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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet Ministries on the Rise
Churches are sponsoring groups for animal lovers

Dogs have become an important part of our culture and more and more places are starting to welcome and accommodate pets. It's becoming common to see hotels with dog beds, stores with water dishes out front and even car companies designing vehicles with pets in mind.

Religious groups are no exception. Churches have long held blessing of the animal events and some are even inviting pets to attend service. But some congregations are starting pet ministries in order to reach and connect with animal lovers on a new level.

Grace Church, a nondenominational Protestant congregation in the Saint Louis area, has a pet ministry that organizes pet-food drives, fundraisers for a local rescue group, pet therapy visits, a pet loss support group and a Bible study that discusses animal-related passages.

Other churches include animals for adoption in their weekly bulletins, host adoption events and run vaccine clinics.

As a testament to this growing trend, the Humane Society of the United States hired a liaison to religious communities in 2007. Now there are animal ministries in every state. Next month, the Humane Society will be launching a directory of affiliated ministries on their website.

We don't have a pet ministry at my church, but our animal events (blessing of the animals and a holiday “giving tree” that collects supplies for the local shelter) have inspired a lot of people in the congregation to share stories of beloved pets and connect with each other in a different way.

Animal lovers are an amazing community of people, so pet ministries seem like a great way to get like-minded people together for a good cause.

Does your church have a pet ministry?

News: Guest Posts
Barkitecture: The Cutting Edge of Dog House Design
Austin showcase raises funds for rescue

I don’t think any of my friends with dogs have a for-real dog house. Most of the pups in my circle have worked it out so the human home—with its couches, beds, plushy rugs, toys, freshly filled water bowls, etc.—is their “dog house.” With these delights, why would they embrace a small, cold, damp box in the corner of the yard?

Well, the age of the Spartan, Snoopy-style dog house has passed. The passion for home design has seeped into the canine bungalow—I mean, we’re calling them canine bungalows, after all. And perhaps nowhere will you see a more inspiring array of dog houses than at Barkitecture, a showcase and auction of doghouses created mostly by Austin-based architects, designers and builders to raise money for local animal rescue groups. The inventive, often green, designs on display earlier this month have me thinking that outdoor pup palaces could be making a comeback.

Read about the prize-winning designs. My favorites (neither of which won a prize) are La Casita del Sol, which was made with leftover wood and empty clear Sol beer bottles. Perfect for Seattle—capturing what little light there is and keeping the rain off. I also like the Wine Barrel Bungalow made from a cast-off wine barrel and scrap wood. I’m noticing a theme.

Do you have a dog house?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kit's corner: TreatToob, Pet Fairy Noshers
New products that tickle a dog’s fancy

A Pez for Pooches
Kit is wild for a new kind of treat dispenser that holds especially high-value delicacies (liverwurst, peanut butter or homemade puréed food). New from Paww, the TreatToob is made from soft, foodgrade silicone. Easy to fill and clean, it’s a great training aid, especially for Kit’s challenging heel work — she stays close by when the ’Toob is in hand. $8.95 paww.com (for a reseller list)

Organic Schmear Delights
Pet Fairy Noshers is another new product that Kit and all her doggy housemates, including old-guy Lenny, are simply gaga for. This tasty “schmear” is just right for hollow-toy and sterilized-bone stuffing (we’ve used it in the TreatToob, too). Ingredients include pumpkin, unsweetened applesauce, organic honey and cinnamon, plus other luscious goodies. Lovingly made in small batches in northern Vermont, this “barkalicious” spread also makes a wonderful gift. 16 oz. in a glass jar $8 to $10 petfairynoshers.com (for a reseller list)

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kids & Dogs

Welcome to Bark’s Kids & Dogs resource page—here you’ll find a host of valuable tools, tips and links to enable kids and dogs make the most of life together. Keeping a dog is a great responsibility and opportunity, a way for children to explore the world, stay fit and active, learn teaching skills and share the fun and excitement of best friends. First off, we want to get to know you and your dog, so we are inviting all of our young friends to take a photo of their pet pooch and send it to us. There’s some tricks to taking a good photo, and we have a primer for good picture-taking to get your started. Our good friend, Michael J. Rosen, author of the new book My Dog, has produced a handy video that guides you through taking a great photo of your dog. He’s also shared his favorite photo- taking tips in this list. Thanks Michael!

When you are done photographing your dog, pick your favorite picture and enter it in our “My Dog” contest here. You will be eligible to win some cool prizes including your very own copy of My Dog, fun canine toys and games, plus assorted treats. We’ll start an album of our favorite photos and post it online to share with all of Bark’s readers!

Once you have some photos of your dog, you can craft some fun projects—from a doggie placemat featuring your pal’s picture to a wall calendar showcasing your best friend through the 12 months of the year. Or make a handmade window book—all you need are some printouts of your dog’s photos, some scissors and a printer to print out a handy pattern that you’ll find here. It’s simple and easy, and makes a great gift! Check out the other great DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects on our website, we provide instructions on making a cool collarette for your pup that recycles an old shirt collar, a handy tugger toy made with gloves, and for advanced crafters—a crocheted dog bed.

Any of you like to cook? Check out Michael’s video “Cooking for My Dog!” Learn how to make a yummy peanut butter carrot cake from scratch—a healthy and delicious treat that your dog will love. It’s perfect for your dog’s birthday surprise party! Do we have any future veterinarians in the crowd? You’ll enjoy the “60-Second Pup Check-Up”— a simple tutorial on monitoring your dog’s basic health. See how to examine your dog’s coat for hot spots, ears for redness and paws for burrs. Keeping your dog healthy and content is something you can share with your dog’s vet by doing these basic check-upsregularly.

Next time you’re in a bookstore, look up Michael’s book My Dog—you’ll find it chock full of helpful tips and facts—a kid’s guide to keeping a happy and healthy dog. Part primer, part owner’s manual, part field guide … it’s essential reading for every child who lives with a dog or has a canine best friend. Learn more about it here.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Plush Canines of Childhood
Were yours important to you?

My kids have lots of stuffed animals and many of them are dogs. It makes me feel nostalgic to see them play with the dogs, which is the second official sign that I’m old. (The first sign was that a few years ago, I began to dress hideously during the worst of the winter weather. Apparently, I had hit the point where I didn’t care what I looked like as long as I was warm.)

In a recent conversation with my sister, we reminisced about our childhood “friends,” our stuffed dogs.

Goggy, whose name was a result of a mispronunciation of “doggy,” was the first stuffed dog we acquired.

Dimples, who was all white with black spots, miraculously remained white where she was supposed to be white.

PuffPuff was named after Puff the Magic Dragon, and was incredibly soft and fluffy with a mix of white and psychedelic purple fur.

Kidenly, who looked vaguely like a Poodle and had movable legs, was named after Friendly, our aunt and uncle’s Great Dane, since their dog was sometimes called Friendly-Kidenly. Dimples, PuffPuff and Kidenly originally belonged to our Dad’s sister but were passed on to us as children.

Rusty and BlueBlue were matched in size and best friends, with both named for their coloring.

Brownie was named after the food, not the color. He was the dog I took on all trips since he was small enough to pack and big enough to be comforting.

Old Ratty was my favorite. He was so battered that he has about a dozen patches, and his nose and eyes were replaced by buttons pretty early on. He has absolutely NO plush remaining anywhere on his body. He got his name because our Dad once said with considerable alarm, “You’re not taking that ratty old thing with us, are you?” His name was simply “Ratty” until it became necessary to distinguish him from a similar toy, who took on the name New Ratty.

New Ratty shows what Old Ratty originally looked like. Our family acquired two identical dogs, but they took different paths. New Ratty was left alone, largely forgotten until he was found years later. Because he was never loved by a child, he’s still in good shape.

My sister and I loved those stuffed dogs. Most of our toys are long gone, but the stuffed dogs were too special to pitch. They remain at our parents’ house though it’s been many years since we moved out and went to college. Now they are played with by a second (or third) generation because my kids head straight for them when we visit my parents.

Did you have stuffed dogs as a child?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Home Works: Best picks of domestic design

Stylish & Practical - $99
New from Crypton, the Throver, a stylish, durable throw that’s both soft and comfortable. Use it as a blanket to protect a sofa or as cover for your car’s back seat. The Throver is not only odor-resistant, it also offers complete stain, moisture, mildew and bacteria protection, plus cleans up easily in the washing machine. It measures 48 by 54 inches and comes in 10 designs, including patterns from artist William Wegman.

Paint-by-Numbers 2.0 - $40
Paint-by-numbers is back, and this time, you get to chose from your own fave photos when you’re deciding which masterpiece to re-create. Paintapic makes the whole process simple and inexpensive. Upload a photo, pay $40 and make a few design decisions. Before you know it, you’ll receive a 14-by-18-inch canvas, a set of paints (from Palmer Paint, maker of the original paint-by-numbers kits) and two brushes. And off you go, dabbing a portrait of your beloved pooch.

Dapper Dogs - Pillow cover $29, Plates $24
Need a touch of art for your bed or table? Scott Lifshutz’s whimsical watercolors are just the ticket. The Dog Daze Pillow Cover (14 by 36 inches) is 100 percent machine-washable cotton, and the Appetizer Plates (3.5 by 5.5 inches) come in a set of four and are dishwasher and microwave safe.

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?

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