Dog's Life: Travel
On the road with Kristiana Spaulding and Osa
This is how our story began. Five years ago, I thought I would go crazy if I spent another day without a dog—and without Greg, whom I had been dating long distance for three-and-a-half years. So I packed up my apartment in San Francisco and drove two hours east to Lotus, Calif. It took me three trips to move—who knew a studio apartment could hold so much stuff?
I used my 1969 GMC pickup for the move. “Why does a city girl have a pickup with an 8-foot bed?” you might ask. Because three years ago, while in grad school, I caught “aluminum fever.” My MFA thesis focused on room settings in miniature— places I’ve lived throughout my life replicated in small scale and displayed in vintage make-up travel cases. I exhibited my thesis in an equally vintage Airstream I had remodeled for the project. I kept both the 24-foot trailer and the pickup truck in storage in Petaluma, Calif., 45 minutes away. It made for a nice road trip.
After Greg and I settled into our little starter rental shack in Lotus, I waited until we were on friendly terms with our landlord and then approached him with my request. “So, Chuck,” I said gingerly. “I was thinking how great it would be to have a dog.” I knew Chuck was a dog lover—he had a yellow Lab named Sammy who went to work with him every day. “Yeah, sorry, Kristiana,” he said, looking at the ground, “I really can’t allow that because of insurance.” I stared at him with my mouth wide open. “Sorry,” he said, and walked back to his truck. I stood there in shock. No dog? What?
I had been missing dogs since my childhood pet, Rusty, a scrappy Dachshund/ Beagle mix, had died 17 years prior. My dog urge was strong. But it looked as if—even though my move to the country was partly inspired by the thought of a having a pup of my own—my canine pal would have to wait. My spirits were deflated.
Months passed. Then I heard about Petfinder.com through a fellow dog-loving friend. I logged on and never logged off, spending hours on end looking at dog after dog—seriously, we had dial-up and it took about six minutes to load each dog’s photo. But it was worth every minute. Why was I punishing myself by looking at dogs I was forbidden to have? I still had hope and I would not give up. Then I found Osa. I did a search for “lab/ female/young/nationwide” and there she was, her head huge and her body tiny in the web photo. It was love at first sight.
During the next big storm, a piece of the roof actually came off our house. I went over to see Chuck and told him,“ A piece of our roof just blew off!” At last I had him where I wanted. I added, “And we’re getting a dog!” Chuck, the kindly landlord, agreed.
Osa was four months old when we got her, but seemed as though she’d been part of our home since she was born. Five years and six trailers later, we’re still happy as can be and Osa is often my copilot when I tow my trailer, a 1960 Airstream that I named “Little Lotus,” to vintage trailer rallies.
The very first rally we went to was in 29 Palms, Calif., near Joshua Tree National Park. Hey, we weren’t afraid of an 18- hour drive the first time out. Ten hours into our journey, we stopped at a rest area and snoozed in the Airstream together. It was a chilly night and we snuggled up tight. Back on the road, we didn’t stop until we reached Joshua Tree—just in time for sunrise. Spectacular. I had never seen anything like it, and neither had Osa. We looked at each other and then back at the landscape in awe.
We had a lot of photo ops early that morning, and then decided to get in a nap before we headed into 29 Palms for the rally. Content, we snuggled up again to recover from the long road trip. About two hours later, I woke up and peeked out the window. Snow? Whaaaa? Beautiful! Amazing! Then I said to Osa, “I hope my old truck can get us out of here!”
We had a rousing time driving through the snow with Little Lotus in tow. We finally made it to the gate, where the ranger was waiting for us in his booth. I was wound up by the adventure, and my words came out in short bursts. “Oh— my—goodness—I didn’t know if we would make it.” Just then I looked up to see him smiling, and also saw the sunny landscape just beyond the gate. “Oh.” I said. No snow. We had definitely been in our own little microclimate in the park.
Airstream rallies are a lot of fun. A Saturday-night potluck is standard at most of them, and this one was no exception.“ No dogs” at the potluck was also a rule, no exceptions. Darn. Knowing that Osa, a.k.a. “Houdini,” would no doubt try to bust out of the Airstream, I barricaded the inside, locked the door and barricaded the outside (after leaving her treats and fluffing up the bed covers, of course).
Fifteen minutes into the potluck (which was sited clear across the campground), a man named Paul who was also attending the rally came up to me and said, “Does this dog look familiar?” It was Osa. Paul told me he took one look at Osa’s dog tag and knew she was part of the Airstream group, so he brought her to the potluck and found me. I had never been so glad to be a jewelry designer who also makes Airstream style and dog jewelry!
Osa didn’t leave my sight that whole trip. She is the greatest co-pilot a girl could hope for. Super snuggler, she’s also good at giving strangers the “stink eye” at 2 AM service-station fill-ups. I love her dearly. We are planning our next road trip soon. Looks like it may involve beaches with lots of room to run.
Look for us on the road … happy travels!
Bark Likes This
Sometimes the most impactful innovations are those made to simple, every day acts — like picking up your dog’s waste. We were introduced to Eco Dog Planet’s Doggie Waste Bags at last month’s Global Pet Expo where they debuted their eco-friendly poop bags made from tapioca. The light but sturdy bags are manufactured from the starch of tapioca plants, a sustainable non-GMO crop that helps support small farmers in Indonesia. The material easily decomposes in soil or landfills when exposed to micro-organisms. Renewable resources, community farming — a great back story for sure, but how does the product … perform? Very well we’ve found. The bags have a slightly thicker feel to them than other starch bags we’ve tested, and a toothy surface that helps buffer the tactile experience. Plus, they don’t fall apart in your pocket after a few weeks as some other starch bags do. Bark loves Eco Dog Planet’s Doggie Waste Bags! A pack of 60 bags sells for $9.99 at ecodogplanet.com
Click here for a chance to win a box of bags.
The creators of the new movie Darling Companion have an eye and ear for real-life drama.
Lawrence and meg kasdan wrote one of my favorite movies: Grand Canyon, a 1991 film about six people who find their lives intersecting in Los Angeles. Like other movies directed and written by Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist), it contains a number of remarkable lines of dialogue. One, spoken by Steve Martin, stands out. “That’s part of your problem … you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”
One of life’s riddles about dogs is answered in the new movie Darling Companion, also co-written by the Kasdans. The riddle is this: how do dogs remind us of our own humanity? The film also shows how dogs bring us closer to one another.
The movie tells the tale of a longtime married couple who look just fine on the outside. Dr. Joseph Winter (Kevin Kline) and his wife Beth (Diane Keaton) have it all, including a gorgeous second home in the Colorado Rockies. But under the surface we see that, obsessed by his career as a surgeon, Winter is rarely fully present for their lives. The movie truly begins when Beth’s emptiness is accidently filled by a rescued dog named Freeway.
As Meg Kasdan says, “We thought of Dr. Winter as a distracted person, in this case, by his career. Their relationship was beginning to fray from it.” Lawrence adds, “We really wanted to make it about paying attention, being present. It doesn’t matter if it’s a wife, husband or anyone else … not paying attention is a metaphor.” And not paying attention is exactly what happens when Beth’s beloved Freeway runs off into the woods and gets lost. This is based on a true story from an episode in the Kasdans’ 40-year marriage.
The couple spoke to me from their office in Los Angeles; it was a breezy conversation among three complete dog fans. As soon as I told them I believe dogs take us to our higher selves, they knew we would connect on this film … and share the joy and gratitude dogs bring to our lives. Lawrence believes that “the world changes when you love a dog, or a pet of any kind. You have a sensitivity you didn’t have before. You identify at the vet with others … you see the worry, the comfort, the control. It all opens a whole new world.” Meg, a true partner in doggie love, goes on. “We spend a lot of time with three dogs. We have our own rescue mutt — a Cattle Dog/Shepherd mix, Mack — and our son’s two dogs. We all walk together in the woods … they give us the best, fullest way to experience wilderness.”
They had their dog-centered story to tell, but how would they find just the right dog to take center stage? Lawrence realized that there’s no casting couch when looking for a dog star in a movie. “With this movie, I knew a trainer would be as important as finding the right D.P. or actor. We needed a great dog and a great trainer.” After interviewing many trainers with dogs, Meg said they were thrilled with the work done by Steve Solomon and Sarah Cole and their dog Kasey, a mixed breed with Collie and German Shepherd in his background. Lawrence looked for the quality in a dog that he most cherishes in an actor: “the ability to be in repose … to listen. Kasey can just sit or lie down and be contented to be there. He also looked so right; he is a rescue dog playing a rescue dog … He had nicks and scratches.”
With a few welcome exceptions like The Artist, Beginners or Our Idiot Brother, dogs in movies too often are exploited, reduced to props used for cruel laughter or a character’s neglect or abuse. Darling Companion not only keeps the dog love sweet and soulful, it drives both the plot and the characters. According to Lawrence, “The search in the film for the dog is a metaphor for people searching for their own connections to each other.” In the movie, Russ (Richard Jenkins) and Penny (Dianne Wiest) have found each other later in life, while the younger characters (played by Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass) are beginning the search for caring and commitment. They all are searching for the dog and for each other.
Carmen (Ayelet Zurer) is on a discovery of self, forming and listening to her intuitive visions. Meg Kasdan found Carmen’s perceptions in their real-life story when they lost Mack for a number of days after he freaked out on a mountain trail. As Meg remembers, “we had allowed a friend to watch over Mack and they were on a walk together. A mountain-bike rider whizzed by and our dog just took off after it; suddenly, he was nowhere to be found. We conducted a massive search as you see in the film, though we’ve taken artistic and a few comic liberties. Through it all with Mack, we had a friend who kept up our spirits with the certain knowledge that the dog was all right, providing clues she somehow knew as to where he was going. When we finally found him by the river, Mack had lost seven pounds and was filthy, but he was absolutely fine.” Lawrence believes that “this search was a good catalyst about relationships, a way to fight to reach a place of what is, hopefully, inner contentment.”
Contentment, satisfying conclusions, kindness of heart and joyful simplicity are not seen in mainstream Hollywood movies these days. Lawrence knows it too well. “It’s hard to make any movie about people anymore, anything that isn’t an action-comic-book piece or extremely dumb comedies. You know, the kind of movies we loved are hard to get made. I was 14 when I saw Lawrence of Arabia and it changed my life. That was it for me. It had everything: personal details mixed with gigantic story and sweep. It made me want to make movies and tell stories that way.” Meg “flipped out” when she saw Some Like It Hot, noticing not only the warmth and wacky fun, but Marilyn Monroe’s heartfelt performance. The three of us agreed that movies have changed our lives. And that dogs enrich, inspire and connect us to each other. In fact, my dogs, Duke and Ella, are staring at me as I write this. Lawrence and Meg told me they wrote the screenplay with three dogs surrounding them.
Dogs: they are indeed our darling companions. sonyclassics.com/darlingcompanion
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The whys and hows of the canine-equine bond
He’d been a birthday present for my mother. The Artful Dodger, we called him. A broken-coated Jack Russell Terrier, he sported a lopsided look, with one ear soft and dropped, the other starched upright in full salute. From the moment we brought Dodger home and posed him atop my old Paint horse, Clyde, for a quick photo-op (Dodger’s markings made him look like Clyde’s Mini-Me), it was clear that this dog was born to be around horses.
During his 14 years as Head Stable Dog, Dodger led the charge on morning and evening chores. He was frequently underfoot and escaped more than his fair share of flying hooves. But he also knew his job, and was tireless in his efforts to purge our stable of marauding rodents. And whether playing chase with the yearlings or lounging in the sun with the seniors, it was obvious that Dodger not only loved being close to the horses, he also had an innate sense of just how close was too close. Horse sense just seemed to be in his genes. After all, Jack Russells were bred as fox-hunting dogs, designed to run with the horses and follow the fox when it went to ground.
Years later, while working as a horse trainer at a ranch in northern Colorado, I witnessed a different level of interspecies interaction as I watched the cowboys, their horses and their dogs—Border Collies, Heelers and a few “ranch-bred specials”— at work sorting cattle. Whenever a wary bovine decided to make a break for it, the team of three intensely focused individuals would begin an elaborate dance of ducks and dodges designed to guide the wayward cow back into position.
As I continued to observe these working dog/horse teams, I began to suspect that the nature of this interspecies interaction was far more complex than what could be described by the classical predator- prey analogy. While both dogs and horses are, at heart, social animals who readily form long-lasting attachments to specific individuals, their reasons for forming social groups are fundamentally different. As prey animals, horses rely on each other for survival. Something you may have noticed if you’ve ever seen a group of wild (or domesticated) horses at rest in a field: While most of the herd sleeps, there is always one individual who remains alert and watchful, ready to sound the alarm at a moment’s notice.
Most wild canids, on the other hand, form packs to better bring down prey, living as a group to hunt more successfully. Hence, for dogs, membership in a pack is desirable but not necessary for survival. As domesticated animals, however, dogs are forced into a constructed social hierarchy that might include one or more dogs, at least one human and, in the case of the working dog, a whole host of other creatures.
Indeed, since their domestication, interspecies relationships between dogs and other animals have become not only possible, but also relatively commonplace. Part of the reason has to do with an evolutionary process called neoteny, in which particular aspects of a species’ development slow to the point where adults retain many traits previously seen in juveniles. This process has been at work in dogs since their wolf ancestors first began lingering around human settlements, and is responsible for producing the type of canine we all know and love: that cuddly, playful creature we bring into our homes and often allow to share our beds.
Not surprisingly, this perpetual juvenility curbs the majority of dogs’ most aggressive predatory instincts. Herding dogs, for instance, utilize predatory tactics to control their flocks, but fail to follow through on the instinct to bring down an animal in their charge. It is also what allows dogs’ work to seem an awful lot like play, and what frequently makes the line between playful pursuit and aggressive harassment more than a little bit blurry.
Merle and Sandi Newton of Crystal Rose Cow Dog College in Red Bluff, Calif., have been professionally training stock dogs for over a quarter of a century. Perennial champions at regional and national cow dog competitions, the couple knows a few things about identifying that fine line between playmate and predator, and what it takes to foster a good working bond between canines and equines.
Teaching a stock dog to work cattle alongside horses—something that’s crucial on vast Western ranches—begins with asking the dog to distinguish between types of prey. “We’re actually controlling and curbing a strong predator instinct,” explains Merle.
For this reason, establishing the human as the leader is a prerequisite for work with both horses and stock. Once the dog learns to act on his herding instincts only when given the go-ahead, the introduction of horse and dog usually proceeds quite smoothly. “The first time that our dogs see a horse, we want to be aboard [the horse]. That way, the dog starts to think of the horse as part of the human,” says Merle. Once the two become accustomed to one another, dogs quickly form bonds with “their” horses. “If someone was to get on my horse and ride off,” says Merle, “my dog would follow that horse until I called him away.”
Provided neither party is threatened by the other’s presence, and especially if there is some mutual benefit like play (or, as in the case of stock dogs, a working activity that feels like play), both horse and dog can certainly begin to view each other as just another member of the pack/herd.
“But, they’re predator and prey, fundamentally,” says Anne Dickens, director of publicity for the British Carriage Dog Society, “so why do they get along? I’m convinced it has more to do with the human than with the dog and the horse. Dogs see that the horses are a part of our lives, and therefore a part of their lives as well. And it works both ways. The horses trust the dogs because we trust them.”
Whether it is that trust, a working relationship, or simply mutual curiosity, there is little doubt that dogs and horses do form some remarkable bonds. Dickens was witness to one such partnership during the 2008 Carriage Dog Trials in Worcestershire, England (an endurance and obedience event designed to both demonstrate and test the Dalmatian’s traditional role as a companion to horses and carriages).
Midway through the 25-mile course, half of her two-pony team had to be retired due to a high heart rate. Having been declared a “jolly fit little pony” by the vet on call, the remaining pony (named Polo) was left to run the second 12 miles on his own. As the team of two dogs, one driver, and now only one horse struggled to finish the course in time, Dickens watched as all began working—for the very first time—as a genuine team.
“With about three miles to go, my dog Fenris picked up on Polo’s energy and concentration and fell in beside him, where his harness mate would normally have been,” says Dickens. “He stayed there for the next couple of miles, every few moments glancing up at Polo, seemingly urging him on. It was quite extraordinary—especially from a dog who usually keeps his distance from the horses.” Eventually, Fenris’s sister Freya noticed what was going on and fell into place on Polo’s other side. “Now, it might be that they just got excited by the speed and thought it was a jolly game,” says Dickens. “But the way they behaved and the look on their faces made me think they knew the stakes were high and we all had to pull together as a team.”
Such partnerships, whether fleeting— like that of Fenris, Freya and Polo—or lasting a lifetime, are a perfect illustration of the depth and breadth of our animals’ capacity for understanding and emotion. Doubtless, our ability to enjoy these complex relationships may forever eclipse our capacity to understand the precise evolutionary and behavioral mechanisms that make them possible. But this much is clear: In their openness to the unknown, their tolerance and their willingness to trust, animals may have a thing or two yet to teach us.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The how [and why] of teaching dogs to carry packs
In Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, a spirited young Buddhist named Japhy takes his domesticated friends for a crash course in what he calls “mountain smashing.” While it sounds destructive, mountain smashing is really just a colorful euphemism for climbing to the summit. It’s choosing to spend a day outdoors instead of glued to the television, and Japhy makes it his life’s work to share such choices as a better way of living. He teaches his friends about the roar of the wilderness, the stillness of forests, and how a few miles on your boots and some basic camp food can convince you that you’re the luckiest person alive. Though I don’t have my own personal beatniks to take me outside and teach me to pay attention, I have even better guides: dogs.
With their red and blue packs, my dogs look like mountain smashers. They no longer resemble the goofy and good-natured Siberians who take my spot on the couch during movie snack breaks—they look like kind wolves, my personal escorts into the wilderness. Though dogs aren’t wild animals, they are not as foreign to the forest as we humans are. They’re the perfect link between the worlds, and with their packs on, they seem like my own personal sherpas—experienced guides showing me the world of wolves bubbling in their Husky blood.
The packs they wear are light, extensions of themselves; in them, they carry extra water, wool sweaters, biscuits and trail mix. They sport them proudly as they leap over fallen trees and dash after the smells of deer and porcupines. Having saddlebags on the backs of the dogs is convenient, too. I can access things I need quickly, instead of stopping to wrestle off my own backpack and root through it. The whole experience of dog packing makes our time outside together richer.
I adopted both of my trail-mates as adults when they were four years old; neither had carried a pack before they met me, but the training came quickly and easily. The trick was two-fold: First, making sure I had packs engineered for canine athletes that fit them perfectly. Second (and perhaps the secret to pack training), making sure those packs were only slipped onto their fluffy backs if we were going to have fun. When I first purchased Jazz and Annie’s packs, I’d lash them on for every trip to the dog park or walk around the block. The idea was to associate that weird new harness with action and adventure, even if it was only put on to chase a ball around the yard. Within short order, they associated the light panniers with time spent with me outdoors. Incidentally, so did I.
Over the next few weekends, I slowly added gear and distance to their pack walks. Soon, they were joining me on jaunts to the local co-op for some light grocery shopping. I’d secure them outside in the shade with water and take their packs inside as my eco-friendly shopping bags. When I returned with the heavier loads, I’d harness them up and we’d walk home together, all three of us smiling. They were getting exercise and smelling busy sidewalks, and I was saving myself a car trip for milk and eggs. It feels good to know you’ve done this good work together.
Within two months, the dogs and I were hiking the trails, and by the end of that first summer, the dogs were carrying all of our supplies for an entire day trip. When it was time for a meal, we’d find a clearing by a stream or a lake and have a grand picnic. Liver treats and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich never tasted better (they got the treats, I got the pb&j). I’d pull a tattered old paperback out of Annie’s pack and the dogs would snooze in the sun. I cannot imagine being in the wilderness without them. They’re my Dharma bums, and as a team, we smash mountains with the best of them. I think Japhy would approve.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Home Works: Smart Solutions
Ringware Dog Bowls
People Towels for Pet Lovers
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Who said you have to sacrifice style for functionality? Definitely not Kurgo. Kurgo’s sturdy Newport Seat Covers are everything you and your pooch need to travel in clean, comfortable style.
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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Vetstreet identifies naming themes over the past 12 years
Pet names can tell you a lot about a person’s personality. Some people follow themes around favorite things. I love Pixar movies so I named all of my pups after characters from the movies. Others have a preference for sweet sounding names or tough sounding names. And as more people consider their pets a part of the family, more dogs are getting names traditionally set aside for humans.
In 2011, the most popular dog names were Max, Buddy, Bella, and Daisy. (Funny enough, I don’t know any dogs that go by those names!) Max, which has held the top spot for several years, may be the most popular, but apparently it’s not the most trendy.
Pet care website, Vetstreet, searched their records and determined the top 10 names that have been trending over the past 12 years. The names that came up include Lola, Stella, Bentley and Diesel.
In its research, Vetstreet found a resurgence in short, old-fashioned nicknames, like Lulu and Milo; endearing, cozy-sounding names, like Lulu and Zoey; traditional human names, like Stella and Cooper; and names from pop culture, like Marley from the book and movie Marley and Me and Nala, the female cub in The Lion King. The website expects the name of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s new puppy, Lupo, will be very popular next year.
Vetstreet believes that these themes reflect the personal attachment that we have with our pets these days. And I also think it shows how obsessed with are with pop culture!
Have you noticed any popular or trendy names in your neighborhood?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A trainer talks about her “heart dog”
I love dogs. I love stories. And I love love. It stands to reason that I would love stories about the love of dogs, and, in fact, I do. Recently, I read this one about trainer Kathy Sdao and her dog Effie, the kind of once-in-a-lifetime dog whose entrance into someone’s life changes it forever. Whether we call such dogs the loves of our lives, our heart dogs, or our soulmates, they remind us that love is for every day, not just Valentine’s Day, and their love makes life richer, better, sweeter.
Kathy shares the experience of having her second husband leave her on September 10, 2001 for another woman, much as her first husband had done many years earlier. She would have been shattered even without facing what the following day brought, and it was Effie who helped her resist the temptation to take her own life.
Many dogs have saved people’s lives, thankfully, and there is something especially powerful about Effie having done this for Kathy by fostering her will to live. Kathy writes, “I gradually realized, with genuine surprise, that just having her close by, I felt a tiny ribbon of relief deep inside. It turns out that this simple pleasure of her presence, at a time when nothing else brought comfort, was the first steppingstone on my path back to wholeness and happiness.”
Describing Effie as her “joy-coach,” Kathy says, “She knows what's important: playing daily, experiencing the nowness of every moment, speaking volumes without using words, surrounding herself with dear friends.”
It’s been more than a decade now since Effie saved her life, and that time has given her a delightful new perspective, which is “I may not know how to pick men, but I sure as hell know how to pick a dog!”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bark Likes This
We love Spindrift’s Safety Collar for keeping our pups safe and visible during our twilight walks. This one-inch wide webbed collar can be seen on the thickest coats and is trimmed on both sides with bright 3M reflective piping. Its Neoprene lining ups the comfort factor while maintaining the collar’s durability and functionality.
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