Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Understanding Pet Lovers in the Internet Age
Hunch.com uses member data to learn about dog and cat people

Social media companies hold a lot of data about people and are privy to a lot of correlations and insights that could be really interesting. Recently I was wondering if anyone had put together data related to animals.

It turns out that Hunch.com has published two pet-related reports that draw on responses from its 700,000 users. The first looks at dog people versus non-dog people and the second looks at the differences between dog and cat people.

Some of the findings are not surprising. The report found that dog people are more likely to be extroverts, have a greater affinity for sports and the outdoors, and are more likely to live in a suburban or rural area.

Hunch.com also found that females tend to favor dogs with long hair and smaller breeds and males tend to favor hounds and retrievers.

Some correlations were more bizarre and random. Apparently dog people are more likely than cat people to be iPhone users or to enjoy slapstick humor and impressions. And on the more specific side, Chihuahua fans tend to be frequent doodlers and German Shepherd lovers tend to rely more on intuition than common sense.

Of course you can't extrapolate the reports' findings to all people, but it's fun to read about the correlations that Hunch.com discovered.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Are Dogs a Dating Detriment?
Survey finds that pets could hurt a person’s dating prospects

In New York City, there are more than eight million people concentrated in 300 square miles, so you’d think it would be easy to meet potential dates. But with everyone in the typical New York hurry, it’s hard to make a genuine connection with new people.

My dogs are the one thing I’ve found that gets people to stop and talk. When I lived in Manhattan, I met new people at the dog run and while jogging with Nemo in Central Park. Dogs make a good excuse to strike up a conversation. And, maybe because all of my friends are pet lovers, every woman I know gives extra bonus points to a man with a dog. 

So I was surprised to see that a survey conducted by the UK Craigslist found that dogs were the pet most likely to hurt your dating prospects. They found that 23 percent of people would be less likely to date someone with a dog. That percentage dropped to 21 percent for cat lovers and 11 percent for hamster or guinea pig lovers, so I think this might have to do with how “intrusive” the pet is in a person’s life.

I take offense to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster’s statement that “single folks who want to own a pet, but deter the fewest potential dates, should opt for a hamster or guinea pig.” Pets are a part of our family, not an accessory to attract dates. Plus, the survey results still show that 77 percent of people would not back out of a date with a dog lover, so I wouldn't exactly call it a detriment. 

Sure I may have to run home and walk my dogs before I go out at night or limit my vacations to pay for vet bills, but I don’t care if my dogs hurt my prospects. I’ve been on a date with a guy who couldn’t understand why I would want a second dog and a guy who thought it was silly that I ran in the agility ring. As you can imagine, there were no second dates. So much about dating is filled with uncertainty, but if a guy doesn’t love my dogs, I know for sure we’re not compatible!

News: Guest Posts
5 Ways My Dogs Have Made My Life Better

Of course, they wake me up in the morning, they teach me patience, and they make me laugh. But there are other, less obvious ways in which being Bonham and Violet’s indentured hound-slave has enhanced my life.

1. They’ve introduced me to the whole village. My friends think I bought my house, an old Georgian farmhouse in Herefordshire, because it looks like Mr. Darcy might pop out of the front door, but the truth is I chose it because it’s on a footpath that leads round a three-mile nature trail of apple orchards, woods and fields—perfect for walking my two Basset Hounds.

Writing can be a lonely occupation, but no matter what time I take my dogs out for a stroll, we always meet someone, and they always stop for a chat. I’d only been in the village for a week before people would say, “Ah, you’re Bonham and Violet’s owner!” and now I know nearly everyone—and they know me!

2. They keep me warm in winter. There’s nothing warmer than a 70-pound Basset Hound in full slumber mode. They’re like giant versions of those beanbags you heat up in the microwave. Imagine two of those draped over your knee—who needs central heating? I just have to make sure all books, remote controls, tea and chocolate are within reach because when the dogs settle in, they don’t like moving. Their dream is for the temperature to fall below a certain level at which point we can all sleep in one basket to save heat.

3. They make me do more housework. I’ll put my hands up; I am not one of nature’s domestic goddesses. For years, my idea of spring-cleaning was opening all the windows and running around squirting Mr. Sheen into the air. However, when you have two enormous hounds shedding more than you’d think possible, and emitting their own delightful houndy aroma, you learn to love your vacuum cleaner. My household routine has never been more rigorously attended to.

4. I don’t need a doorbell. My dogs can detect a deliveryman at 500 meters. Also postmen, visitors, builders, window cleaners, gardeners and carol singers. I’ve also saved on burglar alarms, as any burglar within a hundred-mile radius has probably heard them barking and assumed I keep a pack of feral Great Danes, not two sleepy Basset hounds.

5. They save my agent, editor and friends from “I’m stuck with my novel!” meltdown. When you live with a dog, you’ve always got someone to talk to. Dogs listen to your rants and woes, never piping up with “helpful” reminders, always looking at you with the same adoration at the end of whatever peevish grumble you’ve got off your chest.

I’ve talked through endless plot problems while tramping through the fields with my dogs, practicing dialogue aloud till it sounds right—my long-suffering agent is very grateful for this service the dogs offer, as otherwise she’d have to listen to it. I find once I start walking, my brain starts working its way through the knotty problems, so I really have the dogs to thank for dragging me out and making that happen.

And finally, they watch my figure for me. If I make a cake, Bonham particularly likes to make sure I don’t pile on the pounds by helping himself to as much as he can snaffle off the counter. We’re still working on that one.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canines in the Christmas Crèche
A dog is added to a NYC nativity this year

My pets are my family, so I can't imagine Christmas without them. They have stockings hung up on the fireplace, ornaments on the tree and presents waiting for them on Christmas morning. The way we include dogs in our traditions is a reflection of the important role they play in our life.

This year at St. Patrick's Cathedral, a dog figure will make an appearance in the Christmas crèche, thanks to Monsignor Robert Ritchie. Two of Ritchie's previous parishes included dogs in the crèches and after visiting two churches in Rome that had dogs, he decided St. Patrick's had to add one to their nativity scene.

Ritchie has always been a dog lover and the inspiration for the canine addition comes from his Labrador, Lexington. Fifteen years ago, Ritchie was mourning the loss of his dog when his best friend dragged him to a pet store. Ritchie swore he wouldn't get another dog, but ended up falling in love with a Labrador puppy who he named Lexington, the street the store was on. Today, Lexington is a loyal companion and beloved member of St. Patrick's congregation.

Lexington officially welcomed his crèche figure by licking it on the nose. Lexington II, as the figure is called, was carved at the same studio in Italy where the other nativity figures were created.

Of course, I'm not crazy that Lexington is from a pet store, but I loved this story about being inspired by our dogs and including them in our most important traditions.

Culture: Reviews
Bark Likes This: Glowdoggie
LED Collar

The air is crisp, the leaves are changing and the days are shorter—fall is here, and winter is right around the corner. This means two things: first, my dog Wally gets to bundle up in one of his many dapper sweaters; second, the sun sets well before we head out on our evening walk.

Walking after dark in my town is an adventure. The streets are dark and filled with drivers who cannot be bothered to watch out for a dark brown dog and his person. Needless to say, I was intrigued when the Glowdoggie™ LED lighted collar landed on my desk. Wally and I tried it out that very night.

Once I figured out how to turn it on (note: batteries down = on, batteries up = off), the Glowdoggie collar exceeded all of my expectations. The design is clean, the construction is top-notch and the LED lights are very bright. I feel infinitely safer during our evening walks now that Wally and I are highly visible to the drivers careening down the road. Plus, the collar is bright enough to double as a flashlight, making nighttime poop-scooping so much easier. Also worth noting: the collar is 100 percent waterproof, so it can be used in the wettest of weather or even on a midnight swim. The Glowdoggie LED collar is a must-have piece of winter dog-walking gear.

To purchase or to learn more about this great product, visit the Glowdoggie website at www.glowdoggie.com.

The Glowdoggie lighted collars are meant to be used in addition to your dog’s walking collar or harness. The collar is not designed to withstand any pulling force.

News: Guest Posts
The Buck Stops Here
Dogs and deer don't mix

When friends and family complain about pesky wildlife, I can’t resist reminding them that we've invaded their habitat. Even when skunks burrowed beneath our chicken coop or chipmunks squatted in our garage, my biggest concern was saving their poor furry souls from our prey-driven pack. That summer rabbits raided our vegetable garden? I didn’t mind eating cookies instead of salad for dinner. (And the dogs appreciated the extra piles of protein they left behind.)

At one time, I would’ve naively asserted that deer are the gentlest of woodland creatures. My dogs and I have come across them many times while taking long walks along the river. Typically, my Pit Bull mix, Shelby, air scents them, and as I follow her gaze, a doe will gracefully dart away, her white tail flickering like candlelight. 

A few days ago, I was walking my Dalmatian, Jolie, and Dutch Shepherd, Ginger Peach,  in our semi-rural neighborhood. It was dusk, and I was eager to finish our route before it got dark since there are few street lights. The dogs suddenly dove into a ditch, their noses hot on the trail of something. About 40 yards away, I heard a loud crash and saw a white tail disappear into the woods. I chuckled, glad the dogs missed seeing the actual deer because they were so busy following its trail.

We continued forward until I saw a loose dog up ahead. One of the farmers allows his Jack Russell free reign, and I just didn’t feel like heeling both dogs past him. We turned around. As we approached the spot where the dogs flushed out the deer, a magnificent eight-point buck trotted across our path. He stopped a mere 20 yards away as we passed.

Having never seen a buck up close before, I was mesmerized by his size and beauty. I stopped. The dogs and I stared at him,  studying him. He broke our gaze and trotted through a row of bushes. Slowly, he positioned himself behind us. He stood tall. Jolie and Ginger Peach became absolutely still.  Everything around us was quiet. Looking into the buck’s dark brown eyes, I finally realized what the dogs had likely known the moment I stopped. He did not appreciate our company.

We quickly moved away. Ginger Peach let out a little yips in protest, but Jolie was all too happy to get out of there. As we rounded a corner, I glanced back to see the buck cross the street again, no doubt returning to the doe we had scared off earlier.

After sharing this story with friends, I heard terrifying accounts of deer hurting people or dogs during breeding season. (There are hundreds of videos on YouTube demonstrating their strength in graphic detail.) I was grateful that my naiveté did not inadvertently cause harm to my dogs. Has your dog ever encountered  deer? What did you do?

News: Guest Posts
A Yard of her Own
Daisy is finally the queen of her castle

Daisy is curled up next to me on the couch as I type this, enjoying an early afternoon nap. The first snowfall of the season is coming down outside. She’s extra sleepy for this time of day—she spent about a half an hour this morning romping in the fresh snow in her brand-new backyard.

At long last, it’s happened: After four years of apartment living, Daisy finally has a backyard to call her own.

My husband and I discovered Daisy’s love of the outdoors the very first time we met her at the Denver Dumb Friends League. The adoption counselor let us take Daisy outside to a spacious dog run for a game of fetch. She had no idea what to do with the ball, but spent a good five minutes sprinting back and forth in the run with my husband, John, encouraging her. She was pure joy.

We’ve talked about “Daisy’s yard” ever since we brought her from the shelter to our small apartment, reassuring her that someday she’d have a big space in which to race around. Walks are fun, but leashes are not. Her aggression issues mean dog parks are a risky proposition. She got tastes of the good life at the homes of friends and family over the last few years, but only for a short time.

In mid-October, we finally made the move from a one-bedroom apartment on Denver’s urban Capitol Hill to a slightly larger house in a residential neighborhood in northeast Denver. The house might not be huge, but the yard is a perfect size for crazed running and snuffly investigations.

John made a video of Daisy entering the yard for the first time. She’s a take-charge kind of gal, so her initial action was to squat and take an authoritative pee. She mostly wanted to sniff, but soon got in the spirit and was darting around like a happy maniac—when she wasn’t getting distracted by a new scent.

There’s been lot of excitement for her in the last few weeks: Squirrels everywhere. Unwary alley cats wandering into the yard. Human neighbors going about their business. When the weather was nice, I opened the front door so Daisy could lay in the entryway and watch the neighborhood action through the screen door. She’s finally discovered what house dogs figured out in puppyhood: You can stand on the couch and see out the front window! (The old place had a view of a brick wall.) And now there’s snow, glorious snow.

It’s fun to watch Daisy adjust to her new lifestyle, but it does come with some worries. We discovered tons of discarded chicken bones in the backyard—after we caught Daisy, ever the scavenger, crunching on them. One of the back gates doesn’t close all the way, prompting an argument about the best way to keep it closed until we fix it. (I said cinder block, John said bungee cord; John won.) Daisy loves to chase the occasional stray cat, but I fear the day she corners one and it fights back.

There are new training concerns, too. At the apartment, Daisy was on a regular schedule of walks. Now we can open the backdoor for her to dash outside and do her business, and then let her run around and play for as long as she wants. She doesn’t yet know how to “ask” to be let in or out, however. With cold weather bearing down on us, I’m trying to get her on a schedule of sorts, with lots of outdoor fun every day.

The move’s been hard on me, I confess. Leaving the apartment represented a major change in our lives, a transition from younger, more carefree days to greater responsibility and future family-raising. It means we’re becoming Real Grown-Ups. I’m ready to begin this new phase, but it’s bittersweet. Seeing Daisy so happy is making the process much easier.

She sleeps more deeply. Our old building was filled with other dogs whose comings and goings drove Daisy nuts; now she’s the lone ruler of this castle. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think her eyes are brighter and her demeanor more lively. The other day Daisy jauntily danced around me as I boringly put on a pair of socks, apparently out of simple happiness. She even gave my big toe a playful nibble. She never did that in the apartment.

Daisy’s outside now, sunning herself drowsily on the large step into the garage. Her outsized bat-ears twitch slightly as she listens to the sounds of the neighborhood. A few birds fly overhead and she watches them, calmly. She raises her head, closes her eyes and sniffs the breeze.

I can’t stop smiling.

Halloween Parade for Humans Who Enjoy Dressing Up Dogs
New York's East Village tradition

On October 22, New York’s best-dressed dogs came to the 21st Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, held in the park’s dog run.

Ubaldo came wearing the neon green “mankini” thong made famous in the movie Borat. He debuted this outfit earlier in the year at the New York City Dachshund Meetup Group pageant. That event requires each dog have three changes of costume. This was his swimwear entry. “His coloring is just so perfect for Borat,” said Alyson Nehran, the international flight attendant who sewed the outfit herself. “Last year, he was a Coney Island bather. This year, I wanted to do something really design intensive so that I could play with the concept.”

Amazing Grace, a Chihuahua, won a prize for her hat—a dog-sized replica of the one warn by Princess Beatrice at the Royal Wedding. It was designed by Anthony Rubio, a school teacher in the Bronx who moonlights as a costume designer. Said Grace’s owner, physical trainer Summer Strand: “He’s the Alexander McQueen of dog fashion.”

Bailey is a five-year-old Puggle-cum-panda. He wasn’t sure how he felt about this fact—his jacket-costume looked a little like the bear was eating him. “But I think he likes it—I mean, all his friends are doing it,” said his owner, Jon Zanoff. In previous years, Zanoff has dressed his dog as a hot dog and as a piglet. His friend said the panda was appropriate because it is the logo of an app Zanoff developed that lets people review bars. “You can rate how hot people are,” she said. Dogs don’t get rated.

Rosie, a 9-month-old Pit Bull, wore a pink child’s dress and a belt of spikes around her middle. Her 6-year-old owner, Isa, said she was supposed to be a punk rock princess. “It’s because she is a princess. She sleeps on the couch!” she said. Isa’s mom, Masha Schmidt, said that Rosie indeed has a punk side, too: “She likes to eat my makeup.”

Liz Mulgrew's Bella, a Cairn Terrier, also came as a punk rocker. She wore a pale blue shirt emblazoned with a skull and crossbones. It’s part of Martha Stewart’s dog clothing line. Her face hair was spiked all around, like a starfruit. Mulgrew didn't use any product. "Her hair is pretty moldable,” she said. “It's easy to get it to go like that. But she usually wears it down.”

Holly, a Pomeranian, was the Hamburglar, a McDonaldland character. “She has this little mask around her eyes naturally, so she just needed the striped suit,” said Holly’s companion, Stephanie Radvan. Radvan got the convict dog outfit online. "But I wanted her to be a prisoner with some kind of flair,” so she pinned McDonald’s burger wrappers on Holly’s sides. “I went out and bought four burgers this morning. They're still at home.”

“It’s his name, so he always wears this costume,” said Kendra Shea, of her dog Yoda, who was Yoda. His sister, also a Pug, came as Leia. She wore an impressive homemade headband glued with yarn to look like two buns. She sat in a stroller that was decorated with cardboard to look like Princess Leia’s Speeder Bike. The whole project was conceived and executed in under 48 hours, said Shea.

“It was on sale,” said Anna DePalma's of the costume worn by her Havanese, Louis. Louis was a ram.

“He’s an Occupy Wall Street dog, and I’m a cop,” said Christine Chiu, there with her Bichon, Oscar. She wore a blue police cap and had handcuffs clipped to her belt. Chiu was dismayed to learn hers was not the only dog to arrive with protester placards on both sides. “I always like to do something current,” she said. Last year, she is rather sure she had the only dog that came as an iPad. “I thought of turning that costume into an iPhone 4S. But Occupy Wall Street is more what people are talking about.”

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?