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News: Guest Posts
Beloved Artist Stephen Huneck Dies
Economy, depression may have fueled suicide

“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.”  -- Mark Twain
 
I have a rug by Stephen Huneck in my bedroom. It shows one dog pulling a boat, with other dogs inside it, through the water. It says “Friendship” and indicates that we can pull each other through anything.
 
Unfortunately, no one could pull Huneck through his recent tragedy. Sadly for all in the dog world, and non-dog people, too, celebrated dog artist Huneck, 60, of St. Johnsbury, Vt., took his own life early on Jan. 8. He had apparently been battling with depression for a long time. His wife cites the downfall in the economy as a factor, including the fact that Huneck had to let approximately half his employees go recently. It made the tragedy even worse in that he shot himself outside his psychiatrist's office, just a few feet from possible help.
 
Huneck’s talent was to depict everyday concepts using dogs as the players. His prints, rugs, notecards and furniture were sometimes straightforward, sometimes naughty and always witty. He warmed our hearts with prints such as “A Day at the Beach” and tickled us with those such as “Menage Trois.” He had a great understanding of modern culture and of the dog mind, too.
 
Huneck was no stranger to the concept of death, opening the acclaimed Dog Chapel for people to come remember their pets who had passed. Huneck also credited his choice to pursue his artwork to a near-death-experience years ago.
 
I feel certain Huneck has gone to his concept of Dog Heaven, “Welcome all creeds, all breeds. No dogmas allowed,” as it says at the Dog Chapel. He must also wear the golden wings he so often depicted in his prints. And now he has inspiration for more “heavenly” subjects, such as dogs chasing a dogcatcher ’round the Elysian Fields.

News: Guest Posts
Moscow’s Amazing Strays
Dogs adapt to new order. What’s next?

Have you seen the stories about dogs in Russia riding the subways from the suburbs into downtown Moscow to scavenge for food? I missed these reports the first time around, but caught them during a recent email-to-a-friend cycle. At first, I thought it had to be fake. But according to The Sun and The Wall Street Journal, sure enough, the dogs commute like workers. Once in town, they put in a long day of hunting down scraps and begging.

Some of the details are pretty amazing: The canine commuters know where to get off the train and even work together so they don’t sleep through a stop. They rarely poop in stations, which could lead to banishment like in the bad, old Communist era. On the street, they have learned to rely on traffic signals. The canny pups have even devised new ways to get food, including barking at unsuspecting pedestrians as they eat street food in the hope they drop their comestibles. Apparently, it works. Most of the time though, there’s plenty of food to go around and strays often look well fed. At least, there was plenty back in 2008 when this story first appeared and Russia was flush with petrodollars.

Things have changed. And, despite Muscovites tolerance of and even compassion for their furry comrades, the city’s large stray dog population needs to be addressed with thoughtful, compassionate solutions, including spay/neuter efforts, shelters, education and adoption drives. I worry that economic hard times and/or another fatal attack will trigger a backlash and louder calls for old-fashioned culling. As adorable as images of dogs acting like people can be, the iifestyle is not ideal for most of these companion animals. Will Moscow take real and lasting steps to help these animals before it's too late?

News: Guest Posts
Update: Puppy Mill Bust
One couple pleads guilty, others face charges
The Seattle Times reported that the couple arrested for running a puppy mill in January, where 160 dogs were found in deplorable conditions in Gold Bar, Wash., pled guilty on Nov. 20 to six counts each of first-degree animal cruelty. (Bark covered this bust with a story by Jan Rodak in the May/Jun 2009 issue.) The prosecution is seeking a 12-month sentence for each defendant.  

A second couple faces multiple felony animal-cruelty charges in Skagit County, Wash., where they were arrested and hundreds more dogs were seized in a related puppy mill. But so far no charges have been filed Renee Roske, the kennel owner for whom the Gold Bar defendants claimed to be working. (The Times reports that the Skagit County defendants are Roske's parents.) An investigation of Roske is reportedly ongoing—and we can only hope she will be held accountable for masterminding all this cruelty. 

News: Guest Posts
Bark Reader Wins
Twitter portrait contest yields good art and good works.

Back in July, JoAnna Lou let us know about a southern California dog portrait artist named Aimée Hoover, who connects with friends and admirers as DogArteest on Twitter. Inspired by the 140-character limit on that social networking service, she thought she’d try creating portraits in 140 minutes. (By contrast, her commissioned portraits can take between 25 to 40 hours.) When she tweeted a call for photos, her experiment became a contest with a free portrait as the prize.

We were happy to spread the word, and among those who read Lou’s blog was Diane Houghtaling, aka Louisebear2 on Twitter. Houghtaling promptly entered the contest with an image of her senior rescued Pit Bull-mix Bud, and then went on to win. Yeah! (It’s been a big year for Bud. He and his “sister” were among the Smilers in the Sept/Oct 2009 issue of Bark.) Feeling a little responsible for Bud’s victory, we had to see the winning photo—too handsome really!—and then, more obviously, the resulting portrait—seriously lovely. (Experience the portrait’s arrival.)

Hoover’s only request of winners is that they pay it forward—somehow do some good for somebody else. Houghtaling is already a volunteer for her local SPCA and volunteers weekly with a Puppy Mill Awareness group (NPPMWatch) in her community. For her “official Pay It Forward,” she made a donation to Dogs Deserve Better.

 

The contest continues in December--what are you waiting for?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
From Shelter Mutt to Champion Athlete
North American rescue becomes the Aussie dock diving champ.

In the dog sport world a lot of importance is placed on picking and raising the perfect puppy. With all the focus on champion pedigrees and breeders, it's always refreshing to see a successful dog come from the animal shelter.

So I was excited to see that Joey, a Border Collie/Kelpie/Cattle Dog mix, was recently crowned the Australian dock diving champion at the World Dog Games last month. Originally from That'll Do Border Collie Rescue in Canada, Joey jumped 23.8 feet to break the Australian and British record for dock diving.

Now Joey is a local celebrity and is recognized by fans all over town. He’s certainly come a long way from the shelter where he was once abandoned.

There's no double that there are plenty of talented rescues, yet there aren't many adopted dogs winning national or world competitions. I think this has more to do with top competitors choosing top bloodlines rather than the inability of rescues to reach the highest levels of competition.

What's your take?

News: Guest Posts
Another Recall
Pig ears and beef hooves recalled for salmonella.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a health alert, last week, warning consumers not to use pig ears or beef hooves pet treats manufactured by Pet Carousel because they may be contaminated with salmonella. It sounds like these treats could be for sale just about anywhere—they were distributed nationwide and to chain stores. Brands to look out for include Doggie Delight and Pet Carousel for ears and hooves, plus Choo Hooves and Dentley’s for hooves only.

According the FDA no illness has been associated with the products. The presence of salmonella was detected during routine testing by the agency in September 2009. Read more about the recall, handling and symptoms in humans and pets.

According to the PETCO Scoop, that company has removed all Pet Carousel hooves from its shelves and has issued a statement that it does not carry pigs ears from the company. As of yesterday, PetSmart has voluntarily pulled 14 hoof products off its shelves.

News: Guest Posts
Big Sky Humanitarians
Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary honored by ASPCA.

I’m incredibly excited to share that Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Ovando, Mont., has received the ASPCA’s 2009 Henry Bergh Award. It’s one of seven humanitarian awards given annually by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and represents a huge shout-out for a couple who devote every day of their lives and all their energy to providing sanctuary to around 70 disabled dogs, cats and horses—half of them blind.

I first profiled the sanctuary and Steve Smith and Alayne Marker, the husband/wife team who created and operate Rolling Dog Ranch, in the Nov/Dec 2006 issue of Bark. Since then, I’ve been privileged to visit the sanctuary several times. I can attest to the couple’s amazing compassion and dedication to disabled animals, their drive to achieve their mission of providing a full, happy life for the challenged animals that most would consider useless and unlovable. Steve and Alayne would be the first to point out that the unconditional love returned by the animals they care for repays them a thousandfold. When I’m there, working hard to help out anyway I can, I’m blissfully happy, whether cleaning horse stalls or playing with the dogs. It’s truly a special place.

“This is wonderful exposure for the animals, a way to strengthen the voice for all disabled animals,” Alayne said, when I called to congratulate her. “They have that right to a good life. To those individuals who nominated us, and decided to recognize us in this way, we’re very grateful.”

When the ASPCA's phone call came last week, “it was a total surprise, which makes it more fun and stupendous because we had no idea we were even being considered,” Alayne said.  “It’s a great honor, very humbling.”

Alayne will travel to New York City to receive the award at a luncheon on Oct. 29. Steve will remain behind, feeding the animals and cleaning up all the poop.

In the meantime, Rolling Dog Ranch is currently in first place in a vote-in contest on TheAnimalRescueSite.com Shelter Challenge. Visit the Rolling Dog Ranch blog to see how your vote can make a big difference. And while you’re there, delight in reading the heartwarming and inspiring stories of the animals on the ranch. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to make a donation.

News: Guest Posts
Cheap, Easy Alternative to Spay/Neuter Surgery
One man is funding the search for an answer.

Last October, I posted a blog about billionaire orthopedic surgeon Gary Michelson’s bid to drive research into finding an efficient, inexpensive and nonsurgical alternative to spay/neuter. His nonprofit foundation, Found Animals, put up $75 million to fund promising research and commercial development of what many consider to be the key to fighting pet overpopulation and, in turn, euthanasia--especially in places with large feral dog populations, such as India and China.

Well, Michelson’s stimulus project appears to be working. Science Magazine took the event of the first approved Michelson Grants to look into the state of the current research, which appears to be humming thanks to the promise of backing. Still, it's not all good news: The challenge is staggering and all early efforts to “contracept” dogs on a large scale have failed. But the promise of real money and the growing urgency of the problem might tip the scales in our the animals' favor, at last.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An Issue of Breed or Responsible Ownership?
NYC Housing Authority Tightens Restriction to include Dobermans, Pit Bulls, and Rotties.

Earlier this year, the New York City Housing Authority tightened their pet restriction, making it one of the strictest for any public housing authority in the country. The new policy bans all dogs over 25 pounds and specifically prohibits all purebred and mixed breed Doberman Pinchers, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.

Since the new rules were published in an April, the Animal Care and Control of New York City has received 113 surrendered dogs due to the ban, according to a front page story in The New York Times. More than 40 percent have been euthanized because of illness, behavior or lack of space. 

The Mayor’s Alliance and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have asked the Housing Authority to stop enforcing the ban. City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez of Manhattan, the chairwoman of the Council’s Subcommittee on Public Housing, has also called for a re-examination of the policy after she discovered one resident with a 28-pound poodle planned to starve the dog until it was under the 25-pound limit.

I understand that keeping track of pets in 178,000 apartments isn’t easy, particularly for an overworked government agency. But setting an arbitrary weight limit and targeting specific breeds doesn’t solve the root of the problem, eliminating dangerous dogs. Wouldn’t a measure of responsible ownership, like the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test, be a better gauge of well-behaved pets? I realize it’s probably unrealistic, but a dog lover can dream.

News: Guest Posts
Waste Not, Want Not
What to do about poo?

The fate of dog waste is something that’s never very far from my thoughts, especially as I bend over to collect my dogs’ precious gems about four times a day. I sometimes imagine the towers of plastic-wrapped dog waste piled high in landfills around the country. I recently read a true-crime story that involved the detectives combing by hand through a landfill in search of a body. Am I the only reader who wondered how much dog waste they encountered? So, I make a sort of hobby out of reading stories that provide the latest innovation or challenge on the pet waste front. (Remember when San Franciso was set to turn poop into biofuel? Did that go anywhere?) Two recent pieces caught my eye.

From Canada comes a first-person review of Toronto’s new dog waste pilot program, which diverts dog waste from landfills to be processed at a water treatment plant. For this to work, people must scoop the poop in paper bags with cardboard scoops and deposit them in special bins. Writer Debbie Pacheco was not amused or even satisfied by the hassles of the substandard scooper. I like the ambition of the project, but I get Pacheco’s concerns about convenience. If it’s a hassle, people won’t make the right choice and the solution won’t have a chance.

In Thurston County, Wash., cities and counties are trying to reduce water pollution from dog waste. I was—as always when I read these stories—astonished by the numbers. An estimated 50,000 dogs in the county produce about 12 tons of untreated waste per day! (That’s the equivalent of 12 Volkswagen Beetles.) Plus, a gram of dog waste has twice the fecal coliform of human waste. The goal in Thurston County is a little more basic—get the waste off the ground so it won’t wash into and contaminate rivers and lakes. But that doesn't mean putting it in the toilet. The regional sewer utility recommends against flushing dog poop because canine bacteria and pathogens are more difficult and expensive to process in plants designed for human waste.

Anyone witnessing any brilliant dog waste disposal ideas?

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