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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.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Boy or Girl?
Study finds that men and women differ on the perfect dog.

In the world of dog sports, I’ve often heard people say that men work better with female dogs and women work better with male dogs. That statement has yet to be proven, but a study by Monash University has begun to research how gender effects how we choose our furry friends. 

According to their study of 877 Australian dog lovers, women prefer male dogs and vice versa. Researchers also found that women tended to look for calm, obedient pups and men sought large, impressive dogs, more often opting for purebreds.  

While gender may predict how we choose our next furry friend, it may not influence how we interact with them. A study by Italian researchers showed that there is little difference in how men and women interact with their pets. Women tend to be more verbal, but both genders play similarly with their dogs. 

I do think there is some truth to gender’s effect on how we choose our dogs, but they’re pretty wide assumptions for which there are many exceptions. One only has to look at my old neighbor in Manhattan -- a 6 foot tall rocker guy with a tiny Chihuahua, though I have to admit chuckling to myself  anytime I saw them walk together on the street.

Have you noticed any gender differences in how we choose and interact with our pets?

For thoughts on gender’s effect on canine learning, check out Patricia McConnell’s article, The Gender Gap.

News: Guest Posts
If I Were A Philadelphia Eagles Fan…
Could I still support my home team?

Michael Vick’s reentry into professional football, the latest update in his life story, has me wondering how I would feel if I happened to be an ardent Philadelphia Eagle fan. Honestly, I’m not altogether sure. Would I believe that everyone is deserving of a second chance? Would I boycott the games, or choose to watch but cheer every time Michael Vick fumbled the ball or threw an interception? Would I hate Michael Vick for his heinous actions, or could I muster up compassion for a guy whose upbringing allowed him to think that treating living creatures in such a horrifying fashion was perfectly okay?
 
As a resident of California with no real interest in professional football, I’m thankful that I don’t have to decide how to support my home team. However, as someone who devotes a significant portion of her life to the wellbeing of animals, I certainly feel conflicted. Here is my strategy. I’m going to try to temper any outrage and anger with hope for the goodness that might arise from the Michael Vick saga. Yes, I do believe there is some potential for some sweetness in this sour situation. Dog fighting has made it to center stage in terms of media attention. This increased awareness will hopefully be accompanied by greater action to vilify and stop such ugly exploitation of animals. Vick now has phenomenal opportunities to utilize his celebrity stature for the benefit of animals. I hope he will become a sincere (I’ll settle simply for believable) high profile champion of organizations, activities, and legislation that support the welfare of animals. Michael Vick cannot undo what’s been done, but he certainly holds much positive potential in his hands, above and beyond merely a football. Michael Vick now has the opportunity to change his legacy.  For the sake of animals everywhere, I hope he does exactly that.

News: Guest Posts
His Name’s Not Reggie
How you can help a soldier's dog in need.

If you have an inbox, then you’ve probably heard about Reggie. The fictional tale reminds us that military dog owners face difficult choices when called to war. Unless they can find a temporary home for their dog, the shelter is the only option.

Military Pets Foster Project matches soldiers with people willing to foster their pets while they’re away on duty. It’s impossible to thank a soldier for his/her many sacrifices, but imagine giving the gift of their dog or cat upon their return home. Charitable donations are also welcome.

News: Guest Posts
Man’s Best (and Most Energy Efficient?) Friend
Dogs join the fight against global warming.

My cousin Mark is a pretty smart guy who reads widely. (All my cousins are above average.) Here is what Mark sent to me in an e-mail about dogs:

“Professor Temple Grandin says that dogs are genetic wolves that have co-evolved with humans for 100,000 years, maybe more. Hence dogs and humans have complementary advantages and deficits. Humans used to have a better sense of hearing and smell, now dogs are better than us at those. Humans walk upright and have better vision and organizational skills, so dogs depend on us to see things and try to find them. Both are social creatures. So the lesson is that Nature has bundled the hardware and software for these skills and abilities between the two species. Unbundling them carries certain risks, so you should try to live with a dog if you can.”

I agree that dogs and humans are a pretty good combination. We’ve had a dog for about a year now. Cooper is a medium-sized Labradoodle, which is a Labrador Retriever and Poodle mix. He’s a great dog and we love him a lot. He’s heartbreakingly cute and cuddly. He has a Lab’s great disposition and a Poodle’s smarts. We think he’s the best dog ever.

But, along with being a good partner, is Cooper an energy efficient addition to our household? Are pets, and dogs in particular, a step in the right direction in the battle against global warming and the fight for energy security? Is Underdog more than a cartoon?

I think “bundling” ourselves with animals is a good idea for lots of reasons, but here is why I think dogs are energy efficient:

1. Dogs add warmth in the winter and stay outside most of the time in the summer, so they don’t add much to a house’s cooling load.

2. Dogs add fur in the winter and cool themselves using their tongues. Try that, humans!

3. When he has nothing to do, Cooper lays down flat as a pancake and barely moves, thereby conserving energy.

4. Dogs are great alarm systems and don’t even need batteries.

5. Dogs eat stuff that humans throw away. They will clean your plates if you let them, saving water and energy.

6. Because dogs need to be walked, they cause their owners to exercise, reducing their owners’ appetite and therefore their food intake (that’s how it’s supposed to work).

7. Dogs give you unconditional love and so you don’t have to drive your car to visit family and friends.

What’s your dog’s energy pawprint?

News: Guest Posts
The “D” Word
Don’t miss your chance to howl with Lily Tomlin.

Actress, comedian, dog lover and animal welfare do-gooder Lily Tomlin headlines in Provincetown, Mass., on August 29 in a one-night-only show to benefit Pilgrim Bark Park, a new, nonprofit, off-leash dog park and animal welfare resource. Did you think Tomlin's Edith Ann and Buster the dog routine was pure shtick? Think again, and read about  Tomlin’s passion for animals in The Bark interview.)

 

The fundraiser will help park organizers pay off a $30,000 loan, which was taken out to make the park wheelchair accessible, and also to fund much-needed shade pavilions.

Opened in 2009, Pilgrim Bark Park was established to reflect the town’s love of dogs and provide animal welfare resources to the community. Reflecting Provincetown’s history as an artist colony, the park is dotted with benches and doghouses designed and painted by local artists. The park is supported exclusively by volunteers and private donations.
 
DETAILS: Saturday, August 29, MacMillan Pier on Provincetown Harbor. Look for Ernestine, who will be wandering along the pier during the silent and live auction, which begins at 5 pm. Tomlin’s show, “The ‘D’ Word,” hosted by Kate Clinton, begins at 8 pm. Tickets are $75-$250 and available online at www.onlyatthecrown.com.

 

For those of us too far away to make the Tomlin show, here’s the classic clip of Edith Ann describing the go-for-broke sandwich she made for her dog, Buster:

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Top Cities for Dogs
MSNBC publishes their list of pet-friendly destinations.

I’m always on the hunt for dog-friendly destinations. This week MSNBC published their Top 10 Pet Friendly Cities of 2009, giving me many new trip ideas. I was excited to see that my own hometown of New York made the list, mandating a staycation perhaps! New York was joined by San Diego, Chicago, Seattle, Alexandria, Portland, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles and Boston.

These cities were picked based on the variety of pet-friendly lodging, restaurants, tourist amenities and pet events. MSNBC’s list represents a variety of canine friendly activities, from San Diego’s three off-leash beaches to Alexandria’s Yappy Hours at Hotel Monaco.

I’m already scheming to take trips to kayak with my dogs in San Diego, enjoy the beachside view of the Golden Gate Bridge together in San Francisco, party with my pooches at SkyBark in Los Angeles and take the pet friendly ferry ride from Boston to Cape Cod.  

The author, Sandy Robins, is dead on when describing New York and our surprising number of dog parks among the sea of skyscrapers and high rise apartments. The Shake Shack stand she mentions is indeed delicious and the menu even features the Pooch-Ini, a doggie custard sundae. Madison Square Park is also the location of past American Kennel Club Responsible Dog Owners Day events.

What are your favorite pet friendly cities?

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