Hope Animal Shelter. (Sizes vary according to cap.)
$14.99 and up pupcaps.com

On the Run
Don’t leave home without the Wander Pail, Kurgo’s new stainless steel, dual-bowl set. Insulated for raw food or conventional diets, it has a sturdy handle built into the screw-on lid, and is dishwasher-safe.
(27/44 fl. oz.) $18/$20 kurgostore.com

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Shopping: Well-Designed Dog Products
Scouting out the wild world of pet products

It happened so fast. Our first visit to Denver’s Dumb Friends League was supposed to be a scouting trip, a quick spin through the facility to become familiar with their adoption process and take a peek at the pups on hand.

We didn’t expect Daisy to be there. The little blonde mutt with black ears came in the meet-and-greet room, plopped down under my legs and that was it. We had been chosen.

Though my husband, John, and I come from dog-owning families, we’d both lived dogless lives since leaving home. Even so, we realized that a couch and some old cereal bowls were not going to cut it when Daisy trotted into our apartment. All manner of necessities and incredibly cute toys and accessories beckoned, signifiers of a well-cared-for and loved animal. Suddenly, we had a shopping list.

After the adoption papers were signed, Daisy remained at the shelter to be spayed, so we had a few days. Stopping at a pet store on the way home, we were mildly overwhelmed by all of the options and price points. We wandered the aisles, then shrugged our shoulders and left with a simple food bowl and water dish. It wasn’t until Daisy’s homecoming that we started buying in earnest.

John picked out a collar and leash at the shelter’s supply shop, a matching marigold-yellow set made of hemp-cotton corduroy that’s both incredibly easy on the hands and super-strong. The color looked smashing against Daisy’s golden coat and, as a bonus, the set was made by a local company. It wasn’t cheap, but that’s what credit cards are for, right?

Following the advice of my parents and their years of Labrador experience, we bought a harness, too. Within a week, Daisy had figured out a way to slip out of it—on an “emergency” 4 am walk, no less. Back to the pet store we went, this time to get an old-school head-halter.

Once we had the basics covered, we took it to the next level: little luxuries. As tempting as it was to let the Daise cuddle with us in bed, we opted to provide her with her own sleeping arrangement. Daisy would have surely loved a deluxe, fleece-lined, canopied princess bed, but, alas, such extravagance was out of our price range—and would have looked ridiculous in our tiny apartment. We chose a far less posh item at the mega-pet-store, a bed that was really more of an oversized, paisley-print pillow. At about $10, the price was right, and the pillow fit cozily inside the crate a friend gave us. We were able to fashion a canopy bed for our little princess by stuffing the crate under a side table in the living room. Voilà: a new standard in naptime glamour.

One afternoon, the three of us took a long walk to Denver’s LoDo district, where we popped into an upscale pet boutique. Daisy busied herself with the array of smells while we gazed at the kaleidoscope of doggie toys and trinkets for sale. Everything was totally hip, slightly cheeky and ridiculously cute. And, unlike the stuff at big-box pet stores, these products had personality. Wouldn’t it be nice to get Daisy just a little something, a sassy treat to match her spunky attitude?

By this time, we’d learned that Daisy, a former stray, is a tough pup to spoil. She may enjoy a sumptuous sleeping experience, but in waking life, she’s a no-frills kind of gal. The must-have toys we bought her—a squeaky octopus, the sturdy chew sticks and bouncy playthings— went largely ignored. A purple bandanna (which we got for free) is about as far as she’ll go for fashion.

Nonetheless, we figured out ways to show her the high life, mostly through her stomach. At the pet boutique, we bought her a daisy-shaped dog cookie, complete with decorative frosting, and relaxed on the boutique’s patio, where she lapped water from a cool bowl. Sometimes, I pick up a bag of her favorite treats, which are pricey, when I snag a new bag of food. Sometimes.

There’s one item on our shopping list that we really want, but mostly for our benefit: a high-end grooming rake recommended by a trainer. Though she sang its praises, we initially ignored it. Fifty bucks for a dog brush? Yeah, right. And then Daisy blew her coat—everywhere— and we had blonde fur covering our clothes and seasoning our food. For now, I’m using a tool my folks gave us, a shedding blade made for horses. It works OK, but I still have visions of the super-efficient model. Someday, we’ll buy it. Maybe when we get a second dog.

In our initial ventures into canine accoutrements, we explored all options, from plain to over-the-top. In the end, though, practicality, price and Daisy’s personality won out, a reminder that it’s not totally up to us—with some pet products, the dog decides.

Dog's Life: Travel
Dog-Friendly Travel Along Oregon Coast
Have Dog, Will Travel
The Oregon Coast

If dog heaven were a place on earth, it would look a lot like the Oregon coast. All 363 miles of beach are publicly accessible and only a few are closed to dogs. Endless trails through lush forests offer a respite from the wind and salty sea. Hotels vie for the privilege of pampering you and your dog with complimentary chew toys, cozy beds and fireplaces.

Best Dog Beaches
At Cannon Beach, there is always a perfect stick within reach, and the whole town is bunny-scented. Dogs and owners alike love visiting because the city follows Ocean Shore rules, which state that while leashes are not specifically required, physical control must be maintained. Cape Meares and Pacific City are good options for solitude seekers.

Dog-Friendly Accommodations
For a romantic splurge, check in at the elegant Cannery Pier Hotel in Astoria. Dog beds are provided for canine guests as well as baskets overflowing with healthy dog treats and other thoughtful extras. Pets love taking in the sights, sounds and smells of birds, sea lions, fish and boats on the Columbia River from balconies jutting out from each room, while their owners enjoy a good Pinot Noir by the fire. Alternately, experience the ultimate in modern design at the Coast Cabins in Manzanita. The owners left the city and moved to Manzanita for their Weimaraner, Cameron. They know how to live and how to treat a dog like royalty.

Surfsand Resort, the Ocean Lodge and the Inn at Cannon Beach are noteworthy family-friendly places in Cannon Beach that celebrate your pet’s arrival with a welcome basket. Warm pet washes with towels are available throughout the properties for sandy dogs. Jacuzzis and fireplaces are provided for humans.

Great news for glampers: 15 yurts and four cabins in 13 Oregon State Park campgrounds along the coast opened up to pets in 2012. Visit Oregon Parks and Recreation Department online for a list of pet-friendly yurts and cabins and to make reservations.

Dog Events Worth a Trip
The Doggie Olympic Games in Long Beach, Wash., across the river from Astoria, are held June 15–16. Competitive events open to your pet include the Luciano Pavarotti Commemorative Sing-Off, the Peanut Butter Lick and the Rip Van Winkle Sleep-Off. Manzanita’s Muttzanita is a lot of fun, with a Chuckit toss, mutt massages and a pet parade (August 18). Surfsand Resort’s 15th Annual Dog Show in Cannon Beach is on October 20. Categories include Best Tail Wag and So Ugly You’re Cute.

Travel Kit for a Smooth Visit
Pack a flashlight, towel, blanket, food, water, leash, first aid kit (remember hydrogen peroxide, Pepto Bismol and tweezers), lint roller and pet bags.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Eco-gear for Earth-loving dogs
Kit's Corner
baxterandbirdie.com, Dublin Dogs, Found My Animal, Katcha Bilek studio, krebsrec

Chic, Green and Giving
Making good on their green mission, Baxter & Birdie produces pet collars, leashes and accessories made only from factory scraps and overstocked fabrics. Each collar is laminated to resist rips, moisture and mud. Whenever possible, they’re even organic. If creating recycled dog gear weren’t enough, Baxter & Birdie runs the “Buy One, Feed One” campaign, feeding one shelter animal in need for a week with every purchase. (Cover dog Charlie is modeling B&B’s Suki in the Mar/May 2012 issue!)
$34.99
baxterandbirdie.com

Save a Bottle
The Dublin Dogs line of eco-conscious gear includes collars made from 1.5 recycled plastic water bottles and waterbased inks. Available in five bright and stylish collections—including Courage (proceeds from this line benefits Chase Away K9 Cancer).
$24–$28
dublindog.com

Adopted Dogs Only
The newest release from Found My Animal, an attractive orange leash, is designed in the “official” color for rescues; now you can give your adopted dog something all her own. Thirty percent of the proceeds from each leash purchase through the Found My Animal website goes to their dog-rescue support fund.
$42–$48
foundmyanimal.com/shop

Treads to Threads
Giving new meaning to the term “upcycle,” the artists at the Katcha Bilek studio in the UK have created waterproof dog collars made out of bike tires. Available in skinny, medium and wide, and in either slick and chunky tread, we’re fans of these because they clean up well and look sharp at the dog park.
$20
Katcha Bilek shop on etsy.com

New Leash on Life
The team at Krebs Recycle fashions leashes from durable, pre- and postconsumerrecycled nylon climbing rope. There are no carbon-intensive recycling processes to turn the rope into something else— they take the original rope and simply make it into a leash. Leashes are available in four sizes.
$12.95–$15.99
krebsrecycle.com

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Top Tips for Spring Cleaning
From our readers

The entrants in a recent Bark contest had some incredible cleaning tips, and we want to share them with you. The reigning champion of reader cleaning solutions was vinegar, and we agree—it’s versatile, it’s green and it works. But take a look at a few other DIY tricks to kick your spring cleaning up a notch.

Throw a few feet of cheap nylon netting in the dryer with your clothes and bedding. It grabs all of the pet hair. Shake it out and reuse it.
—Andria Head, Bremerton, Wash.

A great way to recycle dog hair is composting— I put some in my worm box.
—Tima Priess, Ester, Alaska

Add a few drops of organic essential oil (lavender, peppermint, vanilla) to a cotton ball and suck it up with the vacuum. The cotton ball will give the carpet and room a nice, soothing smell with each vacuum.
—Irma Aguirre, San Francisco, Calif.

When my front-load washer gets stinky from retained moisture, I add one cup of baking soda with the next load of wash. It reduces that smell, helps brighten the wash and is more environmentally safe than the major detergent brands.
—Nyla Wright, Bellingham, Wash.

I recycle shredded newspaper and office paper by soaking it for a few days. Then I form bricks, let it dry and use it for our woodburning stove. Free heat!
—Abby Smith, Arbor Vitae, Wis.

I take all my old shirts and tear them into different size rags—some for windows, some for floors, some for dusting. I also save grease from the deep fryer, soak the rags and light my grill or fire.
—Sharon Phillips, Ashford, Ala.

Wear rubber gloves and run your hands over the furniture. The fur comes right up.
—Janice Mitchell, Maryland Heights, Mo.

The best way to remove dog fur from many furniture fabrics is to wet your hands and rub them along the furniture. Continue re-wetting your hands as they dry and removing the accumulated fur. It’s a snap.
—Barbara Morgan, Tucson, Ariz.

When your dog pulls the stuffing out of her toy, don’t throw it away. Put it out in the yard for nesting material for birds and small animals.
—Linda DeCelles, Rowley, Mass.

Place your silverware in a dish lined with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Pour hot water over and let soak for a minimum of 30 minutes. Wipe clean.
—Nikki King, Federal Way, Wash.

For cleaning “gunk” from the walls and mirrors of our rental, we found that diluted white vinegar works great. —Veronica Adrover, Modesto, Calif.

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Dogs Bring Relief to Soldiers
Operation Stress Control
Captain Cecilia Najera of the U.S. Army

Forty-eight to 72 hours after a critical event occurs in a war zone — a soldier is killed in an explosion, for example — the U.S. Army’s Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) unit offers what it calls traumatic event management to help the affected unit cope with the loss. “We debrief and talk about what they experienced,” says Capt. Cecilia Najera, an occupational therapist. “We reinforce [the fact] that the symptoms and feelings they are having are normal reactions to something that is abnormal.”

During one such gathering, in Tikrit, Iraq, the soldiers sat in a circle around Boe, a black Labrador and one of the first army dogs to be deployed specifically to provide troops with emotional support. Some of the men and women wanted to talk about the incident. Others, trying to get a handle on their feelings, just wanted to listen. A few found it easier to talk when they were petting the dog.

“It was somber,” Najera remembers. But then, in the middle of the circle, Boe broke the gloomy atmosphere with an abrupt movement. “She tried to catch a fly,” Najera says, “and everyone laughed. She definitely offered a bit of a distraction and helped lighten the mood.”

Sgt. 1st Class Boe was arguably one of the hardest-working and most popular soldiers at the base during her deployment. In a place where both the emotional and the physical climates are harsh, Boe became de facto family for many of the soldiers. She got them talking when they were inclined to shut down, and frolicking when they needed to relax. She allowed them to express themselves emotionally and demonstrate affection (which she reciprocated) in an environment where warmth and tenderness were in exceedingly short supply.

The program was launched in 2007, and Boe and another black Lab, Budge, became the army’s first COSC dogs, helping service members deal with combat anxieties, homefront issues and sleep disorders. They were donated to the army by America’s VetDogs, a sister organization of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. The foundation has a history of working with the military, back to post–World War II days, when they provided guide dogs for vision-impaired veterans.

There is nothing new about dogs working with soldiers — they are well established and valuable in areas of detection and security. But it wasn’t until folks from the army’s COSC unit approached VetDogs about sending therapy dogs to Iraq that the nonprofit organization began training its canines for a very different purpose.

“These dogs have to have impeccable behavior,” says Wells Jones, CEO of VetDogs and the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. “We’re giving them that behavior, plus preparation for all kinds of people and circumstances.” He acknowledges that, seeking a similar emotional connection, military units have been known to adopt local dogs. But those dogs, few of whom have been inoculated, can bring disease onto a base. Most importantly, the army has a rule against it. General Order 1-A says that soldiers are forbidden to adopt, care for or even feed any domestic or wild animals in the war zone.

Trainers choose COSC dogs, whose jobs fall under the umbrella of animalassisted therapy, based on temperament. It’s critical that they do not react negatively to loud noises, and that they follow their handler’s commands despite distractions ranging from mortar rounds to a soldier bearing a tempting treat. Training includes exposure to groundrumbling noises (rifle ranges) and exotic transportation (helicopters).

With security in mind, VetDogs chose Boe and Budge in part for their color — black. “We were thinking that they’d be less visible at night,” Jones says. “But since then, our preference has changed and we’d prefer them on the lighter side because of the strong sunlight and the fur’s ability to reflect.”

Before a dog is sent overseas, army handlers spend time training at the VetDogs campus on Long Island, N.Y., and at army bases. Although one person becomes the dog’s primary handler, three others are also trained to ensure that 11th-hour staffing changes won’t affect the dog’s care. On top of that, 40 to 50 people in each unit receive one day of basic instruction in dog care — for instance, do not feed the dog MREs (the army’s infamous Meals Ready-to- Eat, which may, in some cases, be less palatable than kibble). When the dog is fully trained, he or she travels on official army orders to the war zone.

Opening Doors to Mental Health
“I didn’t know what to expect with Boe,” Najera says. “It was my first deployment, and I had no clue how I’d use the dog.” As part of COSC’s prevention team, Najera facilitated outreach and classes in areas such as coping skills and suicide prevention. Boe, constantly at Najera’s side, made her purpose clear in no time.

“There’s still a mental-health stigma,” Najera says. “When you say, ‘Hi, I’m from Stress Control,’ people tend to run the other way. But I found that having a dog opened up doors. Instead of having to [make the] approach, people approached me.” She says it also gave soldiers something neutral to talk about, especially if they had pets at home. Before they knew it, they would be talking about personal aspects of their lives and even — on occasion — their feelings.

Najera found that she and Boe were always working. Not only were they available to men and women dealing with combat trauma or news of tragedy back home, but soldiers would also approach the pair at the dining facility or while they were running on the track (part of the old Iraqi Air Force base where they were staying). Najera created a program for a couple of overweight soldiers to run with Boe, and the dog even participated in a 5K on the base. The four-legged competitor still managed to boost morale, even after beating a few human racers. On Boe’s fourth birthday, the Army Dixie band played, and the dining facility staff made a cake and a piñata. “It was a party for her, but it was really for our community,” Najera says. “It just showed how much people really enjoyed having a dog.”

Boe wasn’t immune to the high-stress environment. After all, she was charged with comforting many of the 16,000 people living on a base that was active 24 hours a day. “I think the dogs experience compassion fatigue too,” Najera says. “When soldiers tell us what they’re going through, it becomes stressful for us, because we’re absorbing the stresses. I think it was the same for the dogs.” Eventually, a forced nap was scheduled into Boe’s day.

In Mosul, at Forward Operating Base Marez, Budge lived at a smaller facility but still had his work cut out for him: consoling troops at a trailer-based clinic and going for walkabouts to visit units. The base was mortared multiple time a day, and though Budge raised his ears at the sound, he didn’t panic. He even had a chance to save a life, donating blood to a military police dog who was injured along with his handler in a shooting.

Like Boe, Budge was a superstar and champion icebreaker, garnering invitations (to unit social gatherings, for instance) that a mental-health provider might never get otherwise. “We couldn’t go anywhere without someone calling his name,” recalls his handler, Staff Sgt. Syreeta Reid, an occupational therapy assistant. “They didn’t remember my name, but they always knew I was the one with Budge.” Sometimes Reid set up play dates between Budge and the soldiers: Frisbee or fetch on a field where an Iraqi soccer team once played.

In both countries, the weather is unforgiving and the physical conditions are challenging, and the dogs — just like other soldiers — are deployed with proper gear. They have booties to protect their paws from the hot ground and Doggles to protect their eyes from blowing sand. They have cooling jackets for daytime and, in Afghanistan, warm vests for night. Reid says she inspected Budge’s paws daily to make sure they weren’t cracked, and used cream to keep them hydrated. The mercury rose to 135 degrees some days, and those were indoor days for Budge.

On days with multiple soldier visits, Budge would inevitably receive too many treats. Reid says one of the hardest things was dispelling the myth that food equals love. The fact was, Budge was getting a little, well, pudgy. Reid pled with his fans to limit the treats, but eventually resorted to serving him smaller meals to control his weight.

Homecoming
Boe and Budge were deployed for 18 months, returning to the U.S. in April 2009. Jones says that people remember working dogs not returning from Vietnam, but “these dogs travel on orders,” he says, “so they all come home.” Upon their return, they go to VetDogs for evaluation and retraining for their next army assignment. Most of the former COSC dogs have been redeployed to occupational or physical therapy clinics at U.S. bases.

Studies are currently underway at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, next to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, to help understand exactly how the dogs are helping soldiers. Anecdotal evidence shows that the presence of an animal helps soldiers sleep and lowers their anxiety.

But just like any other area of military medicine, it’s critical to have research to show the effectiveness of the therapy dog program, which — with training, transportation, gear and care — isn’t cheap. In the meantime, the deployments continue, even though the dogs haven’t yet been formally added to the COSC unit’s personnel roster.

Today, three dogs are serving in Afghanistan (Apollo, Timmy and Zeke). Two dogs (Butch and Zack) returned from Iraq in December and are temporarily back at VetDogs before they are redeployed to Afghanistan. After retraining, Boe and Budge were sent to Ft. Gordon’s Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Georgia. Budge died in 2010 from lymphoma, and Boe is now working at Georgia’s Ft. Benning, lending a paw to the healing of wounded soldiers. It’s hard to know if Boe is happy to be back in her home country because she takes such pleasure in working and helping people, regardless of who owns the turf. Being deployed might not be such a bad life for a dog. “These dogs are doing something they love to do,” Jones says. “They love to be with people. So it’s not the same circumstance as soldiers, who are away from their families. The dogs are with their family.”

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Walking Services
Three companies to watch
Building a Better Dog Walker

Swifto
The recently launched Swifto aims to provide busy New Yorkers with experienced and responsive dog-walking assistance. The fledgling web-based service connects people to a fiveborough- wide squad of handpicked, independent dog walkers. Unlike similar services that rely mostly on location to make recommendations, Swifto uses an algorithm that also factors in dogs’ specific needs and challenges and walkers’ past jobs, skills and ratings. In addition to helping broker long-term dog-walking relationships, Swifto’s other handy service is a “quick match” for clients in a bind. The company promises that within 60 minutes of a customer request, a walker will be in touch to sort out details and—with the customer’s go-ahead—have the dog’s leash in hand. Walks are $20 for one dog for 30 minutes and $5 for an additional dog; for $10 more, the dog gets a full hour walk.
swifto.com

Pet Check Technology
As in so many spheres, technology is making dog walking more transparent —no more wondering if, when and where your dog got her constitutional. Pet Check Technology launched the first dog-walking software and mobile app in 2001, which provides a homebased barcode that walkers scan to signal the start and the end of a walk. In addition, people can track each jaunt online using real-time GPS and email updates.

“Our hope is, of course, that customers will begin to request this service, so they can have peace of mind that their dog is being properly walked and/or exercised,” says Doug Simon, founder of Pet Check Technology. The Pet Check Technology software is also designed to function as a business- management tool for professional dog walkers, and includes scheduling and billing applications. Membership starts at $29.99 per month.
petchecktechnology.com

Jogs for Dogs
When he started Jogs for Dogs in 2007, founder Brendan Fahey imagined a fairly traditional dog-walking service, with a twist: the walkers would be runners. But he soon learned that this small adjustment to his Seattle-based business had big implications. Runners can only take one or two dogs at a time, and two hours of pounding the pavement is most runners’ daily max. It wasn’t, as they say in the business world, scalable.

After a few years, Fahey got out of the time-intensive business of managing a small army of bonded, insured runners—mostly University of Washington students—and, last May, launched JogsForDogs.com, a matchmaking website that brings dog-loving runners together with dogs who need runs.

In the new paradigm, a dog is most likely to be paired with an avid runner and dog-lover who works in an unrelated field. “It’s about connecting people with dogs and people who love dogs,” Fahey says. “It’s more like hiring a babysitter than a nanny.” Joggers set their own prices and dog owners do their own interviewing and reference-checking. Currently, Jogs for Dogs has runners in 22 states and eight other countries, including Canada, the UK, Sweden, Italy, France, Spain, Slovenia and New Zealand.
jogsfordogs.com

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