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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Dog Seen Around the World
Bo Obama inspires an international surge in PWD requests.

When the Obama family announced their new addition, animal groups around the nation braced for Bo-mania. In just three short weeks, Bo already has a book deal and a Beanie Baby on the shelves, catapulting the Portuguese Water Dog from a fishing breed once on the brink of “extinction” to an international sensation. 

Global demand has spiked, resulting in people clamoring for a breed with little to no presence in their own country. A German breeder reports that there are only three or four people whelping Porties in the nation. Since the Obamas introduced Bo, she’s received over 100 calls from people inquiring about dogs. 

Pet stores in India have been inundated with requests for the breed, which have to be imported from the United States, Europe or Thailand. Animal activists there are worried about the impact, but remain hopeful that the increase in dog ownership by the wealthy will create awareness for the treatment of homeless dogs as well.

Purebred groups, such as the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America and the American Kennel Club, are trying to educate newly interested people with information on choosing a responsible breeder and fulfilling the energetic Portie’s need for a job. I hope that new owners will take advantage of these resources and become involved in an activity like Rally or Agility.

While I believe it’s a legitimate and personal decision to buy from a responsible breeder (and I fall into this category myself), I have to admit that I was disappointed the Obamas didn’t adopt, given their level of influence. I'm alarmed at the thought of Porties being imported en masse and hope this doesn't further fuel the inevitable puppy mills capitalizing on Bo's popularity.

What’s your take on the First Dog's international influence?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Wheels with Dogs in Mind
Honda unveils a dog-friendly version of the popular Element.

Whether it’s a visit to the park or a trip to an Agility trial, I mostly drive with the dogs in tow. So when I’m in the market for a new car, I always keep them in mind. 

 

When it comes to the perfect canine vehicle, the Honda Element always comes up in conversation. From rave reviews on dog sport blogs to being named DogCar.com’s Car of the Year, the Element’s washable floors and spacious interior make it the clear winner among pet owners.

 

Earlier this month, Honda unveiled a dog-friendly version of the Element at the New York International Auto Show that will be available for purchase in the fall. The car features bone-patterned floor mats, a built-in crate, a load-in ramp, a rear ventilation fan and a spill-resistant water bowl. 

 

Honda has long recognized the need for dog friendly travel options and became a front runner in the market when it designed a minivan with built-in crates for the Tokyo Motor Show in 2005. 

 

Although the dog-friendly Element seems like more of a marketing ploy, since it’s really just the Element with dog-themed add-ons, I’m happy to see one of the big car manufacturers cater to pet owners.

 

To learn more about finding the perfect car for your perfect pup, check out “Dog & Driver” in the current issue of The Bark.

News: Guest Posts
And The Winners Are…
America at Home cover dogs revealed

No book about how Americans live, work and love at home would be complete without exploring the important role of dogs. So why not put a pup on the cover? As part of a contest to celebrate the publication of America at Home, a close up look at how we live, four Bark readers have won copies of the book with their very own photo of their very own dog on the cover.

Frani Pisak’s photo of Neo and Dazee Mae; Michele D. Leek’s of Hobbes; Saeran St. Christopher’s of Capote; and Sherri Earnst’s of Sophie were selected from among many wonderful photographs. An honorable mention went to Lucy Aron for a photo of Joey, owned by Gail and Richard Pope of Bright Haven Animal Sanctuary.

Sherri Earnest captured 11-year-old Sophie watching squirrels at her parents’ house. She explains, “The windowsill is literally covered in drool by the time we leave!” Michele Leek’s dog, Hobbes, is her “miracle dog.” Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in November of 2003, he lost his back right leg and underwent four months of chemotherapy. “He is the bravest soul I know and to this day remains cancer-free,” Leek says. “Every day is a gift. He brings joy to our lives.”

Frani Pisak’s Golden Retriever, Neo, is from a breeder in Pennsylvania. His pal Dazee Mae is a two-and-a-half-year-old Golden Retriever-Bassett Hound mix, who was rescued as an eight-month-old puppy. “Dazee Mae sure came a long way from a life of being tied to a tree, to a pampered life in the Pisak house,” she writes, “and now having her photo published in a national magazine!”

Congratulations to the America at Home contest winners--and all the rest of us lucky folks who share our homes with dogs.

News: Guest Posts
Nanny Scores with Dog-Wash Discord
Why not wag your dog’s tale?

Do you find yourself making up stories about your dogs that you think would make a good children's book? I have a million. Like the one about the girl who creates a very, very, very long leash so she can sit on the couch watching Millionaire Matchmaker, while her dog wanders the neighborhood creating havoc. Or the adventures of two black mutts called the The Licorice Twins, who track down missing food.

I didn’t say they were good and I never imagined these little riffs could really lead some place but for Shellie Braeuner that’s exactly what happened. The Nashville nanny recently won the first-ever Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories New Author Contest for her tale, The Great Dog Wash/El gran lavaperros. A special, English-Spanish edition of the book, illustrated by Robert Neubecker, is available free inside 1.5 million boxes of Cheerios. A standalone version, published by Simon & Schuster, goes on sale in July.

I caught up with Shellie Braeuner on her cell phone in a parking lot outside a Nashville grocery store last week, just hours after tornadoes touched down nearby. She was shopping for the special Cheerios boxes with the book inside to give away at the fifth birthday of Elizabeth, the youngest child for whom she is a nanny. The book is dedicated to Elizabeth and the dog they share, Fluffy.

How’d she do it? “It was the last day of the contest, and I really didn’t have anything finished that I wanted to submit that felt right,” says Braeuner, who has long written for personal pleasure and enjoys telling stories to kids. She was washing Fluffy, when she noticed Elizabeth singing, “dog wash, dog wash, dog wash.” “I thought, ‘you know, if she’s having this much fun just singing dog wash, there’s got to be a story in here somewhere.’ It all kind of came together that day, and it was the day it needed to come together if I was going to enter.”

I was happy to discover Fluffy might inspire future Braeuner-penned stories, including one based on the day Shellie and the kids brought him home from Happy Tails Humane, a no-kill animal shelter in the Nashville area. “We all came down with stomach flu the night after we adopted him,” Braeuner says. “And I’m thinking, ‘five-and-a-half-month-old puppy, new house, everyone feeling awful—gonna be crazy.’ And this dog just lay with us, just happy to be with us.”

The other big news for the fledgling author is Cheerios’ donation of 10,000 copies of her book to R.E.A.D., the reading assistance program that provides therapy dogs as reading companions for children. The largest single book donation in the organization’s history marks its 10th anniversary.

“To me that’s the best thing,” Braeuner says. “If I won the lottery or something and I kept all that money to myself, I wouldn’t be happy. But knowing that this is helping dogs and this is helping kids and that someone could go in with their WIC card and come out with a brand new book before it even hits the bookstores—that makes me feel so good.”

The key gap between me and a $5,000 grand prize? A good idea for starters. But that shouldn't stop others. Watch your dog for greatness and pick up your pens, the third New Author Contest runs through July 15, 2009.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bo Obama
Adorable puppy, less-than-ideal name

President Obama has had many opportunities to comment on his own name. I laughed when he joked that “Barack” means “that one” and when he kidded around that he got the name “Obama” from his Dad, but that “Hussein” came from somebody who obviously thought that he would never run for President. Clearly, he knows that a name is important.

At least he knows that for people. By now, we’ve all read about his new Portuguese Water Dog, Bo, who apparently was named partly as a reference to the fact that his father-in-law had the nickname “Diddley.” Naming new family members with respect to other relatives is charming, and I generally encourage it. However, a side effect of this particular naming is that the poor dog’s name rhymes with “No.”

Dogs are often startled into stopping or at least pausing in undesirable behavior by sudden exclamations of “No!” or “Hey!” which is why I always encourage clients to avoid names that sound too much like either one. It can be quite confusing for a dog to think he hears his name said in an abrupt way, which is the way that “No!” is most often said to puppies. Ideally, puppies should associate their name with feeling good, not with feeling startled.

Barack Obama is thriving in spite of various nomenclature challenges. Let’s hope the same good fortune follows the adorable Bo. Here are some tips on naming a dog.

News: Guest Posts
Dynanmic Duo
Snuggling like cats and dogs.

Frieda, a two-year-old female Chihuahua, and Morgana, a nine-month-old female tabby mix, were surrendered together to the Marin Humane Society last week. The unlikely pals were victims of the economic bust; Frieda and Morgana’s owner lost her home as a result of the financial crisis.

And we were all geared up to do our part pitching for this cross-species dynamic duo today, only to discover that they were adopted almost as soon as they became available on Saturday. Yahoo! Still, we couldn’t resist sharing this adorable photo.

News: Guest Posts
It's A Bo!
Malia and Sasha get their dog...at last.

Well, after all the waiting and the speculation, the Obamas have their dog. A six-month-old Portuguese Water Dog named Bo for Bo Diddley. (Actually, according to reports, he was previously named Charlie, which is also my husband’s name, so I am disappointed to miss the potentially funny headlines.)

A gift from Senator Ted Kennedy, who brings his own Porties to Capitol Hill, Bo’s provenance is not exactly the heartwarming rescue tale for which I had hoped. While the puppy did experience a setback when his original family returned him to the breeder, that's not exactly the example I had in mind. I was hoping the dog in the White House would be a daily reminder of the joys of adopting a homeless pup. The Obamas will make a donation to the District of Columbia Humane Society, but for now a golden opportunity has been missed.

Read more about B'Obama on TheBark.com:

The Dog Seen Around the World: Bo Obama inspires an international surge in PWD requests.

Bo Obama: Adorable puppy, less-than-ideal name.

Training Tips for the First Dog: Advice from professional trainers

News: Guest Posts
Putting More Bark in the Woods
Plant a tree for your pup this Arbor Day.

So many of my best dog memories are set in the pine forests of the Northwest. Here Lulu and Renzo thread thick groves and leap over downed trees like agility champs. They eagerly truffle at the base of venerable snags and devour fallen branches with the gusto of canine wood-chippers. So, I totally get the Arbor Day Foundation’s Trees for Pets pitch. For every dollar given through Trees for Pets, one tree will be planted in our nation’s forests to help replace the old giants that are lost each year through fire or disease. (Out where I live, bark beetles are wreaking havoc.)

I like the Foundation’s spin: Trees given in memory of a pet will provide food and shelter to wild critters for decades to come. Of course, you can also simply plant a tree on your own this Arbor Day, the last Friday of April, but it will probably end up costing more than a dollar.

News: Guest Posts
Why Tributes?
A chance to remember, celebrate and learn.

We recently launched Tributes, an online section dedicated to stories about our beloved dogs past. I’m glad we’ve set aside a space for celebrating our best friends and commiserating over their loss because I believe it’s another rich facet of our lives with dogs.

A few years ago, I worked on a proposal for a book about pet loss. Nothing came of it, in part, because publishers felt it was a downer. But I thought differently. Talking to a variety of people about their dog’s illnesses and deaths, and the grief that follows, gave me a special appreciation for this relationship. I discovered that a dog’s death allows us to be independent and hands-on in a way we can’t be with human beings. When the people we love die, a tsunami of regulations, infrastructure and commerce comes between us and them. Not so with our dogs.

We brush out their fur, wrap them in blankets and bury them in holes we dig ourselves. We freeze them until the kids come home, so everyone is home for a burial. When they are in severe pain, we release them through euthanasia. Sometimes we cremate our dogs; sometimes we preserve them through taxidermy. We spin their fur into wool or keep a small bundle as a keepsake. We make video slideshows, host memorials at dog parks, make contributions to shelters and animal welfare organizations in their name. The quirky and deep relationships we have with dogs find some of their most epic expressions in this endgame.

And because dogs’ life spans are usually a fraction of our own, we are often called upon to take these steps—making choices that touch on the raw edge of our own mortality—over and over again. We enter into these relationships with an awareness of this responsibility, and it seems to me, this honor. It’s not like having a child, when we can tell ourselves we’ll outlive our son or daughter. And it’s not like falling in love, when we tell ourselves it might never end.

In the same way our dogs persuade us to walk into a cold, foggy night, when we’d rather stay warm by a fire, they pull us into the big mystery.

I hope you’ll visit our Tributes page and contribute your own story either as a comment or a memorial of your own. To include a photo with your tribute, send story and image to webeditor@thebark.com.
 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An Award Show Fit for A Dog
Winners announced for the 2009 Canis Film Festival.

These days, there seems to be a film festival and award show for just about everything. So it’s about time we dog lovers got a piece of the pie.

Last weekend the winners of the 2009 Canis Film Festival were announced at ClickerExpo in Providence, R.I. Although there were no swag bags or paparazzi, the films starred talented and furry actors showcasing dog training at its best.

The Grand Prize went to Chaos, a Border Collie whose owner taught him to blow bubbles in his water bowl. Not only is this trick just plain cute, it’s refreshing to see training that has no set agenda. Often times I get caught up in training only “useful” behaviors, such as heeling or waiting at the door. But this video inspired me to remember the fun of dog training, particularly with shaping. 

The runner-up was a film on using positive methods to get a dog to use a treadmill and the second Runner-up, my personal favorite, was a touching story on the life changing effects of clicker training from the point of view of an adopted shelter dog.

Conceived by Karen Pryor Clicker Training, the Canis Film Festival showcases the art of animal training. The entries, all less than seven minutes, are judged for clarity of instruction, innovation, entertainment value, positive methods, usefulness and production quality. 

Feeling inspired to feature your dog in a winning film? Details will be posted shortly on the festival’s web site for 2010 submissions. Fire up your camcorders!

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