Home
lifestyle
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?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mutt Match
Finding the right dog

I still consider my one-time success at setting up friends who later married to be among the biggest accomplishments of my life. Matchmaking is a time-honored skill that has just as big a place in the dog world as in the human world. Adopting the right dog to suit your lifestyle is that first and oh-so-important step towards a happy relationship.

  That’s why I’m such a fan of Mutt Match, an organization dedicated to promoting adoption of rescue dogs into permanent, loving homes. Meg Boscov and Liz Maslow, whose love for dogs led them to found Mutt Match, are both Certified Pet Dog Trainers with a great deal of experience working with shelter dogs. The service they provide is to find the right dog for their clients to adopt. A lot of what makes a dog well suited to a particular family is not obvious to members of the general public. Even people who are very knowledgeable about dogs have been known to fall in love at first sight with one that would not ultimately be the best bet for a strong relationship and a happy life together.   Mutt Match helps people find the right dog by providing a private in-home consultation, searching local shelters for appropriate dogs and conducting behavioral testing on those dogs, conducting a meet and greet for the shelter dog with the family, and offering a follow-up consultation. They suggest a donation of $200 for the combination of all these. Since becoming established as a business in January of this year, they’ve made 36 happy matches. When I asked Meg and Liz if they have a favorite story of a match, they shared this story.   “We were walking through one of our local SPCAs when we saw a young couple standing by a kennel, and the woman was crying. We stopped to see if we could help, and she told us her story. She was diagnosed with MS a couple of years ago. The disease had progressed to the point where she could no longer work or drive. She (Susan) and her fiancé Carmen had been looking for a tiny companion dog to enrich Susan's life.   “They were at the point of giving up when we met them. On their own, they were daunted by the task of finding just the right match for Susan. They had spent several frustrating months scanning Petfinder.com and visiting the local SPCAs. Tiny dogs are rarer in the rescue world compared to larger dogs, and when there was a small dog in need of a home, by the time Susan and Carmen would arrive at the SPCA, the tiny dog would already be spoken for.   

“We arranged an appointment to meet with Susan and Carmen in their home. During our meeting we discussed their hopes and dreams for Susan's own personal therapy dog, a lap dog small enough for Susan to carry. After leaving, we reached out to our amazing rescues and shelters, and within a couple of days Susan was home with Lucy, a darling six-pound Manchester Terrier whose idea of the good life was loving and being loved by her special someone. Susan says that Lucy has brightened every aspect of her life."

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs as Children
Having kids changes the way we see our pets

Does having kids change the way we see our pets? A new study presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting this month found that people with human offspring are less likely to consider their pets children. The research conducted by a professor at Indiana University South Bend found that even people who used to think of their pets as kids often re-evaluate the relationship when they have human children.

Additionally, the way we perceive our dogs is also influenced by where we live. The study found that urban pups are more likely to be considered children. People in rural areas are more likely to see animals, including dogs, in a utilitarian way.

I live in the city, so I suppose I easily fall under the category of people who would consider their pets children. Although I don't have any human kids. I can imagine that having a baby is a life changing experience. I can't say that my definition of the word child will change, but to me labels doesn't matter. I know that my pets will always be an important part of the family.

How do you define a child?

 

News: Guest Posts
Happy Birthday, Betsy!
Scottsdale pup turns 20

Betsy will join rarified company when she celebrates her 20th birthday on Friday at home with James and Meryl Tulin, her three veterinarians and their staff, and her two canine cousins. She’s beaten some pretty long odds and deserves a shout out on her big day.

  The Tulins found Betsy on a golf course near their Long Island, N.Y., home 19 years ago. She was badly injured with a hip and pelvis injury. “We noticed she had no identification collar and immediately took her home with us,” they explain. “We then posted a lost notice throughout the area only to find that no one claimed her.” The next day, they took her to the veterinarian who treated her injuries; he estimated she was about one-year-old at the time.   Part Pomeranian and part-something else, maybe Corgi, Betsy is still quite perky. She romps around the house like a puppy and rules a roost that includes a four-year-old Golden Retriever named Lily and a nine-year-old Shih Tzu named Winnie.   “Betsy loves donuts, Chessman Cookies and steak and also thoroughly enjoys chicken of which she has had a steady diet for the past fifteen years,” report the Tulins, who moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., about 15 years ago. “We have been truly blessed to have our love with us for so long as each and every day she lights up our life and fills our home with unmitigated happiness and joy!”   Do you have a canine senior citizen with a special story? We’d love to hear it.

 

Pages