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News: Karen B. London
Find Your Dog A Date
Matchmaking for canines

I once introduced a friend of mine to my roommate because I felt so strongly that they would like each other. Now that they’ve been married for six years and have two kids, I still consider my matchmaking success with them to be among the biggest accomplishments of my life. Her dog even fell in love with him, so the happiness was complete all around. (This couple happens to be in a picture together that I took in the photo section of Patricia McConnell's book The Other End of the Leash. It shows them kissing to illustrate that this is a primate form of affection and very different from the ways that dogs express affection.)

The urge to make introductions runs strong in many people, but perhaps never more so than in the case of Mike D’Elena, who started the site FindMyDogADate.com. When his roommate moved out and took his own dog with him, Mike’s dog Mika was left missing her best canine friend. Rather than have her continue moping about the house, Mike tried to find her some new playmates by asking neighbors, making phone calls and using Craig’s list, but he had no luck. A few months later, his new website was born out of necessity.

The site, based in Phoenix, Ariz., already has hundreds of dogs registered. Using the free site, people can find companions for their dogs by searching for dog buddies based on size, breed, personality and what activities they are looking to share. Whether someone is seeking hiking or walking companions or another dog for vigorous romping, FindMyDogADate.com just may provide a link to that perfect partner.

So many human couples have met online in recent years. It’s about time dogs had that same opportunity.

News: Guest Posts
Surprise! It’s a Boy! Can You Afford Him?
The nuts and bolts of budgeting for a pet.

Sometimes these things just happen.

In my case, I was leaving the park on a Saturday evening in August. The clouds stretched flat in the warm turning light. I felt relaxed, healthy, happy. A man approached. His smile was friendly and he was sipping a cocktail. A black puppy hopped behind him.

I was done for.

I held the park gate open for the man and the little lab. Then, I found myself waving goodbye as the man walked away. “I found him around the corner,” he said. “I’ve done my part.” His smile turned sheepish.

I didn’t want to leave the little guy to fend for himself. So I brought him home, gave him a flea bath, and posted a message on Craigslist. No one responded. A few days later we went to the vet. “I don’t think you’re going to find his owner,” she said. “It looks like he was dumped.” He had worms, a skin condition, and an eye infection.  

A few weeks later, the pup is still here. My two year old dog, Charlie, seems to like him. My landlord said he could stay if we put down an additional security deposit. Labs puppies "are rough on the wood floors and on the gallery deck,” he said. Lab puppies are also pretty good cuddlers. I’m sending the check this week.

It will be one of a number of hefty checks I’ve written for the little guy. Puppies are costly surprises. But like I said, sometimes these things happen. In an effort to help anyone else considering a new pet, I’ve put together a few steps to help you figure out how a pet will fit into your budget.

While many of us don’t wholly base our decisions to expand our families (or not) on finances, it’s important to understand how a pet will impact your budget. By doing so, you can make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected – say your dog swallows his plastic toys or you lose your job. Your relationship will be healthier for it.

  • Estimate the one-time “start-up” costs and the ongoing “maintenance” costs of the pet. These costs vary depending on the type of pet, the size, and its health. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals published an easy to read chart that estimates the costs of adopting pets. They estimate that a medium sized dog will incur $565 in capital costs such as neutering, training, collars and leashes. But the figure will be much higher if your dog has any health issues. The ASPCA estimates the same dog will also cost about $695 a year in annual upkeep. (All said, that’s $1,580 in the first year as long as there aren't any major health issues.)
  • Slot those annual numbers into your budget. Sit down with your budget and create a line item for your first year pet costs and ongoing costs. See if you can trim other areas of spending so that your savings line isn’t affected. Maybe you don’t need that gym membership if you’re going to start running with your dog? Be realistic. If a pet is going to stress your budget to a point of major discomfort, you’re probably not the best match. (I know, it’s hard to hear.) Don’t have a budget? Quicken provides a free budgeting tool here. Or check out this cash flow worksheet that Martin Hopkins put together. Plug in your numbers, add a line for your pet-to-be, and see how your future cash flow is affected.
  • Prepare for unexpected surprises. Consider pet insurance or an emergency fund. Remember that puppies chew, cats claw, and fleas descend. Make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected by signing up for pet insurance or by building up an emergency fund. You don’t want to get stuck charging a four-figure vet bill to your credit card.
  • If the numbers aren’t adding up, make reasonable decisions. Often times, our hearts are bigger than our wallets. You could do an animal more harm by bringing him into an ill-fitted environment. Think carefully about whether the decision to adopt is best for both of you. The ASPCA recommends asking yourself these 10 questions. And if you ever find yourself in a financial bind, The Humane Society of the United States provides a list of resources for people who need financial help with a pet here.
  • News: Guest Posts
    What If Your Dogs Outlive You?
    Tragedy leaves four dogs grieving and homeless.

    This past Labor Day, suburban Chicago couple Mike and Sue Kelm went for a motorcycle ride. Sue had been battling cancer and was scheduled for surgery later that week. She usually didn't ride with her husband, but it seemed like a nice way to enjoy some time together on a beautiful, warm day. Tragically, a car pulling out of a gas station hit and killed them, leaving behind their beloved pack of dogs. The Kelms did not have children of their own; their niece, Kim Mayer, said her aunt and uncle's four dogs--Lab mixes Anacortes, Tacoma and Everett, and Husky mix Cedonia--"were their children."

     

    In the event of their death, it was the Kelms' wish that all four dogs be kept together. Unfortunately, none of their relatives or friends are in a position to do so and they are seeking help from the dog lover community. The dogs are currently in the care of Chicago Canine Club, a doggie daycare facility in Burr Ridge, IL. If you or someone you know would be interested in helping the Kelm pack stay together, please contact Kathy Deets at the Chicago Canine Club at (708) 542-8969 or Kathy@chicagocanineclub.com. Or contact Kim Mayer at (815) 272-4583 or mayerdnk72@hotmail.com.

     

    I always tell my husband that we need to make plans for our five dogs and two cats should something ever happen to us. But we never do; we make excuses, saying that we're only in our 30s or assume that our family members will take in our zoo, so why bother with paperwork? I know we need to do it. What provisions have you made for your animals in case you can no longer care for them? What is your advice for people (like me!) who have not done the same? 

    News: Guest Posts
    Dogs As Stimulus?
    A relief package with four paws and a tail.

    Only weeks after we blogged about some Oregonians’ efforts to rollback what they consider a too-dog-friendly attitude in stores, a Southern California community is heading in the opposite direction. Merchants in Escondido, Calif., want to welcome dogs into downtown shops (and a park where dogs are currently banned) in the hopes it will spur traffic and sales in a down market.

    Will it work? While a day shopping with my dogs isn’t my idea of a good time, I would like to be able to combine dog-walking with errands. What stops me now? Leaving my dogs tethered on the sidewalk. Plus, I’m guessing there might be a loyalty bonus. I know I feel a certain allegiance to shops and shopkeepers who demonstrate a little dog love. The coffee joint on my regular morning loop, Café Javasti (plug intended), has fresh water in a bowl, treats behind the counter and one barista who, when business is slow, delivers snacks to my waiting hounds herself. The espresso is good, which is important, but dog-love is an equal draw for me, even when it’s being showered on someone else’s buddies.

    News: Karen B. London
    So There’s This Rabbi and This Dog
    Can they make beautiful music together?

    The sound of the shofar is a part of the religious ceremonies of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—two sacred Jewish holidays. The shofar is usually made out of the horn of a domestic ram, and its deep call is both beautiful and poignant. Typically, the sound of the shofar creates a solemn mood.

    Typically. Leave it to a dog to have other ideas. It’s hard to say what this dog was trying to contribute to the occasion when he added his own voice to the sound of the shofar. Perhaps it was as simple as it sounded like a howl to him, and because howling is often contagious, he just couldn’t help but join in.

    News: Guest Posts
    Thursday Night Suppers
    Kansas City couple honors their dog’s memory by inviting strangers to dinner.

    When Tricia and Mike Smith put their dog Molly to sleep earlier this year it left a big hole in their lives. They missed their Boston Terrier’s zest for life but weren’t ready to adopt a new pup. So they decided to pay tribute to Molly’s love for parties and socializing by entertaining—with a twist.

    Tricia, a 35-year-old deputy in the office of the Platte County Recorder of Deeds, and Mike, a 40-year-old business analyst for a local telecommunications company, created Thursday Night Suppers, which is essentially an invitation to bon vivants in the Kansas City area to dine chez Smith. There is no fee.

    Of course, a Thursday Night Suppers website (with a blog) outlines the details and how to make reservations, but the Smiths’ ambitions are not about building virtual connections. They’d like to be hosting sit-down suppers for six once a week.

    Tricia Smith talked to The Bark about opening her heart and her house--and the dog who inspired it all.

    How did Molly come into your life?
    Molly started her life as a pet store puppy. When the pet store let all the animals get ill a rescue group from Conway, Mo., stepped in and rescued them. The people at the rescue group affectionately named her Phat Girl. From there, a couple adopted her and renamed her Molly. Later, they wanted to get rid of her because they were moving. From my point view, they obviously never understood what a wonderful creature they were living with because if they did, they never would have let her go. I found a posting for Molly on my company’s intranet site and we bought her for $90—the best money we ever spent!

    Why did you have to put her to sleep?
    Molly was diagnosed with Glomerular Kidney Disease. It hit her really fast. One week she was fine, the next week she started throwing up. It took about a week to determine her immune system was mistakenly attacking her kidneys. We tried a couple of medicines to slow down and halt her immune system, hoping it would give her kidneys a chance to recover enough to function, but the medicine failed. Our veterinarian then had to tell us there was no cure and Molly would only get worse. By the time we decided to put her to sleep she had stopped eating and we were carrying her outside to go to potty. From the time she got sick to the time we put her to sleep, it was only about a five-week period. We knew the kindest thing to do, no matter how difficult, was to put Molly to sleep before she suffered. I’m positive that we made the right decision, but not a day goes by that I don’t wish we could have had more time with her.

    Why host dinners in Molly’s honor?
    Before our veterinarian came into the room to put Molly to sleep, Mike and I promised her that we would live a life that would make her proud. I believe that the most important thing a person can do in life is make a difference in another person’s life so if through Molly’s death and because of our tribute to her—the website, the blog, the dinners—two people become friends or if one person is comforted then Mike and I will have accomplished everything we hoped.

    If you hope for a little grief-relief from your guests, what do you hope they will get out of the experience?
    It’s funny you asked this question. My next blog entry is going to describe what my dream is for Thursday Night Suppers. I’m hoping that through the Thursday Night Suppers people will connect with one another and friendships will develop, maybe someone who’s lonely will take a chance and come to a dinner and find a friend.

    How many dinners have you hosted?
    So far we’ve hosted two dinners. For the first dinner it was just Mike and I, but somehow we found it fitting that it was just us. Our second dinner attendance increased by 200 percent. A couple that we had met at the park came to dinner and they brought their Pug, Stanley. Molly had loved playing with Stanley at the park. After I told my mother about the second dinner, she said Molly would have had a wonderful time. I think the nicest thing about our second dinner was that we got to spend more than 10 or 15 minutes together with these people. We had the opportunity to sit down and have real conversations about our dogs, our families, our experiences. We were able to connect not just as dog owners, but as friends.

    Are you ever worried about inviting strangers into your home?
    When I told my dad what we were doing he said, “You’re crazy. You’ll have every nut at your house. You’re going to get knocked over the head and robbed.” Seriously though, yes, we do worry about inviting strangers into our house, but we don’t want to live our life afraid of doing something good because something bad might happen.

    What has been the biggest challenge?
    So far the biggest challenge has been getting people to come to dinner. We’ve gotten quite a few e-mails telling us what a great idea this is, but not many reservations to dinner. I understand how scary it would be to go to a total stranger’s house for dinner, but I tell people to put themselves in our shoes, we’re inviting six strangers into our home—we’re outnumbered six to two. We are starting to get a few reservations for the fall dinners. Hopefully, Thursday Night Suppers will continue to grow.

    What has been the biggest gift?  
    It has been a great way for us to work through our grief.

    Is there another dog in your future?  
    We’ve talked about it and we’ve come close a couple of times, but we’re just not ready. I don’t think we can put a timeframe on when we’ll be ready for another dog, but I know someday we will.

    Who’s the cook?
    That would be me. I love to cook, but I can’t bake to save my soul. I make a great roasted chicken, a pork lion with plum sauce and a baked salmon topped with macadamia nuts and fresh herbs.

    We’ll be right over.

    News: Guest Posts
    Dogs in Stores
    Greater acceptance or backlash—where are we on the curve?

    The title says it all, “Oregon Wants ‘Dog-Friendly’ to Be Less So.” The piece in today’s New York Times continues a conversation we’ve been having on the blog about service dogs and access. (See related links, below.) The focus here is dogs in Portland food stores. Not only was I surprised people were bringing their dogs into food markets, I was horrified by reports that dogs are doing their business in the aisles. No advocate for access can think that’s a good thing.

    Then there’s the expanding debate over what constitutes a service dog—and from the sound of things, people are stretching the term so far as to threaten its true meaning. Passing out faux “service dog” cards or arguing that because your dog makes you feel better he’s a service dog only creates larger hurdles for individuals with true physical, mental and emotional challenges.

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Bar Owner Takes Stand Against Vick
    Patrons are urged to join Eagles boycott.

    Steve Coffman, who owns Slate’s Prime Time Grill & Sports Bar in Northern Idaho, told patrons he will no longer show Philadelphia Eagles games or sell Coors beer (an Eagles sponsor) until the team releases Michael Vick—even though Coors is his best-selling brew. NFL fan blogger Shane Bacon has more details. If you’re in the area, dog rescuers urge you to visit Slate’s and order a Budweiser in support of Coffman’s pro-Pittie stand. Not local? Show your support by sending $3 (the cost of one Bud) and a thank you note to Coffman at Slate’s Prime Time Grill & Sports Bar, 477272 Hwy. 95, Ponderay, ID 83852. The phone number is (208) 263-1381. 

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Runners and Dogs
    Do you run with your dog … on leash?

    I run with my dog—in my neighborhood, a nearby bike path and mountain trails. It is an essential ingredient in our lives. So I read with interest an old column from Runner’s World, forwarded to me by my editor. In “Unleashed Emotions,” John Bingham writes about reader reaction to his advice on what runners should do if they are greeted/charged by an unleashed dog. It’s a good question. Unless you are fluent in doglish, it’s not always obvious if a barking dog wants to nip your Achilles or slather your face with kisses.

    Bingham’s answer, stop and yell at the dog (what I call the mountain lion strategy), earned him a healthy pile of email. Not so much for his advice but on the general subject of dogs and runners, especially the leash question. It’s probably no surprise to Bark regulars that the subject of leashes—pro and con—would provoke a big reaction. His follow-up column about that response engendered similarly passionate comments—as interesting as the column itself. From the sound of it, for many runners, dogs are a menace pure and simple, and that’s too bad.

    I get why some runners don’t like to see an off-leash dog on a trail but I’m usually cheered by the sight whether I’m alone or with my own running buddy, and the only dogs ever to run after me were hanging out in a front yard not running on a trail. I use a leash attached to my waist most of the time, except on steep downhill trails where I worry about my dog getting too much momentum or leaping over a rock or tree and pulling me down. Then he’s paw-loose and fancy-free, and I have to say in those moments he bounds with a little extra joie de vivre.

    What's your experience running with or meeting dogs while you run?

    News: Guest Posts
    National Dog Day
    This year I'm celebrating kids who walk the bark.

    Tomorrow, August 26, is National Dog Day. I know this because I read about it in a press release for natural and holistic pet care. I’ve never actually celebrated Dog Day (I sort of figured every day is dog day), and I wonder if anyone really does.

    According to the National Dog Day website, “premier pet lifestyle expert” Colleen Paige is responsible for the designation. I can’t argue with Paige’s bottom line—encouraging adoption of rescue and shelter dogs—but there’s an awful lot of Martha Stewart-esque styling and PR around that mission, which makes me a little skeptical about who’s helping whom.

     

    When I think about doing good for dogs, my cogs turn to all those people quietly doing good for dogs every day of the year, including, but not limited to, many of the folks I meet and talk to in my work for The Bark. I get especially goosepimply when I learn about youngsters going the extra mile for dogs.

    So in honor of this National Dog Day, I raise the dog dish to all the young adults out there who’ve gotten a jumpstart on a lifetime of loving and supporting animals.
        
    Like Sofia Gigure, a seven-year-old animal lover who created a website/blog, Blondie’s Gift for Gregory’s, and video to help raise awareness and money for Gregory’s Gift of Hope, a no-kill rescue in Wisconsin. “Sofia has always loved animals. When her little brother was born, I wanted to find something we could do together that not only gave us time alone but taught her about giving back,” says her mother Karen Gigure. “We started volunteering at Gregory’s Gift of Hope back in January of this year. When her school hosted a penny drive for a local food shelf, she thought it would be a good idea to have a penny drive for Gregory’s.” Sofia set the ambitious goal of raising $10,000, along with awareness about the need for adoptions and not breeding animals.

    Sofia has also adopted two cats from Gregory’s—Mario and Casey, who are featured in the video. She doesn’t have a dog but helps foster dogs for shorter periods. Nicknamed Blondie, Sofia is a self-assured and informed presence in her video, preaching the gospel of responsible ownership with an irresistible wink.


    And she’s only one of many youthful purveyors of random acts of kindness. Have you heard of Monica Plumb? After the 11-year-old saw a news story last year about how a firefighter saved a dog rescued from a house fire with a Pet Rescue and Resuscitation Oxygen Mask, she asked if her local Powhatan County, Virginia, fire station had them. The answer was no, so she decided to try and raise money to donate the masks to them. The result is PetMask.com, a website focused on raising money for the purchase of mask kits for fire departments all around the world. So far, she has donated donated 75 pet mask kits to 27 departments in 13 states and even one province in Canada. She has several other donations in the works and should be over 80 kits in the next week or two. In July, firefighters in Bonner Springs, Kansas used a donated mask to save a three-year-old cat named Cracker.

    At only eight-years-old, Ian Cahr launched a beaded jewelry company to support dog rescue. Kristen Uyeoka, a 17-year-old from Aiea, Hawaii, developed interactive lesson plans to teach pre-school-age children responsible and compassionate care for animals. Mimi Ausland is the 13-year-old founder of freekibble.com, an online trivia game that provides pet food to shelters. And on and on….

    With kids like these our dogs have a reason to celebrate.

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