Dog's Life: Travel
Antlers, Vail, Colo. Known for its stunning scenery and miles of dog-friendly trails, the Rocky Mountains around Vail, Colo., come alive in fall with glorious views of golden aspen trees. Book a stay at the Antlers at Vail hotel, a dogwelcoming and noted “Green Business,” which is offering reduced-rate stays in condominium suites complete with kitchens, fireplaces and spacious amenities.
Recommended dog treks include ones to Wheeler and Pitkins Lakes. Area festivals include an Oktoberfest and Vail’s Restaurant Month (Sept. 20 – Oct. 17).
The Inn at Restful Paws, Sturbridge, Mass. This charming, doginviting inn, only 60 miles away from Boston, is situated on over 31 acres with amenities that include groomed walking trails and dog play areas located throughout the property. Dog guests might also enjoy doing laps at Rosie B’s bone-shaped indoor swimming spa.
Recommended treks include nearby Brimfield State Forest and Wells State Park for hiking and woodland adventures. Festivals include a Harvest Festival at Charlton Orchards Farm & Winery, founded in 1733.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Q&A with musician Moby
For the past decade, multiplatinum-selling composer Moby has been showing his affinity for dogs, cats and other critters by partnering with HSUS to raise money and awareness for animal rights programs. Among these endeavors is mobygratis, a generous trove of instrumental film music he’s written “for anyone in need of free music for their independent, nonprofit film, video, or short.” The music on mobygratis remains gratis as long as it’s used in a noncommercial, nonprofit way; if it’s licensed for a commercial film, all money generated goes to HSUS.
Bark: Why mobygratis?
Moby: Friends who are into experimental filmmaking said that one of the most difficult things is licensing music for their work. So I set up mobygratis as a way of helping students and others making these types of independent films.
B: Tell us about the music—is it mostly extra tracks?
M: In some cases, they’re extra tracks, and others, they’re pieces that I wrote specifically for the site. There’s a pretty wide range of music up there.
B: How has the response been so far?
M: Good! I haven’t really publicized it, but the music has already been used in about 3,000 different films. A few features, but for the most part, they’ve been short pieces—five to ten minutes long.
B: Why did you select HSUS?
M: I’ve worked with them quite a lot over the years. One of the things that impresses me most about them is their diligence and their persistence. And also, because they’re such a big organization, they’re actually able to accomplish a lot on a legislative level.
B: On your site, to promote your new album, you made an animated video of yourself being interviewed by a dog. Why?
M: I don’t know how to draw cats!
B: Beyond companionship, what do you think dogs teach us?
M: I’m certainly not the first person to say this, but they teach the idea of loyalty, and the capacity to find joy in just the simplest things—to be uninhibited in our emotions.
Find out more at moby.com.
Nothing says love like homemade gifts
Nothing says love like homemade gifts, and if we asked dogs what’s on their wish list, we bet they’d say, “Treats, please.” When it comes to wrapping those treats, think creative reuse and extend the gift potential.Here are ideas to get you started.
Mix It Up
Remember: Chocolate is off limits to dogs. Never substitute cocoa for the carob.
How to Do It
WRAP IT UP
Dog's Life: Humane
American Humane dogs the industry on behalf of animals
Aside from consuming unbuttered popcorn and starspotting, LA movie audiences have another timehonored tradition: When the credits roll, rather than dash to the parking lot to beat the traffic, many Angelenos stay in their seats. It’s not that they’re still soaking up the film’s subtext or wiping away a few last tears in the dark (well, maybe sometimes). Rather, they’re looking for familiar names—the best boy, the key grip, the caterer—and smatterings of applause arise when a friend’s name scrolls by. But while the names in the credits change from film to film, one important credit remains steadfastly the same: No Animals Were Harmed.
We’ve all read that line many times, but what does it mean, and who are the people protecting those sassy pups and noble eagles? Ensuring that animals cast in a movie, music video, television show or commercial are safe is just one of the crucial missions of the American Humane Association, which has stood up for the wellbeing and dignity of children and animals for more than a century. And when it comes to Hollywood, the organization has been truly vital. In fact, American Humane is the only organization authorized to award the trademarked “No Animals Were Harmed”seal.
More than 1,000 productions a year use the services of American Humane’s Film & Television Unit, which began monitoring movies in 1940. Jone Bouman, the unit’s director of communications, describes its responsibilities: “We are part of the SAG [Screen Actors Guild] agreement.We not only take care of the animal, which is our main priority, but by extension, we protect the people who work with that animal. I can’t tell you how many times an actor will say ‘I can ride a horse!’ They can’t ride a horse— they’ve been on a horse twice in their life. The next thing you know, a director is expecting them to go into a stampede with 40 loose animals.American Humane is there to step in and say, ‘That’s probably not gonna happen.’ So we protect the cast and the crew who work with the animals. Cast and crew are not expected to be animal specialists—we are. That’s our job.”
So that Schnauzer who hops on the roller coaster and is later seen dangling precariously from the tracks? Or the hamster who parachutes into a car through the sunroof? Breathe easy. Though scripts often call for real creatures to do comically outlandish things, the animal star is in good hands, thanks to American Humane’s on-set oversight. Sometimes, though not often, animatronics or computer-generated imagery is employed—say, in a scene where a young child has to ride a large horse. But Bouman feels that real animals “give a richness, as the animal engages more,” making mechanical or computer-generated animal doubles a second choice.
Before the group stepped in, animals who appeared in movies—though they often had caretakers on the set—were not uniformly protected. Attitudes varied from production to production; if a horse had to be seen falling over a cliff, it wasn’t unusual for a real horse to fall over a real cliff, with predictably disastrous results.
Thankfully, with animal-safety reps standing by, the days of sending a living creature over the side of a mountain in the name of entertainment have ended; instead, care and caution are the watchwords. “Our people have incredible, unique banks of knowledge,” says Bouman. “When you have a director who has a vision, we’re not there to say ‘We’re going to squash your vision… sorry!’We’re there to say, ‘Okay, let’s help you get that shot, but we’re going to help you get that shot in a safe way.’”
On many sets, few players are as well attended as the floppy-eared puppy or the swarm of wasps or the stallion who has to rear up when a rattler slithers out from under a bush (the snake is being supervised and protected, too).While a human actor may have his assistant nearby, and the director has her script supervisor at the ready, an animal— from an elephant to an gerbil—will usually have a veritable team of people looking after his welfare: his trainer, who taught him to do the stunts; his owner, who lives with and cares for him (sometimes the trainer and owner will be the same person); and his safety representative from American Humane. Typically, there is also a veterinarian on the set— definitely in major productions—or an on-call doctor “close enough to get to the set very quickly,” remarks Bouman.
The American Humane safety representatives are a rare breed, people who greet their callings with seriousness, skill and devotion to all things furred and feathered. Not only must they undergo specialized training that prepares them to understand the needs and behaviors of canines and ferrets and parrots and apes and cows and beyond (many representatives have veterinary medicine, zoo or shelter work in their background), but they must also have the personal grit and fortitude to make what might be an unpopular or difficult determination for the sake of an animal’s well-being. Because, while caricatures of directors and film people tend to be off-base— there are no megaphone-waving megalomaniacs in the industry (or very few)—when the light is fading and hundreds of people are waiting to get a shot, the intensity on a set can be, well, intense. But if it looks like a screeching truck might come too close to a cat, or if a dog leaping through a window might injure herself, the representative must make the critical call.
That said, injuries do occur on occasion. “We live in the real world—accidents happen, even with the best of intentions,” observes Bouman. But she describes such incidents as “very rare” and says that, after investigation, even if it proves to be a true accident, a different end credit must be given—in short,“No Animals Were Harmed” will not roll at the end of the film.However, if the abuse or neglect is not accidental, that’s a different hive of bees altogether. American Humane has no qualms about immediately stepping in, removing the animal and shutting down the scene.
Sets visited by American Humane reps can be on a Tinseltown studio lot or on some faraway isle. “We go all over the world,” Bouman says, noting that there are 11 full-time representatives in Los Angeles and a few dozen part-timers stationed around the country and the globe. “In the U.S., when you shoot under the Screen Actors Guild agreement, our services are free, which is great, because any production that wants us there doesn’t have to worry about getting us into the budget. However, when you film overseas, as many large productions are wont to do, we have to charge a small fee.” It should be noted that American Humane oversight is mandatory in the Screen Actors Guild contract; a production under that contract must inform American Humane when an animal is going to be used in a scene. While on occasion, American Humane cannot be present— for instance, if more films are being shot than they have representatives to cover on a particular day or week—the organization considers where their team is needed most (for example, a film using elephants and bears versus a television show in which the dog’s only job is to sleep on a couch).
Finding money for an animal-safety rep is not an ordeal for most films; rather, it is one of the most important things the producers do when they are shooting outside the U.S. and know an animal actor will be in their film.“Most productions are very aware of the benefits of having an American Humane rep on set,” observes Bouman.“Not only are their animals going to be taken care of under the strictest guidelines—I mean, our guidelines are serious—but we are also extremely collaborative.”
At the end of the day, an animal in a film is not just part of the scenery or background; he or she is an employee, hired to do a job, and protections must be extended. Cheering on the feisty mutt as he dashes in front of the train is much more fun when you know that he returned to his snug little bed after filming wrapped.Whether he develops a big head from so much on-set attention and adoration is another matter entirely.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Although once nearly eradicated in developed countries, bedbugs are on the rise. These tiny bloodsuckers don’t transmit diseases, but can leave itchy welts on you and your warm-blooded pets. It’s important to routinely check any place you or your pets sleep for the telltale dark stains of bedbug activity.
Dogs aren’t taking this bedbug business lying down, either. Some companies are training dogs to be the ultimate pest detectors. With their sensitive noses, dogs can sniff out a single bedbug, and even tell live bugs from harmless dead ones, helping pest control specialists work more quickly and use less pesticide.
If you suspect a bedbug infestation, contact your pest control specialist. Pets are especially at risk from the long-lasting pesticides used to kill bedbugs, but certain chemicals, such as pyrethrin, may be safe when used correctly, and a handful of companies do offer non-toxic solutions to the bedbug problem.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kit’s Corner - Our resident canine tastemaker shares her latest delights.
A. The Canine Foot Bath makes cleaning Kit’s dainty paws a breeze: insert, swish, remove, dry and voila! $9.95
B. Water-wicking microfiber and gentle rubber massage bristles: what more could one dog ask for? Plus, a percentage of the Scrubby Towel’s purchase price goes to the ASPCA. $18.99
C. Baths are low on Kit’s priority list, so for a quick clean up, Opie & Dixie’s rosehips dry shampoo and conditioning mist does the trick. Certified organic plus 100% vegan. From $8.95
D. Early autumn picnics are warmer (and drier) with a Mambe waterproof pet blanket to roll around on great protection for beds and furniture too. From $49
One of the trainers behind Hungary’s viral dog videos, explains how they did it
In the video, “A Doggy Christmas Surprise,” half-a-dozen dogs left alone in a Budapest flat trim a tree with great skill and holiday spirit. They roll up carpets, hang ornaments and lights, climb ladders, stack packages and swirl in garland. In a sequel, titled “A Doggy Summer,” many of the same talented canines crash a beach, where they set up an umbrella and sunning mats, float on boogie boards, play tug of war with towels, dig holes, catch Frisbees, play catch and generally redefine Beach Blanket Bingo. With nearly 9 million views, the videos are certifiable YouTube hits.
But the talents of the canine stars have been a bit of a mystery. Because the videos have Hungarian titles and captions and link to Hungarian websites, the question “how’d they do it?” has been hard to answer. We tracked down the lead trainer for the videos, Nora Vamosi-Nagy, who explained in her more-than-passable English (since we were woefully unprepared to conduct the interview in Hungarian) the story behind these fantasztikus videos.
The dogs in the videos were trained using the “Mirror Method”—what’s that?
The Mirror Method has three parts. The first part is being the leader in the group or the pack. We don’t like to use the term ‘pack leader’ anymore because ethologists say that dogs are more like children; they look to us more as parents than leaders. But still if you are a parent to your child, you have to have some sort of leadership. You have to have respect in order for the dog to do what you say.
The second part is teaching, and we believe the best way today is clicker training. In the school, we teach in groups of 12 and the dogs are off-leash. By clicker training, I mean shaping. We teach every owner to shape something with the dog. They don’t have to use shaping in every teaching but they have to learn to shape. Because once you can shape something to the dog you start to look at the dog a different way, you start to see things that you didn’t see before, and start to use your hand and your movements consciously.
The third part of the method is lifestyle, which is very, very important. It’s not just taking the dog for a walk or physical activity but also you have to make the dog’s brain work and, most important, is to let the instincts work. If the dog is not mentally engaged, it can get sick and ill.
How did you learn the Mirror Method?
We work together but the Mirror Method is coming from Gabor. He has this idea that when you have a dog and you work with a dog it’s not only because you like the dog and it’s not all about the dog, it’s something about yourself. You can learn a lot about yourself if you have a dog.
Gabor was a Schutzhund competitor before, and he had good results. He was in the world championships. But he wanted to compete so bad that actually he made his dog sick, and no one could say why. So he quit the competition world, he started to examine the human-canine relationship. He started to listen, look at things and then to work on these ideas.
When I got in the picture, I was a really typical beginner-owner. But I had so many questions, he started to work on how to explain it so everyone could understand it. Today we work together with the leaders of the other dog schools. There are many, many people who put effort into making the method, always with new ideas.
We try to make owners conscious of what they are doing. For example, when I say, come here and I start to walk toward the dog, the information I’m giving is, you can go because I’m coming to you. It’s not what I want to communicate. And then I’m angry that the dog is not coming. Why should he come he understands that I’m coming up to him? There are these communication mistakes, so people have to learn some things mean different things in dog language.
Why did you make “A Doggy Christmas Surprise”?
The eight dogs are members of the promotion group [which included 15 human/dog pairs. A second group started this summer with 12 teams. They meet two or three times a week to choreograph Mirror Method presentations for public events.] The hardest part was to find a flat where someone would let in a bunch of dogs.
We didn’t practice at all for the video shooting. But the dogs knew everything. They understood all the words; they understood to go forward, to bring this, to put that there. It wasn’t difficult at all. In six hours, we shot all the material.
We don’t want to make the dogs look like children, like in American movies. I really hate that. They do human stuff but still we try to find a balance where it’s still OK, it’s funny but it’s still dogs doing the whole thing.
Right now we are planning a third video. It will tell more about the method and show more of Hungary/Budapest as home of the method. It will come out next spring.
I noticed none of them are wearing collars. Is that normally the case when you’re training?
Were you surprised by the huge response?
Dog's Life: Humane
Animal shelters save homeless dogs and cats, fight cruelty, and educate the public about pet overpopulation. But shelters themselves are rarely eco-friendly. When many of them were built, energy efficiency wasn’t a priority, air circulation systems were poor and there was a reliance on toxic materials, especially for cleaning. The good news is that this trend is beginning to take a green turn, one shelter at a time.
Among the early adopters is the Tompkins County SPCA, which opened its new upstate New York facility in 2004. Certified as the first green shelter in the country, Tompkins received a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver rating from the U.S.Green Building Council. Since then, other shelters have followed its lead— take the Potter League for Animals in Middleton, R.I., for example.
According to Pat Heller, director of development, the league plans to open its approximately 19,500-square-foot green shelter in November. Since they take in nearly 2,000 animals every year, and also receive dogs from several animal control agencies, they can definitely use the space.
“Our building has many green features that will not only benefit the animals but the local environment as well,” says Heller. Because the area receives ample precipitation, the design firm, ARQ Architects of Kittery, Maine, incorporated an innovative water reuse system, a 15,000-gallon cistern to capture runoff that can be recycled for cleaning. Considering that shelters use thousands of gallons of water every month for this purpose, that’s a significant step forward. Further, the parking lot is covered with a permeable surface to prevent runoff into nearby wetlands. “Rainwater gets polluted with gasoline and oil from the parking lot, then it drains into the wetlands. This will cut down on contamination,” Heller observes.
Other eco-friendly aspects include sensors that control the heating and ventilation systems, toxin-free paints and dual-paned windows for insulation. Heller adds that the shelter will also recycle or reuse as much of the construction waste as possible, which will help reduce the landfill burden.
In California, the Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) has a green facility— an innovative Animal Community Center—scheduled to open in early 2009. Laura Fulda, vice president for marketing and communications, says their plans include an efficient water-cleansing system, which will reduce water consumption and ensure appropriate cleaning and disinfecting of kennels. HSSV also set its sights on reducing energy consumption. “We’ll install a photovoltaic system on the roof, over part of the dog park and in our parking areas,” says Fulda. “That will generate up to 40 percent of our energy needs.”
Additional green features designed into the new community center by Moraga, Calif., architects George Miers & Associates include drought-resistant plants, dual-flush toilets, synthetic turf in the dog park and play areas, and passive heating/cooling. Earth-friendly practices currently in place, such as the use of biodegradable cat litter and eco-sensitive janitorial products and the recycling of office products, will, of course, continue.
Though LEED certification is a good thing to have, shelters don’t need it to go green. Maricopa County Animal Care and Control in Phoenix replaced one of its two aging facilities in May 2008. Though the municipal shelter lacked the criteria for LEED certification, Linda Soto, shelter division manager, says they still incorporated energy-efficient features. “The outer walls are constructed using a foam and concrete [material] that’s super-insulated. The roof is also coated for additional heat reduction.” That’s crucial in Phoenix, where daytime temperatures rise above 100 degrees for at least four months each year.The building is climate-controlled for maximum energy savings, and lighting in offices and restrooms is sensor-equipped.
When it comes to reducing our environmental footprint, every little bit helps. Even if a shelter has no immediate plans for a green building, they can still recycle, for example; shelters generate large amounts of recyclable material, including cans, newspaper and cardboard. The North County Humane Society and SPCA in Oceanside, Calif., has an informal program. As Julie Bank, executive director, explains it,“We put recyclables into a bin and a volunteer collects it and takes it up the road to the recycling center.” That small program ultimately keeps hundreds of pounds of material out of the county landfill.
The Michigan Humane Society runs a more sophisticated program called the Green Sweep.Among the items recycled are office paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, metal and newspaper. The organization also recently started to recycle cell phones and cell phone accessories. One program helps the environment while the other raises money for the animals.
A sample of other green shelters either open or in the works includes Canada’s Winnipeg Humane Society and Bow Valley SPCA,Michigan’s Humane Society of Huron Valley,California’s Sacramento County Animal Care and Texas’s Dallas Animal Services. More shelters will no doubt be added to the list as cities begin to require that new private buildings meet environmentally appropriate standards.
When it comes to planning, going green requires a commitment not only of time and money but also dedication to eco-friendly principles. James F.Owens, project manager with Boston’s Rauhaus Freedenfeld and Associates, says it’s more economical to start with something new rather than try to retrofit a project that’s already under way.
For example, water reuse and/or reduction projects are good for the environment and can slice utility bills, but they have to be carefully planned. As Owens notes, “Water must be properly filtered and cleaned in the animal areas, where infection can be a concern.” (For shelters that opt not to recycle water, Owens recommends high-pressure washers because they use fewer gallons per minute than traditional hoses.)
Air filtration designed to prevent the spread of disease, particularly upper respiratory varieties, is also crucial. According to Lucinda Schlaffer of ARQ Architects, the system should use 100 percent outside air and circulate 10 to 12 air changes per hour. It’s also true that such a system is costly to run, and most shelters operate on slim budgets.
Dr. Wendy Swift, veterinary medical director at the Kent County Humane Society in Grand Rapids, Mich., adds a caveat, noting that unless shelters also employ a disease prevention protocol, an air filtration system—no matter how advanced or eco-friendly—will be worthless. “Disease is spread from animal to animal and from human contact.An air filtration system alone will not save lives.”
Switchboards are busy at architecture firms like ARQ, George Miers and Rauhaus Freedenfeld. Going green isn’t a fad—it’s a necessity, the only way to reverse climate change, reduce pressure on overflowing landfills and combat pollution. By doing as much as they can given their individual circumstances, shelters are helping animals and befriending the environment at the same time. “Constructing a building with a social conscience fit into our mission of making a difference and enriching lives for both people and animals,” says Heller of the Potter League for Animals—an admirable mission indeed.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
In Oregon prisons, therapy dogs help close the gap between parent and child
While Rachel’s husband, Sean, did his time at Columbia River Correctional Institute (CRCI), a minimum-security prison in Oregon, she struggled to maintain the parent-child bond between him and their three children. She brought them to the monthly family visits, but the atmosphere was austere, controlled and, for kids, dull. Families sat on metal benches around a table, and several families shared one large, noisy dining hall under the watchful eye of guards.
For Rachel, precious bonding time was often spent keeping her youngest, a fiveyear- old girl with Down syndrome, from fidgeting. The older children, ages nine and 13, distracted themselves, asking permission to go to the bathroom or the vending machine. Rachel often had to cut short the family’s visits.
All that began to change about a year ago, when therapy dogs became part of CRCI’s “Children’s Events,” special occasions for the families of inmates participating in parenting classes. Sean and other inmates involved in the parenting program constructed a brightly painted and decorated room specifically for family events, so that the setting might be homier. “Having the kids’ area was way better; no metal chairs anymore. Earlier, it was more restrictive than school!” he recalls now from the comfort of his home, reunited with his family after completing his sentence.Rachel agrees, and also mentions how much the therapy animals who were part of the family events helped their youngest daughter.“She’d talk about the animals for a week after each visit. They helped the older kids as well—got ’em away from the vending machine!”
Rachel saw her developmentally disabled daughter blossom around the dogs. “Animals help her communicate, mellow her out.We have three cats at home, and just got a Beagle. My daughter is learning to say ‘Good boy!’ and ‘Awesome!’ and give our dog positive reinforcement.” During the family events, both kids and parents learn how to interact with pets. “They teach gentle ways of interacting, because most inmates are abusers, or had been abused—that’s why they’re there— and the program teaches them how to pet rather than smack or pull a tail,” said Rachel.
This innovative program—putting volunteers with therapy animals into prisons during special parenting events —is the brainchild of three creative and compassionate women who blended several resources and programs to create a brand-new vision.
Rozlyn Gorski had the initial idea. She is involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Portland,Ore., and works with a subset of kids, Children with Incarcerated Parents. She knows how stressful and difficult maintaining a positive parent-child bond can be when a parent is incarcerated.
Gorski knows Heather Toland of DoveLewis, a Portland-area nonprofit emergency animal hospital with a large community-outreach and animal-welfare component.Toland is director of the Animal Assisted Therapy and Education program at DoveLewis. When Gorski wondered aloud if therapy dogs could help the kids she worked with, Toland quickly grasped the value of the idea, and signed on to help.
Gorski’s idea had merit. Toland possessed the ability to procure and train the volunteer handlers and dogs. But how to get them integrated into the prison family visits? Enter Dawnell Kirk,Western Regional Manager for Pathfinders, a nonprofit organization that contracts with the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide parenting classes to inmates. Pathfinders is also a community partner with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Kirk immediately saw the advantages of adding therapy animals to the family events, visits that were already a reward to inmates participating in parenting classes. Inviting the animals upped the reward ante significantly for the inmates, while also providing a clear therapeutic benefit to the families.
Kirk went to CRCI administration and asked, “What about bringing in some animals?”She then worked with the security manager to do just that. “They were so supportive,” she remembers. “We got the dogs in. They were a huge hit. The kids adore them. One gentleman said it was the first time he’d petted a dog in 10 years. It’s a nice place for children to learn to be with pets,”she says.“It’s a really good bonding moment for incarcerated parents and kids. Something to talk about with each other.”
Toland asked Kirk about bringing other types of therapy animals to the family events—in particular, a goat named Gracie. Once again, it was Kirk’s task to ask the prison administrator. “I’ll go down as the woman who got a goat into prison,” jokes Kirk. “Prison staff came down to see Gracie; everyone enjoyed it,” she said about that first event with the goat. Audie, a therapy cat, is also a popular visitor.
Indirectly, the animals help bring inmates into the parenting program. “Inmates not part of the program see the animals coming for the family events, and there’s more interest in the parenting classes,” which are voluntary, says Kirk. Each parenting course meets three times a week, three hours each day, for twelve weeks. “It’s very intense. It’s specific for incarcerated parents,” she adds. Those on the wait list can attend the family events with the animals, and a parent doesn’t have to complete the program to attend. Kirk isn’t worried that some inmates might sign up just for the animals, with no intention to complete the parenting course. “We track it,” she said. “It’s been a positive influence. One man signed up because he has three daughters. He wanted to be the class assistant. He was released to the community and has continued to participate at the Pathfinders Community Center with his daughters.”
Kirk’s next task was to approach Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP)—the maximumsecurity institution—about using therapy animals there. Kirk started warming up officials to the idea, describing the success at CRCI. She was surprised, and delighted, to be asked by the OSP assistant superintendent,“ Can the goat come?”Another door was opened. (Who knows—perhaps the OSP assistant superintendent was influenced by hearing how the CRCI superintendent had his photo taken with Gracie and used it as his official Christmas card last year.)
According to Kirk, the Oregon Department of Corrections supports the inmates as parents. Incorporating therapy animals into family events for those inmates participating in parenting classes is one way of making that support real.
The participating kids and parents all tell Kirk,“We want the animals back!”At every family event, the kids ask her,“Are the dogs here?!”Unfortunately, the animals aren’t available for every family event at every institution.Not yet. But if Kirk has her way, that won’t be the case for long. Just this spring, the therapy animal concept expanded to Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, the only women’s prison in Oregon, which already has a puppy-training program.
Kirk sees positive changes in the inmates interacting with the animals. “There’s a softening in their demeanor. Even those not participating in parenting classes ask to pet the dogs. It’s such a good thing. It’s therapy.” So far, she reports, there hasn’t been a single negative encounter, for animals, handlers or families.
Early on, those involved realized that the typical family visiting session at the prison was too noisy and busy for a basic “Reading-to-the-Dogs” program. They also wanted to include a humane education component.When the dogs come to a family event, everyone learns how to approach them and how to meet and engage appropriately; the kids learn how to brush the dogs, then are allowed to teach their fathers those skills. “The program is very new, but shows lots of promise,”Toland says.The idea is for the dogs to be a calming distraction for the children while inside prison walls, making the parent-child interactions more normal as well as providing a teaching opportunity and a communication bridge.
Toland determines which dogs and handlers participate in the program. “I keep pretty tight control,” she says. Volunteers take a skills-for-handlers course, and because of the dogs’ contact with multiple kids and the unusual environment, they also learn about coping skills for dogs. “Sometimes we have to help a handler recognize displacement in their dog, as in, ‘I’m done!’” Through DoveLewis, handlers can also take continuing- ed classes, such as silly pet tricks, massage and canine health.
This program—screening and training of volunteer handlers and dogs—is now a regular part of DoveLewis’s activities, along with its pet loss, blood bank, stray animal and wildlife care, and other animal welfare programs.
Penny and her dog Charity, a five-year-old yellow Lab, are volunteers in the prison program. Charity is a certified therapy dog, and the pair had often participated in Reading to the Dogs programs through DoveLewis. Toland mentioned the prison program to Penny and told her that this use of therapy dogs was different —for one thing, a thorough background check was required.“It sounded like something to try,” Penny says.
As their first visit to CRCI loomed, Penny recalls, “All day long I was hesitant.” She said to herself,“How can I get out of this? I was fearful for my personal —and my dog’s—safety. This was my first time visiting a prison.”
Two of the four volunteers going with Penny that day had participated before and they gave her tips on what to say,how to behave, what to watch for. Penny’s experienced mentors offered practical advice: Don’t wear denim (looks too much like inmates’ uniforms), no underwire bras (they set off metal detectors), and do wear a bright yellow T-shirt (DoveLewis’s color) so the group stands out as visitors.
Upon reaching the institution, the handlers went through security, starting with a holding room where cell phones, keys, jewelry and similar items were stored in lockers. Each of them then passed through a metal detector, alone. Their dogs were led through by a guard. “Charity acted as though this was a typical environment for her. I saw no sign of stress or anxiety. She was very calm,” Penny says.
Once inside, they were led to the family room.“It has cute decorations,murals, small furniture,”Penny says.“The inmates did all the murals, built the furniture, did the decorating. It was warm.” Then they were led to the cafeteria to meet the inmates. “All the guys were lined up in a row.We walked past them, 50 of them in jeans and denim. It was intimidating,” Penny remembers.
Penny and the other handlers brought their own mats and blankets for sitting on the floor with their dogs.They offered the kids books (each child gets one to take home), but mostly, “the kids loved brushing the dogs,” says Penny.“One girl kept coming back to brush Charity. I gave her lots of positive reinforcement.”
On a subsequent visit, in addition to Charity, there were two German Shepherds and a Rottweiler.“ Many of the kids were fearful of the other dogs. One guy said, ‘Last time I saw a German Shepherd is when he was pinning me down before I got arrested,’” Penny remembers, noting that the Rottie has painted toenails and a flower-print collar to make her less intimidating to the kids. The dogs are always on-leash during events. “It’s a therapy dog rule,” explains Penny.“The handler is always attached to the leash.But I can let a child walk Charity with both of us holding the leash.”
A couple of fathers without kids attended—they had ongoing custody issues, or their kids lived out of state. Those men were assigned to look out for the handlers’ needs.Penny found them all “amazingly polite.”At one event, the food served was pizza and ice cream.When a child offered some food to Charity and Penny politely said no, some of the fathers teased Penny, saying she was awfully strict and wondering if Charity was neglected.
“The flow of people during an event keeps moving,with only one or two kids at a time to keep the dogs from feeling overwhelmed,”Penny says.“It just seems to happen naturally. The kids are good at waiting for their turn. Charity got tired toward the end. She crashed when we got home.”
Penny believes this program helps make inmates better parents.“Many admit to me they’ve messed up and are paying their debt. They hope people will give them a chance. They really appreciate that the handlers and dogs treat them like regular members of society.”
One rule is that handlers don’t use names during visits. They remove all ID, even dog tags that have contact information. “Only one time did I feel slightly uncomfortable,” said Penny.“One inmate started asking me questions in conversation, but the questions got progressively more personal—too personal, I felt. He recognized it was too personal and changed the topic.”
Penny recalls how she mistakenly signed up for the first event at Oregon State Penitentiary. The maximum-security prison.Upon realizing her error, she figured she’d go anyway, but she then had a nightmare about it, so she backed out. She had similar anxiety about visits to the minimum-security facility, “but I had the nicest possible experience there.” Penny’s concerns are more for Charity than for herself—Charity, who has no choice in the matter, could be more easily victimized. Penny worries about even a minor negative interaction; she and Charity have too much invested in therapy dog work. “I don’t want to mess it up. I’d never forgive myself if Charity was traumatized.” So for now, Penny declines to volunteer for OSP visits, but continues to participate enthusiastically in the CRCI visits.
“This experience teaches you a lot about stereotypes of prisoners,” says Penny.“It’s been eye-opening,how appreciative, polite and considerate they are. It’s been good for me to see. They know they made mistakes, and they admit it. They’re trying to keep their kids from making mistakes, trying to be good parents. This restores your faith in humanity.Dogs help us do that. Charity is the connection; I’m just her chauffeur!”
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
[VIDEO] Writer/actress/“dog manager” Lorraine Goodman talks about dogs in showbiz
In our September issue, Lorraine Goodman gives us a behind-the-scenes look at Tiger, a rising dog star on the set of his first feature film. After putting a few dog years into last minute photo shoots (for everything from an Ikea catalog to Vogue), a national television commercial, and eight fruitless hours in David Letterman’s green room (bumped for the announcement about his girl troubles), the three-and-a-half year old Terrier mix got his big break earlier this summer. He went to work on The Son of No One, which “co-stars” such Hollywood luminaries as Al Pacino, Ray Liotta and Katie Holmes.Recently, Goodman talked to us (on camera, of course) about Tiger, who was “discovered” during a routine training outing in Central Park. An actress in her own right, with credits including a few seconds in The Departed, Goodman provides insider advice to Bark readers who think their dogs might be the next Benji.
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