Home
lifestyle
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canardly Marley
What breeds are in this dog?

I love mutts, mixed breeds, crosses and every other sort of unidentifiable dog. Part of me doesn’t care what breeds they have in them. I’m charmed when I ask someone what kind of dog that is and they lovingly say, “He’s just a dog.” Another part of me is fascinated by what the mix of genetics means for a dog’s appearance and behavior. I often describe my dog Bugsy as “half Black Lab, half handsome stranger.” Most of the time that is enough knowledge for me, but sometimes I feel as though it’s my life’s quest to learn more about his ancestry.

  Yes, I know you can have your dog’s DNA analyzed to learn what breeds they have in them, but these results are so unreliable that as a scientist, I just can’t put much stock in them. For me, it’s much more fun, and just as informative, to ask a ton of people familiar with dogs what breeds they think are in a dog.   My friend’s dog Marley is an unknown mix. He’s the sort of dog who was long ago described as a Heinz 57. Nowadays, dogs like Marley are more likely to be referred to as a “Canardly” as in, “You canardly tell what he is.” So, I put it to you. Based on the pictures of his face, his side view, and his back end (I find rears informative—don’t ask me why!) what breeds do you think are in his ancestry? He is approximately 23 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 55 pounds.   I have my own ideas about what’s in him, but I don’t want to bias anyone. To keep me honest, I will tell my fellow bloggers what my guesses are, and in a few weeks, I’ll post them. I look forward to hearing what you think.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Paw Prints Say Welcome
Vacation rental has perfect decorations

Recently, my family spent a week in Puerto Rico, where we spent part of our time on the island of Vieques. Our lodging was a vacation rental called Casa de Kathy, and there was much to love about this cute two-bedroom house near the beach. But what I’ll remember most about it is the decorations in the bathroom.

  Kathy and her late dog Canelo (Spanish for cinnamon) had left their footprints on the wall of the loo along with the traditional symbol of welcome—the pineapple. It was so charming, and the first detail of the place that stuck in my mind. And it will remain in my memory along with thoughts of snorkeling in the paradise of the Caribbean.   What decorations do you have in your home of the canine variety?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
No Dogs: What Would You Miss?
I'd miss the little things

If I had to live without contact with dogs (shudder!), there are so many things that I would miss. Besides the obvious and main benefits of love and companionship, it’s the little things I think I would miss about dogs.

  I would be sad never to have their tongues on me, especially in the morning when they poke under the covers and give a quick lick to my toes or nose. It would be sad not ever to look in the rearview mirror of the car and see nothing but a dog’s face. I would even miss having dogs step on my foot and continue to stand there, seemingly unaware of my discomfort.   I love seeing dogs twitch when they dream, and stretch while on their backs with their front paws bent up like they are begging. I enjoy the crazy backwards sneezing of dogs, and the way they jump straight up with all four feet off the ground when they get excited. I would really miss the endless excitement of each and every walk, and the way so many dogs act like this walk, this very one, is the highlight of their entire existence.   There are so many more little things that I would miss in the absence of my canine friends. What would you miss about dogs if you could no longer be in their company?

 

News: Guest Posts
Showing and Telling
Your stories give us something to bark about

One of my favorite parts of my job is reviewing submissions for contests, especially Show & Tell. Your stories and photos never fail to lift my spirits. From funny to ridiculous to sublme, readers remind me of the many surprises our dogs have in store for us. They challenge us to be the best people we can be and then they reward us by putting their best paws forward.

  Recently, we received a few images from Connie Page in Fairbanks, Alaska. In a short note, she described how her co-pilot, Cedar, stood by her as she fought her battle with ovarian cancer. Dogs as healing companions is an image I’ve seen surfacing frequently these days, from “Devotion” by David Weiskirch, an essay about how dogs helped his wife’s healing (Bark, Issue 60, Summer 2010) to Dana Jennings’ new book, What a Difference a Dog Makes, which grew out a New York Times blog post about the lessons he learned from his dog during treatment for prostate cancer.   There is something in the photo of Connie and Cedar that captures the spirit of this healing relationship. There is Connie, serene and beautiful in a breathtaking wilderness she knows is good for her and her dog. At her side, Cedar sits with her tongue loose from what has probably already been a wonderful adventure. She looks ready to spring and gambol as soon as the shutter clicks—and get back to the business of reminding her person what this living business is all about.   I’d love to hear more stories about the different ways dogs cajole, support and distract their people through illnesses. Comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter @The_Bark #healingcompanions.

 

 

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

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

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

 

News: Guest Posts
Animal Blessings
Remembering to care for all creatures

I was raised a Catholic. And when I was young, I was seriously into the paraphernalia of the faith—I had several rosaries, a statuette of Mary and three crucifixes. But my most favorite item was a wood hinged-box, like a book with no pages. Inside was a reproduction of a painting of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology, alongside St. Francis’ prayer, which is all about being an instrument of peace, light and joy. Even after I’d left behind my faith and most of its accoutrements, I held onto the prayer. 

  I count the tradition of animal blessings to mark St. Francis’ feast day, October 4, as one of the better reasons to go to church. My first introduction to the tradition was a raucous blessing of the hounds ceremony on a Westchester farm in the 1980s. The couple dozen foxhounds in attendance barked and howled like true believers. When I lived in New York City, I attended a blessing of the animals at St. John the Divine, where they always pull out the stops. This year the procession featured a camel, a peacock, an emu, an African horned tortoise, a parrot, a goat and plenty of dogs. If you’re interested in attending a blessing with or without your co-pilot, even though the feast day has passed, there are blessings scheduled throughout the autumn.     The idea of animal blessings is, of course, not limited Christians. Most religions have a tradition of animal reverence—even if it is lost in practice. In time for our season of gratitude, Eliza Blanchard has gathered together 27 simple animal blessings and poems (including Hindu and Jewish blessings, a Blackfoot chant and a Sioux prayer) in a collection charmingly illustrated by Joyce Hesselberth. A Child’s Book of Animal Poems and Blessings celebrates the contributions of the spider and the slug alongside the whale and the wolf. A perfect read-aloud selection for kid and canine.

 

News: Guest Posts
Date A Rescuer?
Why not

This week Time Out New York offered a different take on Adopt A Shelter Dog Month (October) by highlighting single folks who’ve adopted dogs. Seems to me a dedication to rescue would be a pretty excellent baseline quality in a possible-future-significant-other. I can almost hear the code-crunching as someone launches a dating site dedicated to this particular niche.

News: Editors
Dogs Help Children to be More Active
Improving fitness plus being best friend

As dog lovers we know that our dogs are important to both our mental and physical health—our dogs with their daily “walkathon” needs induce us to be more active, for one. In 2009, researchers from the University of Missouri found that walking dogs makes people not only more consistent about regular exercise but those who walk with a dog showed greater overall improvement in fitness than those who simply walk with two-legged companions! Another study found that dog owners actually take 25 percent more steps per day than do those without dogs. Both studies looked at adults, excluding the younger family members.

  So recently, researchers in the UK set out to discover if dogs also increase the level of physical activity in children. They based their study on 9- to 10-year-olds, from 78 schools across the UK. The young participants wore activity monitors for a week (a small instrument that was worn over the left hip on an elasticized belt). Only 10 percent of the kids had a family dog—but they recorded the most “overall activity count, counts per minute, and steps compared with non-dog owners.”   The authors of this study acknowledged the limitations of their study group, most from a less affluent urban population. Additionally, even though the dog-owning segment proved 4 percent more active, it’s far from the 25 percent recorded in the Canadian adult study. Nonetheless, their findings are important to our understanding of just how important dogs can be to all members of the family.   How has having a dog affected your exercise patterns? And parents, can you really get your kids to walk or play with the dog?

 

News: Guest Posts
Bosom Buddies
The quest for the perfect dog-friendly roommate

 

A good roommate is hard to find, especially when you’ve got an always-around boyfriend, two dogs and a healthy imagination. I’d been apprehensive about renting out my spare room because it had been used as a very important space in the past: the dogs’ room. Renting it out meant not only would they lose their favorite space, but I’d be bringing a new person into their “pack.” Would the dogs understand the concept of renters? If the roommate was terrible, I couldn’t comfort Leo by explaining, “Don’t worry, she’s month-to-month,” or console Skipper with “Well, now with the extra cash we can buy more tennis balls for you to bury!”   Still I was getting ahead of myself. Before I could even consider the task of acclimating the dogs to someone new and potentially horrible, I have to find her first.   In the beginning, my search was abysmal. I’d received a few bites through friends of friends; but they only served to make me realize how hard finding the dream roommate might be. When I told one potential roommate I was looking for someone with a regular schedule (primarily, so the dogs don’t think she’s an attacker and scare me awake, which could end in a potential pepper-spraying), she told me it’s not a problem, she only goes out late on weekends, and sometimes Wednesdays, Thursdays, oh, and “Popscene” Mondays. When I asked another if she was a smoker, she said, “Well, I only smoke when I drink … which is probably about four to five times a week.” Another applicant asked if I was comfortable with cats. I said, “Not really, because my dogs aren’t cat-friendly.” She then asked, “So the dogs are there to stay?”   I realized I basically wanted a dog-whispering, 80-year-old spinster in the form of a twentysomething female, essentially my best friend Carrie. Since Carrie lives in New York, my search continued until I found Kristy. I had known her for a few years and we had met in passing at parties, but I had never had many interactions with her beyond that. Serendipitously, she approached me and asked if I knew of anyone renting out a room. After a few minutes of questioning, I knew it was a good fit: Kristy had grown up with four large dogs, and upon moving out of her parents’ house her mom told her she was going to adopt a fifth.   While the dogs have lost their room, they’ve gained a good friend and I have the peace of mind knowing another human is around when I’m not. Now, I have a new concern. What if my dogs fall in love with her? These types of arrangements don’t last forever (unless you’re Uncle Jesse on “Full House”). How would the dogs cope with that?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Meeting the Neighbors
Thank you canine family members!

When we moved to our first house in Wisconsin after years of being students and renting, we were very excited about our new life as homeowners. We couldn’t help feeling that life would be just a little easier, and just a little sweeter in this new place—820 square feet of “Well, at least we own it!” And it was true—life was good there. Of course, the reason wasn’t so much that we owned the place as that we met the most wonderful neighbors and the sense of community was so strong from our very first day in the house.

  And how did we get to know people so quickly that it made our lives better? Because we walked our dog a couple of times a day, and so did most of the people living near us. In my experience, there has never been a better way to meet your neighbors than walking your dog. As soon as we pulled up and before we unloaded the truck, we took Bugsy out for a walk, and immediately ran into a couple and their dog who I had met as my clients. Half a block later, we met another woman walking her two dogs—both black mutts like ours, and we walked together for a bit until we got to her house, all the while discussing the possible breeds that our dogs might have in them. Forty-five minutes later, we had met half a dozen more of our neighbors and their dogs, and felt incredibly welcome.   By the end of the week, we had met a dozen more families that included dogs, and many of them had stopped by with wine, cookies, flowers, and from one kind neighbor who was clearly no stranger to moving, giant trash bags, some picture hangers and a magnet listing important local emergency numbers. That guy also brought over some dog treats—can you ever say you’ve met a more thoughtful person?   Of course, many nice people who welcomed us into the neighborhood did not have dogs, but I’m convinced that having a dog was a key reason we met people quickly and that they were so good to us. I realize that dogs can often be a source of great tension between neighbors, such as when barking is an issue or dogs destroy a neighbor’s garden, or other property, or worst of all, if a dog is frightening another neighbor (especially children). But I still think more good than bad neighborhood relations result from having dogs. Has anyone else found that their dogs were excellent social facilitators when they moved to a new house?

Pages