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News: Guest Posts
SAR Dogs in Haiti: Update
Border Collie finds three girls buried alive in rubble
[Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, JoAnna Lou blogged about the amazing work of search-and-rescue dogs and handlers in Haiti. Today, Lisa Wade McCormick followed up with a story about how one dog rescued a few young earthquake victims in a story she wrote for ConsumerAffairs.com—a portion of which is reprinted here.]   Amid the sorrow and despair in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deadly earthquake in Haiti comes news of survival: One of the United States’ top canine disaster search-and-rescue teams on Friday found three girls trapped alive in the rubble of a four-story building.   A Border Collie named Hunter—specially-trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) to locate people buried alive—discovered the young survivors under four feet of concrete and debris. The girls had been trapped nearly 70 hours—since the powerful earthquake devastated the tiny island country.   Hunter and his handler, Los Angles firefighter Bill Monahan, located the girls while searching a large bowl-shaped area near Haiti’s crumpled Presidential Palace. “After crisscrossing the area, Hunter pinpointed the survivors’ scent under four feet of broken concrete and did his ‘bark alert’ to let Bill know where the victims were,” the SDF said in statement. “Bill spoke with the survivors, then passed them bottles of water tied to the end of a stick. As they reached for the water one of the girls said, ‘thank you.’”   Monahan and Hunter are one of six SDF teams deployed with the California Task Force 2 to find victims buried in earthquake’s rubble.   The 72 members of the task force, who have 70,000 pounds of heavy machinery and other rescue equipment, are searching around the clock to find survivors of the cataclysmic earthquake that many fear will claim tens of thousands of lives.   “The teams are working in 12-hour shifts so they have time to rest and recuperate,” said Captain Jayd Swendseid of the California Task Force. “The team is putting in long and exhausting days. Roads are closed and there is a lot of debris that is making transportation difficult, but the team is managing to get to buildings and make rescues. Morale is good and supplies are sufficient so far.”   Valuable Tools The six “live-scent” dogs on the teams are arguably the most valuable tools rescue workers have in a disaster of this magnitude. These elite canines can climb and run across the piles of concrete and other debris in the streets of Port-Au-Prince and determine within three minutes if there are survivors buried below, the SDF said.   Besides Monahan and Hunter, the other SDF canine teams working in Haiti with the California Task Force 2 are: 
 • L.A. County Firefighter Gary Durian and his Golden Retriever, Baxter; 

 • L.A. County Firefighter Ron Horetski and his Lab, Pearl; 
 • L.A. County Firefighter Jasmine Segura and her Lab, Cadillac; 
 • L.A. Country Firefighter Jason Vasquez and his German Shepherd, Maverick; 

 • California civilian Ron Weckbacher and his border collie, Dawson.   Weckbacher is the training group’s leader. He and Dawson have participated in other search-and-rescue operations, including the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina.   Another SDF canine disaster search and rescue team is also on the ground in Haiti. Julie Padelford-Jansen with Miami’s Fire and Rescue Department--and her dog, Dakota--are working with Florida Task Force 1 in the rescue efforts. The SDF also has other canine teams on standby--ready to deploy to Haiti when needed.   “This moment is what SDF Search Teams train for--week in and week out--throughout their careers together,” said SDF founder, Wilma Melville. “When one SDF team succeeds, all of our teams succeed.   “Our thoughts are with our teams in Haiti, who continue to comb the rubble into the night,” she added. “Their perseverance, skill, and strength in the face of extreme challenges make us all proud, and give us hope.”  

The SDF, headquartered in Ojai, California, is the only organization in the country that works exclusively with rescued dogs and trains them to rescue people buried alive. Most of SDF’s 69 canine search teams are certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That is the highest achievement for search and rescue teams and means they can respond to any disaster.

Read Lisa Wade McCormick's complete story. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Making Pet Theft A Felony
Lawmakers consider the serious offense of dognapping

Two years ago, the American Kennel Club (AKC) began tracking pet theft after noticing an increase in dognapping complaints. Last year the AKC tracked more than 115 missing pets, up from 71 in 2008. 

The FBI’s National Crime Information Center tracks stolen property nationwide and currently lists 200 stolen dogs in their database. Animals listed are required to have a permanent owner-applied serial number, such as a microchip or tattoo, so this number only accounts for a fraction of the actual stolen pets.

Unfortunately, as dognapping numbers are on the rise, it’s common for pet thieves to walk away with a mere misdemeanor for possession of stolen property. Some states are now aiming to make stealing a beloved pet a serious offense.

After Siberian Husky Laika was stolen in New York Assemblyman, Joseph Lentol’s, Brooklyn district, Lentol decided to draft legislation to make the theft of a companion animal a felony offense with up to four years in jail. The value of such a law may seem clear to pet lovers, but it hasn’t been easy getting animal theft legislature passed.

Last year, a bill was introduced in Texas that would have upgraded pet theft from a misdemeanor to a state felony with jail time. The proposal died in committee, but will be reintroduced next session. I hope more lawmakers will consider supporting similar legislature. In my mind, there’s no way stealing a living, breathing animal should carry the same punishment as stealing an inanimate object.

Microchipping is just one of the ways that you can help ensure your pet’s safety. Check out the AKC’s appearance on Good Morning America for tips on preventing dog theft. 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Walker Factoid
Guess how much a NYC dog walker can make

According to a weekend story on NPR, dog walkers in New York can gross as much as $200,000 a year--and while the profession is not recession-proof it's proving pretty resilient.

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.

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