In a recent New York Times, Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist and the author of the excellent new book, How Dogs Love Us, writes an intriguing and engrossing editorial, “Dogs Are People, Too” (which was the top “emailed” article in the NYT the day it came out!). Berns and his team at Emory University have been testing dogs, the first of which was Berns’ own rescue dog, Callie, using functional MRIs to measure their brain activity, hoping to decode the canine brain. Unlike other researchers at other universities, the Emory Dog Project was the first to do this and the only ones who perform their research with not only volunteer dogs, but also by following a humane protocol that included “only positive training methods. No sedation. No restraints. If the dogs didn’t want to be in the M.R.I. scanner, they could leave. Same as any human volunteer.” Other researchers also use “purpose-bred” Beagles, an abhorrent practice.
What they discovered was rather amazing. As I noted in the book review in Bark’s Winter issue, “Initial findings showed evidence that dogs empathize with humans and have a theory of mind, and by extension, that the idea that you must be a dog’s pack leader is a mistake.”
In his commentary Berns notes, “Although we are just beginning to answer basic questions about the canine brain, we cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.”
In making his case for the “personhood” of dogs Berns explains that, “The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child. And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.” And that we can’t hide from the evidence shown in the MRIs, dogs, and other animals (like primates) do have emotional lives, just like us. In his book he describes that the defining traits of dogs is their interspecies social intelligence, “an ability to intuit what humans and other animal are thinking,” and furthermore that, “ Dogs’ great social intelligence means that they probably also have a high capacity for empathy. More than intuiting what we think, dogs may also feel what we feel.”
It is then perfectly understandable that he makes the case for granting dogs personhood, as he wrote in the Times piece, “ If we … granted dogs rights of personhood, they would be afforded additional protection against exploitation. Puppy mills, laboratory dogs and dog racing would be banned for violating the basic right of self-determination of a person.”
Read the whole article here, and watch this video and we would love to know your thoughts too. Gregory Berns’ post on Psychology Today, is also of interest.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Yes, they’re pressing charges
The woman showing them the pit bull told Kenny Erickson and Ashley Preston that the dog took to them well. There’s a reason for that: Lexi belonged to them but had been stolen from their yard a couple of months earlier.
They had been searching for Lexi for months, and many people supported their efforts and helped them. Someone who knew that their dog had been stolen learned that a woman was giving away a dog who matched the description of Lexi, and told the couple. They rushed right over.
The woman trying to find the dog a new home admitted that the dog had been stolen. Now that her nephew, who had been caring for the dog, was in jail, she needed to find her a new home.
Kenny and Ashley didn’t let on that the dog was theirs because they wanted to make sure that legal channels were properly followed so that the thieves wouldn’t get away with the crime. Of course, the most important thing was being reunited with their dog, but they also wanted to make sure that people who steal dogs are punished. It took a lot of self-control not to just grab their dog and run, but they managed it.
After alerting police to the situation, they were happily able to reclaim their dog. The woman who was trying to find a home for her has been cited for possession of stolen property and faces charges of theft as well. Kenny and Ashley want people to understand that if they steal dogs, they could be caught and dislike that many people think that stealing a dog is no big deal. (I have no idea which people think it’s not a big deal, but then, I move in dog-loving social circles.)
After the pain of having their dog go missing, I’m so glad that this family’s story ended well.
Humans and Pets can be buried together, in NY state
Good news for dog-lovers in New York state, pet cemeteries will be allowed to accept the cremated remains of humans and bury them alongside those of their pets. This change resolves a two-year-old dispute that began when the state refused to allow the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery—the oldest pet cemetery in the nation—to accept the ashes of a former NYPD officer, Thomas Ryan, who requested that he be buried with his three deceased Maltese pups. The officer’s niece, Taylor York, an attorney petitioned the state to change the rule that had forbidden this.
“People do get a sense of comfort from knowing they can lie for eternity with their beloved pet, that they can be loved and protected in the afterlife just as faithfully as when they were alive,” York said. The 117-year-old Hartsdale Pet cemetery, had been interring cremated human remains since the 1920s and had already buried the remains of Ryan’s wife, Bunny, beside the couples three Maltese dogs, DJ 1, DJ 2 and DJ 3.
“They didn’t have any children,” York said. “Each (Maltese), was their pride and joy.”
And even though his wife’s remains were already buried there, the state balked when it came to complying with Ryan’s wishes.
“I am not sure what prompted it,” said Hartsdale owner Ed Martin. “The whole thing, as far as I was concerned was a silly matter.”
Martin said the pet cemetery gets about five or six requests a year from pet owners to have their ashes buried with their dogs, cats, birds or other companions.
He estimates the ashes of about 700 people were already under the soil in the cemetery when the state stepped in.
Luckily now with this new ruling, people in, at least that state, will be allowed to spend all of eternity alongside their beloved pets.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/pets-pet-owners-allowed-buried-article-1.1455809#ixzz2esUpe63b
While a nanny cam might be a good idea to keep track of both a child and a caregiver, even better idea might to trust in your dog’s instincts. A couple in Charleston, S.C., learned about this the hard way. It was their dog Killian who alerted them to an abusive nanny they had hired for their young son, Finn.
Benjamin and Hope Jordan did a background check before they hired the babysitter for their 7-month-old son, Finn, last year. So they hired 22-year-old Alexis Khan, who seemed to be an attentive and loving sitter in her first five months at work. But the Jordans were concerned when their trusted calm, family dog, Killian, started acting strangely toward Khan.
“…we started to notice that our dog was very defensive of our son when she would come in the door,” Benjamin Jordan told the local TV WCSC TV’s Live 5. “He was very aggressive towards her and a few times we actually had to physically restrain our dog from going towards her.” Their dog had never reacted this way towards anyone before.
The parents were concerned and suspicious and decided to put an iPhone under the couch to record what was happening while they were at work.
“It started with cussing,” Jordan said. “Then you hear slap noises and his crying changes from a distress cry to a pain cry. I just wanted to reach through the audio tape, go back in time and just grab him up.
“To know that five months I had handed my child to a monster, not knowing what was going on in my house for that day…”
The Jordans called the police and Khan was taken into custody. Last Monday, she pleaded guilty for assault and battery in Charleston County Circuit Court. Khan will spend one to three years in prison and will be placed on a child abuse registry.
“That is fantastic news to us. To know that maybe Finn’s ordeal has possibly saved another child’s life in the future,” Mr. Jordan told Live 5. “Had our dog not alerted us to the trouble, had my wife’s instincts not said we need to make something happen, it could have been Finn that was killed by the babysitter. You never know.”
Don’t you think that this shows that every family with a babysitter also needs a doggy cam? Good work Killian!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Procedure necessary after ingesting rat poison
Rory the cat can claim that dogs are his best friend, too, or at least that one particular dog is. When Rory was in dire need of a blood transfusion, Macy the Labrador retriever was rushed to the vet to donate and that saved Rory’s life.
Rory the cat had consumed rat poison and his life was at risk. Due to bad luck, Rory had eaten the poison too late in the day on Friday for the lab to be able to determine the type of blood needed to ensure a match. The wrong type of blood could cause Rory to die, but the veterinarian treating Rory found out that there was a chance of saving Rory if he was given a transfusion of canine blood.
Rory’s guardian contacted Macy’s guardian, who is a good friend, and that’s how Macy came to be the life-saving blood donor. The procedure was not without risk. The canine blood could have killed Rory, but he certainly would have died without it. Cat’s antibodies don’t react to canine blood at first exposure, which is why the blood transfusion worked. The transfusion gave Rory enough time to replace the red blood cells he needed to recover. He’s doing well and Macy is just fine, too.
Culture: Stories & Lit
Welcome to our 75th issue. When we launched The Bark almost 18 years ago (before email became the ubiquitous medium it is today), we relied on traditional “pamphleteering” to campaign for off-leash recreation. That humble eight-page broadsheet—the first incarnation of today’s magazine— showcased articles similar to those in this glossier version.
We set out not only to help dogs (and their people) by advocating for dog parks but also, to chronicle the nascent modern dog culture. We were the first to cover it, and the first to examine the complexities of the humancanine bond. Researchers are now exploring this relationship, and some of the mysteries behind the world’s oldest friendship are being unraveled. However, all dog people know in their bones that no matter how far back our co-evolution goes, or how domestication came about, the core value of our relationship hasn’t changed much in the thousands of years since we teamed up. That continuity guides our course at The Bark.
The importance of adoption has long been a critical part of our agenda, and in this issue, we showcase innovative sheltering programs. It has been almost 10 years since we covered the plight of satos, stray dogs of Puerto Rico, and it’s encouraging to learn that progress is being made with the assistance of groups like Pets Alive Puerto Rico, profiled here. John Woestendiek examines college programs that reward students for fostering dogs and cats in their dorm rooms, and Science reporter David Grimm takes us on a visit to a unique Louisiana prison-shelter program that began in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Endpiece by Elaine Sichel, prizewinner in our humorwriting contest, also perfectly complements this theme; in a lighthearted way, she makes it clear that we’re the winners when we adopt shelter dogs. Finally, our intern, Jennifer Senski, who is doing her PhD dissertation on the state of sheltering, puts out a call to the shelter community for assistance with data collection.
On other fronts, Jane Brackman considers the ways dated and misapplied definitions have been used to set breed standards, and Karen London tells us why it’s important that dogs learn to focus. Plus we discover that autumn is the perfect time to “revisit” Minnesota’s scenic Highway 61, with a drive along Lake Superior. Pieces on the value of probiotics, a recipe for homemade kibble, a home-visiting vet and the ways dog “germs” make our homes healthier round out the issue. Speaking of home, this photo shows our Kit—who recently turned five— striking a pose on a stone memorializing César Chávez at our local OLA in César Chávez Park. Many of you know that we adopted her and her sister Holly from a shelter in Kentucky. Both had rough puppyhoods, but were definitely making steady progress, Kit more so than her sibling.
Because many of you routinely inquire about the girls, I feel I must share some sad news about Holly, though it’s still difficult for me to write about. A few months ago, my husband was walking Kit, Holly and our Pointer Lola in the park’s off-leash area when an unexpected storm blew in; Holly, easily spooked, bolted. With Lola and Kit’s help, he searched for more than 45 minutes, canvassing the 100-acre park in a torrential downpour.
They finally spotted her in a parking lot, darting between cars, but before they could reach her, a car struck her, and she died instantly. I was home with our fourth dog, Charlie, nursing a broken ankle, when I got the call. Needless to say, we were devastated. At that point, my biggest concern was for Kit. I wasn’t sure how she would respond to this loss; she and Holly were inseparable, seeming at times to be one magical, eight-legged dog. Charlie turned out to be a great comfort to Kit (and to the rest of us, for that matter). Once again, I was reminded of how resilient dogs can be, and was inspired by it.
On to business matters. For a limited time, the digital version of each issue remains free for subscribers. Those who are concerned that we are abandoning print can rest easy, however, as we have no intention of dropping the ink-on-paper magazine. We too love print, but its digital cousin gives us another way to enhance our content and expand our reach. Last, a heads up: printing costs are skyrocketing and in 2014, we will be forced to increase our cover price and subscription rates to cover them. Now’s the time to take advantage of the current low rates and place a new or renewal subscription. Support independent publishing and help us get to issue 100!
Highlights and trends from pet trade shows
Our highlights from recent pet trade shows—the big takeaway? They’re starting to listen to consumers.
Keep it simple: food and treats are being made with fewer ingredients. Popular words “pure,” “grain-free” and “gluten-free” abound.
Whole grains and veggies: chia seeds, quinoa, kelp, squashes, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, nutritious carbs and good roughage prevail.
USA made: ingredients being sourced here, as is manufacturing; a good sign, but oversight is still needed.
Alt proteins: pork, duck, venison, bison, fi sh are the new chicken.
Dental: aids, chews, finger “brushes” and herbal mixes to stem plaque.
Gut’s big: probiotics in everything from treats, foods and supplements.
Calories count: more companies include Kcals on packaging— all companies should be doing it.
Healthier treats: they’re smaller, chewier, more nutritious and aimed at training, not just snacking.
Freeze dried: no longer just from small companies; larger ones are doing it too (remember, smaller is usually best).
Oh deer: alternative chews (moose, yak and deer) and antlers in all sizes.
Green: hemp, bamboo and biodegradables, and poop bags that decompose in landfills.
Keeping watch: pet cams and apps allow you to peek in at your dog.
Holding the bag: cool ideas to attach poop bags to a leash or collar; also, products for toting full bags.
Enrichment toys: more are probing the canine mind, inventing toys to promote dog learning.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
White House releases official statement
“We don’t support breed-specific legislation.” So begins an official statement from the White House. Breed-specific legislation includes any law or regulation that restricts which dogs people can have based on their breed. The most common breed to be banned is the pit bull. The statement goes on to mention research showing that breed-specific legislation is essentially ineffective at preventing dog bites and injuries, and that it is a waste of the public’s resources. The official statement is presumably a response to an online petition that requests a ban at the federal level on laws that target dogs based on their breed.
It has not been possible to determine accurately bite rates by breeds, and in the absence of reliable data, perceptions are often skewed towards whatever is reported in the media rather than the actual number of bites. At various times, certain breeds have had serious PR problems, and it changes over the years. Decades ago it was rottweilers and doberman pinschers who seemed to face the most discrimination. Now it’s pit bulls who are most often assumed by many to be dangerous just because of what they look like, and not based on any information about specific individuals and their behavior.
The statement from the White House supports the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation that in order to improve public safety, we are better off with a community-based approach to dog bite prevention. The laws about dangerous dogs that deal with individuals who have a history of aggressive behavior are far more sensible than bans on entire breeds of dogs. Dogs vary greatly in their behavior and that variation is substantial within all breeds.
Our society has come a long way in stopping discrimination against people based on appearance, origin and who they are related to. It’s encouraging that we are moving in that direction when it comes to dogs, too. I’m so pleased about this big step towards eliminating discriminatory legislation. What’s your take on it?
Petfinder.com, which was actually owned by Discovery, was just purchased by Nestle Purina. What this means to this important online pet adoption service is anyone's guess. Hopefully, Purina will put more of its vast resources into improving its functionality, something that I had noticed needed some "fixing up" for quite some time. I have heard from a few rescue groups that the process to get "accepted" by Petfinder can be a very long process. Perhaps this might speed it up, which would be a good thing. But it will also be interestng to see how Petfinder's source of "metadata" might be used by this new parent company. What do you think of this?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Obamas welcome Sunny
If you’re famous, it’s news if you eat out, if you change your hairstyle and when you actually do something important. So, for the likes of Carrie Underwood, Tim Tebow, Hilary Swank and Mark Zuckerberg, acquiring new dogs has meant that stories and photos of their new dogs show up in the news. Barack Obama and his family are in the news all the time, of course, but there’s been a burst of activity about their dog since they welcomed Sunny into their family a few days ago.
Michelle Obama tweeted the news with a simple, “So excited to introduce the newest member of the Obama family—our puppy, Sunny!” Unlike Bo who truly was a puppy when he joined the Obama family, Sunny is technically an adolescent at 14-months of age, but I understand the general use of the term “puppy” for dogs of all ages. Both dogs are Portuguese Water Dogs.
Like Bo, Sunny was purchased from a breeder, which is a disappointment to many, including people at The Bark. The Obamas missed an opportunity to rescue or adopt a dog, which would likely have had a huge ripple affect and done so much to help many dogs find their way into the hearts and homes of loving families. As they did with Bo, they donated to a local Humane Society in honor of Sunny.
She’s a beautiful dog and I hope Sunny and Bo continue to entertain us with their joyful play sessions and tender moments with the Obama family. Personally, I am thrilled that they have each other for canine company, which I think is so valuable whether you’re living at The White House or not.
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