News: Guest Posts
Elected to public office? Then congrats, you're getting a dog! Seriously, you'd have to live in a cave not to know that the Obamas are searching for a First Puppy. But who knew that Vice President-elect Joe Biden also made a doggie deal? His wife, Jill, said he could get one if the Obama-Biden ticket prevailed.
Last week, Biden visited breeder Linda Brown's Jolindy's Kennels in southeastern Pennsylvania to pick out a three-month-old German shepherd puppy. As someone who co-founded and volunteered for New Orleans German Shepherd Rescue for several years, I'm disappointed that Biden chose to purchase a puppy from a breeder. This magnificent breed is often passed over at shelters due to its large size or tough reputation. Yes, I know that some folks insist on having a young puppy, but you'd be surprised at how many young German shepherds ranging from six months to one year end up in shelters simply for "getting too big" or getting into trouble due to lack of training, exercise or attention.
On the upside, at least the Bidens didn't buy their puppy from a pet store or a backyard breeder just looking to make a buck. Then again, in looking at the breeder's Web site, it's unclear as to whether she is a member in good standing with a national registry like the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club. Or whether she tests her sires and dams for health problems commonly found in German shepherds, such as hip dysplasia, before breeding them. She appears to use mostly dogs imported from Germany in her breeding program. I much prefer the structure of the traditional working German shepherd versus the extreme back-leg angulation of American-bred show German shepherds. That's one important reason why the police and military import their working dogs -- their sound structure allows them to actually do the work for which they were bred.
But then I noticed that Brown has four litters available for sale, which is quite a few puppies. Most hobby breeders only breed one litter a year or less because they're not in it for the money. They carefully research the pedigrees of the prospective sire and dam and do the necessary (and perhaps even extra) health tests of eyes, hips, elbows, etc., and any genetic diseases that affect their breed. My guess is that Brown is a commercial breeder, one who breeds often in order to make money. Sure enough, Brown is believed to have 85 dogs at her facility. And she was recently cited for several violations, including "unsatisfactory ventilation, inadequate maintenance and sanitation, and missing sale and vaccination records." What's worse, according to AKC Board of Directors meeting minutes dated April 10-11, 2006, "The AKC's Management Disciplinary Committee has suspended Ms. Linda Brown, Spring City, PA, from all AKC privileges for one year, effective April 10, 2006, and imposed a $1000 fine for having submitted or caused to be submitted three litter registration applications that she knew, should have known, or had a duty to know contained false certifications as to the sire and/or dam (DNA exclusion)."
Maybe Biden should've adopted after all. Need more convincing? Check out BidenDog.
News: Guest Posts
Because I am living in Charleston, S.C. for the season (I could not take another blizzardy winter in NYC), I am meeting many new dogs. Southern dogs. This past week I had to take my spaniel Chloe to the vet (ruptured cruciate ligament and meniscus?) and was amused to learn that many of the dogs were named Savannah, Rhett, Ashley and even General Lee (the latter, a Schnauzer, even resembled the general with his generous grey beard). I had never thought of the concept of place-specific dog names before, but this week I realized it’s quite common. In New York City, our dog friends had such names as Madison, Brooklyn and Hudson. In Woodstock, there was Marley (after Bob), Cassidy (after Jack Kerouac’s muse) and Dylan (the other Bob). Even I named my dog Chlothilde, because she is part French spaniel, and I wanted to give her a French old-lady name. After a few days I shortened that to Chloe (because it’s an easier name to call across fields, and because she looked more like a Chloe than a French old lady).
What does this mean, I wonder, to name a dog based on place? Are we trying to ground them to a particular setting? One more bit of proof that we are providing our dogs a home?
It might be interesting to note that more often rescue dogs have these “place names.” Those show dogs have names like Champion Sea Breeze – Covered Bridge de Pillowcase Oswageon. (If that’s not enough to confuse a dog I don’t know what is!)
This is a rambling blog, but I like to believe that Chloe takes comfort in the fact that she is Chloe. That her place is with me. What are the stories behind your dogs’ names?
News: Guest Posts
The Blessing of the Animals (The Bark, Sept/Oct 2008) at the massive Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York is a Noah’s Arc-style affair (think: camels, eagles, reindeer framed by elaborate Gothic arches) that would have knocked the sandals right off its patron saint, Francis of Assisi.
A recent blessing outside St. Muredach’s in Ballina in western Ireland might have been a little more to the tastes of the ascetic friar. On November 30, a smaller group supporters of and volunteers from the North West SPCA gathered on a chilly day under the open sky with their friends, mostly dogs, to celebrate and renew their commitment to all creatures.
News: Guest Posts
Most recreational dog bloggers focus on their own pups. It's sort of a species of canine-navel gazing. That's why I love Jon Sung's Dogblog. He zeroes in on a simple slice of the urban canine's life--waiting outside shops, cafes and other no-dogs-allowed zones around San Francisco. In snapshots and laid-back commentary, stretching over nearly three years so far, he celebrates the patience, quirky charm and nobility of ALL DOGS.
News: Guest Posts
What an incredible journey for Czar and owner Michelle Garza of Lisle, IL! The 13-year-old mixed breed finally came home after three years thanks to his microchip. I still can't believe a senior dog survived as long as he did. If you haven't already microchipped your pup, now's the time! And if your dog is microchipped, be sure to update your contact info. With the holidays upon us and company coming in and out on a regular basis, it'd be easy for your dog to make an unexpected escape. A microchip will give you peace of mind, and better yet, improve your dog's chances of being safely reunited with you.
News: Guest Posts
Prowling around the Internet is a little like wandering through a used bookstore -- lots of times I don't find what I'm after but I still go home with a few goodies. Like today, I was searching for some information on leashes and stumbled onto this eye-opening story about a British teenager who lives as a pet. Watching my pups snoozing in the October sun, I thought, I can relate to the dream of embracing a dog's life. That is, until canine-wannabe Tasha Maltby told a reporter she doesn't go anywhere without her fiance at the other end of the leash.
News: Guest Posts
The world has totally gone to the dogs ... and CSI! In a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel, dog lovers are eligible for rewards if they scoop the poop. I have two questions: 1) who has the fun job of collecting and testing the properly bagged and tossed poop, and 2) is it really necessary to reward someone for responsible behavior? I'm all for positive reinforcement, but I hate to think that people will only do the right thing because of a "what's in it for me?" mindset.
Dog's Life: Travel
Getting from point A to point B sometimes requires thinking outside the airline cargo hold.
Dogs are part of the family, but are rarely treated as such by the travel industry. It’s easy to buy airline tickets for children, or make a hotel reservation that includes them. But as I discovered, dogs are another story. When I found out we were being transferred from the U.S. to Germany, one of my first thoughts was, “What about the dog?” The company transferring us was gracious about it; they agreed to cover travel costs for Captain, our eight-month-old, mixed-breed pup, but booking the travel was up to me.
I started by talking to airlines, and quickly found out that none would allow Captain—who weighed more than 20 pounds and wouldn’t fit under a seat—to fly in the cabin; he would have to ride in the cargo hold. Initially, I was told that for an extra $200, he could go as baggage on the flight on which we were ticketed. But when the airline found out that he was young and still growing, the terms changed: if he weighed more than 50 pounds on the day of the flight, he would be designated as cargo, and the cost could be as much as $2,500. And they couldn’t guarantee that he would be on the same flight as we were.
Since he was already 47 pounds, I figured chances were good he would fall into the cargo category. When I asked what would happen if he didn’t make our flight, the representative said that we could either change our flight (and pay the associated costs) or designate someone to pick up Captain, take him home and bring him back later to try again. Neither option sounded particularly appealing. And even though the cost wasn’t coming out of my pocket, it seemed excessive.
Persevering in my search, I called other cargo handlers. Lufthansa was the only airline that would transport dogs during the summer (which was when we were scheduled to move). Liability concerns have discouraged many airlines from transporting live animals at all; others will not fly them from May to September. Those I spoke with at Lufthansa were all very reassuring. They told me that dogs were held in air-conditioned areas and taken to the plane after all other baggage has been loaded, so they’re not left waiting on the tarmac. Food is not allowed in the crates, but they do allow water bottles, blankets or toys.
Even with the reassurances, I was still uneasy. I would need to have Captain in the crate and checked in three hours prior to flight time, and he would not be taken out of the crate until he had cleared customs at the end of the flight, which could easily be 14 to 16 hours later. In the meantime, he would be alone and buffeted by many unfamiliar noises and sensations. One airline representative told me that “to dogs, it is just like riding in a car,” but I didn’t quite believe that. I was worried, but didn’t see any options.
But were there other options? Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Cunard Line’s flagship ocean liner, Queen Mary 2, had kennel service on their monthly transatlantic cruise. I was further (and pleasantly) surprised to learn that fares for human passengers started at a level comparable to the cost of a round-trip transatlantic flight, and was considerably less than a one-way air ticket. While dogs (with the exception of service animals) were not allowed in the staterooms, the kennel area included a large playroom, and there was a deck galley for outside walks. Owners could visit several times a day, and a kennel master was on duty as well to care for the dogs at other times or if the owners were unavailable. Kennel fees started at $500. This sounded like it would be a much more pleasant experience for everyone, including Captain. After a short consideration, I booked our tickets.
Ready, Set, Go!
Fortunately, dogs traveling to EU countries, including Great Britain, no longer have to be quarantined. Owners need to make sure their animals have ISO chips for identification, a current rabies vaccination at time of sailing (at least 21 days prior), tapeworm treatment 120 to 24 hours prior to sailing, a thorough vet examination and a stamped sign-off by the USDA within 10 days of sailing. The paperwork, which sounds daunting, is required regardless of means of transport. Cunard made the process very easy, providing detailed checklists and pre-inspection of paperwork a few days prior to boarding so there was time to correct any missing information prior to our sail date.
I had been advised by our state USDA office to fax all paperwork from the vet’s office before coming into office for the stamps. The paperwork is complicated, and many vets do not do it frequently. In our case, some documentation needed to be corrected, and being on-site at the vet’s office made it easier to do. Since we’d cleared the paperwork in advance, obtaining the stamps was just a formality. Finally, papers in hand, we set out for New York City to board our ship.
After taking a few days to drive up the East Coast, visiting with friends and family along the way, we arrived in Brooklyn the day before sailing. We found a dog-friendly hotel close to the docks and spent the afternoon exploring the local city parks and sidewalks.
The next day, we arrived at the docks at the designated time. My husband saw us off, but he was not sailing with us, and I was concerned about handling both Captain and the baggage; since we were moving, I had 18 bags. Thankfully, curbside valets unloaded the car and whisked the bags away to be delivered to my stateroom, leaving me free to concentrate on getting Captain onboard and settled.
There were, of course, the lines and security that everyone has come to expect, but they moved quickly, and Captain took it all in stride. After the initial check in, I was sent to wait in a special area with the other dogs and their owners. There was a bit of barking as the 10 dogs who were making the crossing sized up one another, but no aggression, and the cruise line provided us with enough space to spread out.
After one of the pursers reviewed the EU paperwork and scanned the dogs to confirm microchip numbers, the kennel master, Oliver, boarded the dogs in groups of two. Quickly sizing up the group, he decided to take our 55-pound puppy on board first, along with two dogs I had named “the pretties”: sweet, docile Shih Tzus ensconced in their own carrier. Before he did anything, however, Oliver took a moment with each dog, introducing himself and letting them start to become familiar with him.
Guided by Oliver, Captain and I went up the gangplank and into the Art Deco opulence of the QM2’s Grand Lobby. Oliver kept us moving at a trot as we made our way through the ship and up to deck 12, where the kennels are located. Entering a side deck area through a gate labeled “owners only,” we came to the main kennel entrance.
There were two rows of kennel cages, six on the bottom and six on the top. The cages were separated by removable dividers, and Captain’s age and weight had earned him a double space on the bottom row. One would have given him plenty of room, but since he was still a growing puppy when I made the reservation, the staff erred on the side of caution (no one was sure how much he was going to grow before we sailed). Each cage was labeled with the dog’s name and outfitted with a thick blanket, dog bed, and food and water dishes.
We explored the room for a few minutes, then Oliver asked me to get Captain into his accommodations so he could continue the boarding process. I put a few toys in the cage and Captain hopped right in. When all the dogs were situated, we were given the visiting schedule, which allowed for about eight hours of interaction daily, and asked to come back later that afternoon, after the life-boat drills had been completed. As we sailed out of the harbor, the view from the top deck was magnificent, and everyone was excited. After months of planning and gathering paperwork, we were underway!
Life on Board
After a day or two on the ship, the dogs settled into a routine. They did their business on the deck, which was difficult for dogs who had been taught not to go on hard surfaces. There was a square of artificial turf, but initially, it confused them; they could tell it wasn’t grass. But eventually, need won out, and the dogs voided on the deck—a few rounds of treats and praise helped overcome their reluctance. Each established a favorite spot. Oliver, who was always there with a scooper, hose and squeegee, protested when the owners tried to help.
Cunard had stocked each dog’s favorite food, and many of us had brought along food and treats as well. Still, at first, some of the dogs weren’t interested in eating; Captain was one of them. Though he turned up his nose at his usual kibble, he was quickly won over when Oliver mixed it with some canned food he had on hand. For dogs who held out a bit longer than Captain, the kitchen sent up poached chicken, ground beef and rice. No dog refused that meal!
The dogs were a big attraction, and many passengers stopped at the fenced-off area to ask questions and watch the dogs. There were a few celebrities sailing with us, and they also found their way to the kennels; when he heard another Captain was on board, the QM2’s captain even stopped in to meet him. And of course, those of us whose dogs were the focus of so much attention spent many hours together each day, playing with our dogs and watching them play with each other. The dogs formed friendships, as did we. With the exception of one couple who traveled between homes in Great Britain and the U.S., everyone else was relocating, and like me, had not been comfortable transporting their dogs on airplanes.
We had all wondered how everyone would get along, but we were lucky—we were a group of down-to-earth, flexible, considerate people with reasonably well-behaved and friendly dogs. Oliver told us that most groups did get along well, but if there were problems, it was generally between the owners, not the dogs. He also said there was a conflict-resolution policy in place in the event things didn’t go quite so smoothly, which was reassuring.
We arrived in England at Southampton after a week at sea, which is where most of the dogs and owners left us. Only three dogs—Captain included—were continuing on to Hamburg. A vet boarded the ship to scan microchips and inspect the paperwork of the dogs disembarking. Captain stayed on board and played with Oliver while I took advantage of a shore excursion to Stonehenge.
With just three dogs in residence, the next few days were quiet, and after more than a week at sea, we were all anxious to get back on land. The dogs seemed to miss their friends, or perhaps were just exhausted after a week of playing, and spent most of the remaining time lazing in the sun.
The night before we reached Hamburg, we received word that the German vet had opted not to come on board, but rather, had reviewed and approved the immigration paperwork for the dogs via fax. In another nice surprise, we were told that the dogs entitled us to priority disembarkation status. We agreed to meet with Oliver as a group at 8:30 in the morning, and to leave the ship together.
The next morning, we took a few minutes to let the dogs romp and say goodbye to Oliver, since we knew it would be busy once we left the ship. Oliver was already making name tags for the next set of four-pawed passengers, who would be coming onboard later that day—the new group included two cats. Once we gave any treats that remained to Oliver (we couldn’t take them with us into Germany), we were ready to go. Oliver took Captain and I dealt with a couple of pieces of luggage; the rest of my bags had been collected the night before and would be waiting for me on the other side of customs. Cunard had processed passports while we were underway, so all I had to do was walk down the gangplank and show my passport to the agent on the dock. He nodded, and we were done.
Oliver walked with our group to collect our luggage, and handled all the dogs while we did so. It was now goodbye for real. With family members waiting to load us and our luggage into cars and take us to our new homes, we hugged, wished each other luck and told Oliver we hoped to see him on a future crossing. After this comfortable and well-orchestrated adventure, none of us could imagine a better way to cross the ocean with our dogs!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Readers Spend QT with Dogs
We were delighted to hear from thousands of you in our recent reader survey and the results paint a picture of devoted people who run with their big dogs.
Die-hard dog devotees, you typically spend about 3.5 hours of your day focused on your dog (though an impressive 22 percent ratcheted that all the way to 5+ hours!). A whopping 67 percent of you have medium or large dogs (dogs over 26 pounds) and 37 percent reported that your dogs are eight years or older. Sixteen percent of readers have pet insurance for their dogs, much higher than the national average of 4 percent. But the best number in the batch? Fifty-six percent of Bark readers stated that you adopted your dog(s) from a shelter or rescue, which is twice the national average. Bravo!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Important lessons from a decade of missing pet recovery
A few days into a family vacation in faraway Bora Bora, Lynn Janata got an unwelcome email from her dog sitter in Renton, Wash.: We have a situation here. Cali has gone missing. The 14-month-old Australian Shepherd had bolted through an open garage door. Although the sitter took quick action, each time Cali was spotted, she was farther and farther from home.
With the help of friends in the Seattle area, Janata contacted Jim Branson, a volunteer with Missing Pet Partnership (MPP), a local group that helps recover lost animals. Branson’s black Labrador, Kelsy, is trained in scent-detection for tracking other dogs. Several times, Branson and Kelsy found Cali’s scent, but they weren’t able to keep up. The dog crisscrossed a three-by-five-mile territory during her seven days on the lam.
Every morning, from the island in the South Pacific, Janata ran down Cali sightings. “People gave so much of their help to try to find our dog,” she says. “But Cali was freaked out; she wouldn’t come to anyone.”
When the family returned from their distracted vacation, they went directly from the airport to search for their dog. Janata headed to the intersection where Cali had last been sighted. And she saw her. “To me, it was a miracle — there she was, sleeping on somebody’s front porch,” she says. “But in the back of my mind, I’m hearing Jim say, She might even bolt from you.”
So Janata sat on the ground with her back to Cali and set out her favorite stuffed toy and treats. When Cali didn’t come forward, Janata lay on her back. That’s when the errant pup started sniffing the air. “Then she just broke into a run and jumped into my arms,” she says. “I started crying.”
Sitting with her back to Cali was hard for Janata. “I’m sure she wanted to run to her when she spotted Cali in that yard,” Branson says. “She may have wondered if my advice to lie on the pavement was the best way to catch a dog.”
He had been skeptical once himself. “I was like everyone else before I learned about this,” he says of the approach, which is based on calming signals developed by Turid Rugaas, a renowned Norwegian dog trainer. “Almost nobody knows about this before we tell them, and it’s everybody’s natural instinct, when they see a dog on the run, to chase it. That almost never works.”
This is just one of several critical truths gleaned by MPP during a decade in pet recovery and hundreds of searches for lost dogs and cats.
It Takes a Village to Find a Lost Pet
We wrote about Albrecht in 2006, soon after she published her memoir, The Lost Pet Chronicles, which covered her transition from police-dog handler to pet detective (go to thebark.com/pet-detective to read the story online). At the time, she was a working pet detective in Fresno, Calif., focused on establishing a missing-pet recovery protocol and training lost-pet detection teams. Since then, she has moved her operation and shifted her focus. In 2008, she relocated to Federal Way, Wash., south of Seattle, where cooler, damper weather is better for training scent-detection dogs. She trained four new pet-search teams, of which Branson and Kelsy are the only active searchers.
Albrecht is, in general, moving away from training pet-tracking dogs. In part, unsavory pet detectives caused her change of heart. “Several people ended up claiming they had fully trained their dogs when they hadn’t,” and making promises they couldn’t keep, she says. Today, MPP volunteers help with local searches, including carrying out public alerts and deploying wildlife cameras and humane traps; they also provide sophisticated expertise, such as search dogs and magnet dogs (more on that later). They rent out equipment and ask for — but do not require — donations for consultations and scent-detection-dog services.
Albrecht’s current mission is to create training partnerships with animal shelters so they can deploy their own volunteers to help recover lost pets. MPP recently formed a partnership with the King County Animal Shelter in Kent, Wash., where they plan to launch the first-ever lost pet search-and-rescue team on July 1, 2011. Ultimately, they hope to take this training program to shelters nationwide.
Number One Lost Dog Recovery Method
Take the case of a Chihuahua named Sukhi. Last year, she escaped on July 3. Her frantic owners contacted MPP on July 5, and five volunteers staked out the busiest intersection in Seattle’s Central District near Sukhi’s home, holding bright posters with Sukhi’s photo and CHIHUAHUA, RED COLLAR in large type. Within 20 minutes, someone driving through the intersection pulled over to say that Sukhi was at their house.
“The owners had put out hundreds of flyers prior to that, all of which had escaped the notice of this person, but these big signs are impossible to ignore, especially with someone there holding them,” Branson says. The “protest” creates a sense of urgency.
Intersection interventions are based on studies of “inattentional blindness,” which Albrecht read about in Temple Grandin’s book, Animals in Translation. “The hypothesis is that if you’re not paying attention to something, you won’t perceive it; it’s as if it’s not even there,” Albrecht says. The protests are designed to break through that blindness. (A related strategy is to tag a vehicle — providing the same key identifiers as on the posters — in neon ink on the back window.)
Even without staging protests, giant, bright, concise signs yield results — even weeks after old-fashioned 8-by-11 paper flyers have become rain-soaked, tattered and ineffective.
The approach for a missing dog is very different from that used to find a missing cat. Dogs run. Cats hide. To find a missing cat, you need a detailed search of your own and nearby properties. Wildlife cameras and humane traps are also helpful. To find a dog, “a search needs to be very visible,” Albrecht says. “Just massive, obnoxious marketing.”
Enduring Lesson: Persistence
Last October, for example, a cat named Burley hid in his own Sammamish, Wash., backyard for 33 days. It took persistence and encouragement, plus a motion-activated infrared wildlife camera and humane traps rented from MPP, to recover the cat.
“Having a resource like Missing Pet Partnership allows people to keep looking; it gives them tools [that help them] take active steps in the recovery of their animal rather than waiting and hoping,” Branson says. “Giving them encouragement [to look] increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.”
New Tool: Magnet Dogs
After escaping from their yard in Federal Way, Wash., Mack and his buddy Rocco, a pair of blue Pit Bulls, went missing for almost a month. Their owner, who was serving in Iraq, was devastated. When MPP volunteer Ryan Gamache learned about them, he made it his personal mission to recover the dogs.
Unfortunately, he discovered that Rocco had been killed and Mack had fled. But the bad news at least gave Gamache a starting point. He posted giant, neon posters that read “LOST BLUE PIT BULL BLUE COLLAR” along the major roadway near where Rocco had died. Immediately, leads came in.
Following up on a tip, he set out food and a wildlife camera, which caught images of the elusive missing dog. He then placed a humane trap near the camera, but for several days, the wary Pit Bull eluded capture. Then, a full week passed with no new photos. Gamache was discouraged, but not about to give up. (Remember, persistence!)
On January 26, he and two other MPP volunteers displayed new posters close to the last sighting. Leads flooded in the next morning. Around 11 am, MPP received fresh intel. This time, Albrecht wasn’t willing to run the risk of losing Mack. She headed to the scene with her magnet dog, Kody, a super-friendly Whippet mix. Through a variety of cell-phone machinations, Albrecht ended up just down the street from Mack, with Kody on a long leash.
“Mack immediately began to wag his tail, and walked right up to sniff noses with a tail-wiggling Kody,” Albrecht says. “My Snappy Snare was positioned over Kody’s nose so that when they sniffed noses, I could move it over Mack’s head, release the ring and catch Mack. It was a textbook capture!”
It’s also an illustration of a central philosophy of Missing Pet Partnership: try to think like the lost dog — in Mack’s case, like a dog who likes other dogs. It’s just one of many effective tools in a toolbox compiled over a decade of recovering lost pets.
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