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
Saying Thanks
Who are the important people in your dog's life?

From political platforms to airing grievances, award show acceptance speeches give celebrities 30 seconds to fill the air with whatever is most important to them. Game of Thrones actor and winner of the Best Supporting Actor Emmy Award on Sunday night, Peter Dinklage, showed how much he loves his pup, Kevin, when he thanked his dog sitter in his acceptance speech, perhaps a first in the show's history.

Someone once told me that it takes a lot of work to raise a dog in today's complicated world and I completely agree. Dinklage's acceptance speech made me think about all of the people I would thank for making a big difference in my dogs' lives.

First would be my parents, who take care of my dogs when I'm at work and on vacation. Then my training instructors, who have taught me the skills to teach my dogs good manners and how to have fun together in sports like agility. And last, but not least, my training buddies, who help me work through training challenges and support me through hard times.

Who would you thank on behalf of your dogs?

News: Guest Posts
Happy 21st Birthday Betsy!
Scottsdale senior pup posts another year of donuts and chicken

Last August, I posted a blog about a Pomeranian-mix named Betsy on her 20th birthday. Not many dogs enjoy 20 good years. So I couldn't pass up a chance to say, happy birthday, as she adds one more candle to her cake. Tomorrow, the former injured stray turns 21—that’s pushing well past the century mark in canine years. She’ll be celebrating the big day with her peeps James and Meryl Tulin, her three veterinarians, and her canine sisters, a five-year-old Golden Retriever named Lily and a ten-year-old Shih Tzu named Winnie.

While she may not be the oldest living pup in the world (that title belongs to a 26-year-old mixed breed pup named Pusuke in Sakura-shi, Japan, according to the Guinness World Records), she is a member of a very small and esteemed club.

"She is a most remarkable animal and still top dog in our household,” James Tulin says. Last year, Chessman Cookies, steak and chicken were favorites for the Scottsdale, Ariz., senior citizen. But Tulin says she has a new love, “Dunkin Donuts French Cruller each morning!” I wonder what she’ll get for her birthday.

Do you have a long-lived dog? What's his or her secret?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Budgeting for Dog Expenses
The ASPCA and Mint.com calculate annual and monthly pet costs

Dog lovers don't need a survey to tell us that we spend a lot of money on our pups. But exactly how big is our pet budget?

The ASPCA calculated basic annual expenses for a variety of pets (not including one-time purchases, like a crate or leash). According to their survey, the average medium dog incurs the following costs per year:

  • Food - $118
  • Recurring Medical - $236.30
  • Toys/Treats - $55.60
  • License - $13.90
  • Health Insurance - $222.40
  • Miscellaneous - $41.70

I don't buy pet health insurance, but I know that I can easily spend over $400 on medical bills for one of my dogs in a year. And I definitely spend more than $118 per dog on food. Let's not even get started about agility classes and trials!

Personal money management website, Mint.com, also looked at pet spending through their users. They found that the average person in the United States spends $112 per month on their pets (note that this number is for all pets in a given household). They also looked at variation by city. San Francisco spent the most money, $148 per month over the national average.

Obviously, there are many things that influence these numbers, but it's a good start to get people thinking about pet related expenses before they add a dog to the family.

How much do you estimate that you spend on each of your dogs in one year?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Burial Ban in New York
State puts an end to human ashes in pet cemeteries

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, the first of its kind in America, holds a special place in my heart. My cat was cremated there and I have friends whose pets are buried there. The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery has been open for over 100 years and is a testament to the special relationship humans have with their pets.

Given that it's the final resting place for many special animals, it's not surprising that about 600 pet lovers chose to join their dogs and cats by having their ashes buried at the cemetery. Although people have been doing this for decades, the ritual is now a thing of the past.

In February, New York's Division of Cemeteries made the practice illegal and ordered the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery to stop taking human ashes. The statewide ban became official in April.

Officials say the ruling was created because human cemeteries have more state protections than pet cemeteries. Additionally, human cemeteries must be nonprofit while pet cemeteries can be a for-profit businesses.

As you can imagine, plot holders at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery are angry about the sudden restriction.

I understand where the Division of Cemeteries is coming from, but it seems unfair since there are no other restrictions on where you can put human ashes.

If ocean lovers can have their ashes carried out to sea and nature lovers can have their ashes scattered in the forest, why can't an animal lover have their ashes buried at a pet cemetary?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Floor is Common Ground
How has your use of the floor changed?

Recently, I decided to stretch on my living room floor. Naturally, moments later there was a dog right beside me, sniffing my hair, pawing at my leg and generally expressing enthusiasm about joining in the fun. Maneuvering through a series of stretches is far more entertaining with a companion, and I never mind the company of dogs, but it did make me ponder how I use and share my floor.

In what ways do we give up on total floor access when we live with dogs? It can be tricky to stretch without wanted or unwanted participation. If you are interested in having your dog join in, then doga (yoga for dogs) may be for you. In doga classes, people and dogs work as partners in the practice of yoga, supporting each other in their poses. Many cities do not have doga classes, but the book Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and Dogi can give human and dogs an introduction to it. Doga is a great example of the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach to sharing the floor with your dog.

There are other activities besides stretching that become more challenging due to the presence of dogs. Playing monopoly is easier on the coffee table than on the floor. Bending over to look under the couch for a lost item is no longer a solo activity, and a dog is bound to show up to participate. And, of course, kids are generally better off snacking at the table rather than taking their food with them while they play on the floor.

In what ways has the use of your own floor been changed by the presence of a dog?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
McQueen Leaves Large Sum to Dogs
The late fashion designer left money to his dogs and pet charities

Leaving money to pets and animal related charities is nothing new, however the topic was catapulted to popular discussion four years ago after Leona Helmsley left millions to her pup. Although I fully intend to set aside money for my pets, I imagine that the modest sum will hardly be controversial.

Last week it was revealed that Alexander McQueen also left a less contentious sum to his dogs and two animal related charities. His pets were so important to him that his suicide note specifically asked his family to look after his dogs.

The late fashion designer left £50,000 ($82,000 USD) to ensure that his canine family, Minter, Juice and Callum, would be well cared for after his death. McQueen also made a generous donation of £100,000 ($164,000 USD) to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Blue Cross, organizations that help homeless animals in the United Kingdom.

Rich celebrities aren't the only ones including their pets in their will. According to Petriarch, 25 percent of pet owners have provided for their pets in a legal document, such as a pet protection agreement, pet trust or will.

In a survey by More Than Pet Insurance in the United Kingdom, 35 percent of respondents planned to leave their pets more than £10,000 ($16,400 USD) in their will, with some 37 percent admitting they intend to leave more to their pet than to a close relative or friend.

With the cost of quality pet care increasing every day, it's becoming even more important to set aside money for your furry family members.

Are your pets included in a will or pet trust?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Man’s New Best Friend
Do we rely on PCs more than our pups?

Has the computer replaced dog as “mans best friend?” Computeractive magazine and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) surveyed over 2,000 people in Britain to find out.

A whopping 67 percent of respondents believe that most people rely more on their computer than their dog. The number is lower for people who actually have a dog, but higher if the respondent was between the ages of 18–24 years old. Interestingly, men are almost twice as likely as females to rely more on their computers.

I depend on my computer for almost everything I do—editing spreadsheets at work, buying clothes and books online, mapping directions and watching movies, just to name a few. And of course, I use my computer to do lots of dog-related activities—researching dog food, buying pet supplies and entering agility trials. Lets face it, we’ve come to rely on computers for almost every aspect of our lives.

But there are many things that my computer will never be able to do. My dogs make me laugh when I’m down, get me outside to exercise when I’m feeling lazy, and help me meet new friends when we’re walking in the park.

A dog is always happy to see you and has so much love to give. As useful as my computer is, it can’t come close to the relationship I have with my dogs. So it’s safe to say that no technology will be replacing my pup as my best friend!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet-Friendly Apartments Are Lucrative
There are many benefits for landlords that welcome pets

When I rented my last apartment, pet-friendly buildings were, on average, more expensive than the ones that didn't welcome pets.

It's unfortunate that a few irresponsible people seem to have given pets a bad name. In my search, I even found that many landlords stopped allowing animals because of property damage or complaints about barking. I've seen this with hotels too.

However, in these hard economic times, some real estate experts are recommending that non-pet-friendly landlords consider reversing their policy. According to the National Association of Residential Property Managers, upwards of 70 percent of tenants have some kind of pet. So clearly non-pet-friendly landlords are losing out on a large market.

A 2003 study by the Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare (FIREPAW) found that pet friendly apartments actually gained an average of nearly $3,000 per apartment, per year. Additionally, welcoming pets allows landlords to be more selective, since they're picking from a wider pool of prospective tenants.

While the study is a bit outdated, the statistics are compelling and makes a good case for landlords to become pet friendly.

  • Vacancy rates for pet-friendly apartments was 10 percent versus 14 percent for non-pet friendly units
  • Pet friendly apartments rented in an average of 19 days versus 29 days for non-pet friendly places
  • Tenants in pet friendly rentals stayed an average of 46 months compared with 18 months for non-pet friendly apartments
  • Pet friendly apartments were able to charge 20 to 30 percent more in rent than non-pet-friendly units
  • When controlling for children, apartments with pets cost landlords less in damage than rentals without pets

I understand that there are other factors to consider, like insurance issues, but I hope that more landlords will see both the economic incentives for changing policy and the many responsible pet lovers out there.

Have you found that landlords are more pet friendly these days?

News: Guest Posts
Foodie Poodle Cooks Noodles
Francis is the well-behaved host of a Japanese cooking show on YouTube

Dogs like to help out around the house, from working farms to high-rise apartments. There’s one room, however, where they aren’t typically welcome: the kitchen.

Try telling that to Francis. He’s the miniature-poodle “host” of Cooking With Dog, a Japanese YouTube series. Over a Chopin piano soundtrack, Francis “narrates” each episode as a chef prepares classic Japanese meals. He gives measurements and advice, and rounds up the show with the full recipe. Naturally, his favorite movie is listed as Ratatouille.

Most of the time, Francis is a silent and still observer, perched politely on the counter. Occasionally, he changes position or gives an especially interesting ingredient a curious sniff, but Francis largely stays on the sidelines. He gets a little sleepy at times and, incredibly, nods off, even in the face of pork belly.

There’s at least one episode where Francis loses his cool, though: When his chef pal finishes making okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake, Francis can’t contain a little, pleading whine and impatient foot-stomps (watch below). It just looks that good.

Francis’s restraint in the kitchen is impressive. Tasty food constantly passes within inches of his snout, but he manages to stay calm—that’s some solid training. My dog, Daisy, could take a lesson or two from Francis: She loves to be my “sous chef,” but isn’t nearly so patient and unobtrusive.

Does your dog like to “help out” in the kitchen?