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News: JoAnna Lou
Pet Airways Takes Flight
The pet-only airline began service this week.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my pet travel frustrations along with anticipation over the launch of Pet Airways, a canine and feline exclusive airline. This week, their first flight took off from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, N.Y. The company has certainly struck a chord with pet lovers as their flights are already booked for the next two months.

Pet Airways, however, doesn’t come without its limitations. I’ve found that in order to use the airline, your timeline needs to be flexible. The company will operate out of regional airports near the five launch cities, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles.

This means an extra trip to drop off and pick up pets. In addition, you may arrive at your destination well before your dog or cat. Cross-country trips take about 24 hours, which includes an overnight stop in Chicago for bathroom breaks, dinners, and playtime. And, for now, flights leave on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.

One-way fees range from $149 to $399. The lower end is comparable to airline cargo fees which go up to $250 each way. The service, however, is unparalleled. Dogs and cats will fly in the main cabin refitted with about 50 crates. Pets will be escorted to the plane by attendants that will check on the animals every 15 minutes in flight. The pets are also given pre-boarding walks and bathroom breaks.

The limited flight schedule and out-of-the-way airports have made it difficult for me to take advantage of the airline so far. And I’m not crazy about having to take separate flights. Sending my dog on a 24-hour trip without me seems stressful (for me and the pup!), even if there will be pet loving attendants. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the alternative to cargo and I’m hoping that the demand for Pet Airways will encourage other airlines to expand their pet offerings. 

News: Guest Posts
Win A Dream Trike
At last, a ride worthy of your furry co-pilot.

How does one describe the very cool tricycle created by Dublin Dog in Charlotte, N.C.? If we were in a pitch meeting with a movie producer we’d say it’s Breaking Away meets Easy Rider meets Benji—a wicked-cool pair of wheels with a dog-friendly sidecar that, with a donation to a good cause and some luck, can be yours.

Here’s the back story: The folks at Dublin Dog do more than create rockin’ canine hardware (leashes, collars, etc.). They also run a foundation to “foster the therapeutic and service roles of dogs in the development, support and inspiration they provide their human companions.” Putting two and two together, they decided to raffle this aquamarine beauty with the neon flames to raise $20,000. That money will pay for training, food and medical bills for a service dog for his or her lifetime. And that dog will help Terry, a Winston-Salem resident with Cerebral Palsy, maintain her mobility and independence.

On July 4, the Dublin Dog Dream Bike and Sidecar will be pedaled 400 miles in the 2009 Let Freedom Bark Ride, a charity ride from Charlotte to Washington, D.C.—where the winner of the raffle will be announced. Learn more about the Foundation and buy your tickets here.

News: Karen B. London
All My Patients Have Tales
Check out this great new book!
Veterinarian Jeff Wells has written a new book called All My Patients Have Tales about his adventures and misadventures as a mixed-practice vet. The vignettes about the lessons he has learned provide insights into what it takes to become an experienced vet.   The highly amusing adventure of him chasing a client’s feral cat around his office and receiving multiple injuries in the process will ring true to anyone who has ever dealt with a feline escapee. It will also draw understanding from anyone who has ever had on-the-job training. Having to deal with a traveling circus requiring blood tests for its animals, he provides the zinger, “At no time during veterinary school had anyone mentioned how to go about finding a vein on an elephant.”   From dealing with porcupine quills in a horse’s leg to a bizarre blockage in a puppy’s intestines, Wells’ love for animals is the link that ties these stories together. I’m excited about this book and equally excited about sharing it with others. Published about three weeks ago, it is on its way to making a big splash in the animal world.   Wells has been inspired by the writings of both James Herriot and Garrison Keillor. The charm and humor that made these authors so popular also appear in All My Patients Have Tales. When I asked Jeff Wells what he thought of comparisons to the legendary James Herriot, he laughed and replied, “I’ll take that any day of the week.”
News: JoAnna Lou
Wheels with Dogs in Mind
Honda unveils a dog-friendly version of the popular Element.

Whether it’s a visit to the park or a trip to an Agility trial, I mostly drive with the dogs in tow. So when I’m in the market for a new car, I always keep them in mind. 

 

When it comes to the perfect canine vehicle, the Honda Element always comes up in conversation. From rave reviews on dog sport blogs to being named DogCar.com’s Car of the Year, the Element’s washable floors and spacious interior make it the clear winner among pet owners.

 

Earlier this month, Honda unveiled a dog-friendly version of the Element at the New York International Auto Show that will be available for purchase in the fall. The car features bone-patterned floor mats, a built-in crate, a load-in ramp, a rear ventilation fan and a spill-resistant water bowl. 

 

Honda has long recognized the need for dog friendly travel options and became a front runner in the market when it designed a minivan with built-in crates for the Tokyo Motor Show in 2005. 

 

Although the dog-friendly Element seems like more of a marketing ploy, since it’s really just the Element with dog-themed add-ons, I’m happy to see one of the big car manufacturers cater to pet owners.

 

To learn more about finding the perfect car for your perfect pup, check out “Dog & Driver” in the current issue of The Bark.

News: Guest Posts
Indie Gem: Wendy and Lucy

Next week, when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announces the Oscar short list, it’s likely the lovely, affecting Wendy and Lucy will not be included. That’s Hollywood’s loss. This sensitive and restrained portrayal of the human-animal bond, starring Michelle Williams, cuts right to the heart of it. Reviewing the film for Bark (Nov/Dec 2008), Heather Huntington wrote: “Wendy and Lucy provides a fine, powerful and emotional experience.”

We say take in all 80-moody minutes in a theater. The girl and her dog roll into Seattle, San Diego, Philadelphia, and Boston theaters next week, and then San Francisco, Berkeley (Bark’s HQ), San Jose, St. Louis and Chicago the following week. Find the complete release schedule here.

 

News: Guest Posts
FlexPetz
Rent a dog, save a life? Not likely, according to animal advocates

On the surface, FlexPetz founder Marlena Cervantes came up with a smart idea. There are plenty of people who enjoy dogs, but cannot have one of their own. Why not let them borrow a dog for a walk in the park or a weekend excursion? FlexPetz matches one of its dogs to the client’s needs and everybody’s happy, right?

Well, not exactly. “I am concerned that these ‘rent-a-pet’ enterprises devalue the worth of companion animals,” says Jeff Dorson, executive director of the Humane Society of Louisiana. “One can now rent them for a few hours and return them as if they were disposable. That is not a message that I would like to send to children.”

Cervantes told a reporter she prefers to use the term “dog time-share,” as though our canine companions are on par with a condo. Such semantics might make for good marketing, but it does not change the fact that these dogs are treated like books checked out from the library. (Cervantes did not return calls or emails requesting an interview for this article.)

“The concept really sickens me,” says Amy Wukotich, a professional dog trainer and director of Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus. “I spend much of my time explaining to clients and adopters how important it is to build a healthy relationship with your dog. This [business] tells the public that relationships don't matter, that a dog is just like any other trendy toy. Use it while it’s convenient, then dump it and move on. The dog’s quality of life isn’t even considered in this arrangement.”

Being shuttled between multiple homes over the course of a week’s time could be confusing or possibly even harmful, depending on the dog’s temperament and health. What does that constant change do to the dog, both mentally and physically?

“We object strongly to any options that would leave pets in limbo, bouncing from home to home for the sheer enjoyment of humans looking for entertainment,” says Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center & Mobile Clinic Outreach Program. “From scientific studies and data collected over several decades, we know that dogs are social animals that form long-lasting bonds to each other and to people. A stable bond is necessary for the well-being of an animal, much like you’d imagine for a child with the caretakers in a family.”

FlexPetz also spins its service as a way to save shelter dogs and prevent other dogs from ending up there. If the dog’s history is unknown, is it wise to press this dog into such service? Even the best-trained, physically healthy and temperamentally sound dog might be stressed under these circumstances. Perhaps more to the point, doesn’t this rent-a-dog concept encourage the disposability of dogs, which is how many of them ended up in the shelter in the first place?

Buchwald says there are many options for a doggie fix that are in the dog’s best interest, too. For example, volunteers are always welcome at shelters where they can help socialize and exercise dogs until they find a permanent home. For those who are uncomfortable in a shelter environment, volunteering with a breed rescue, whose adoptable dogs are already safe in foster homes, is another viable alternative. Family, friends and neighbors with dogs would also appreciate help exercising their dog or pet-sitting while they’re on vacation.

“Many elderly people have to give up their pets because they’re physically challenged and can’t take care of them,” says Buchwald. “Helping elderly people care for their dogs is a great way to get interaction with a dog if you can’t manage full-time ownership.”

Read a Newsweek update here.

News: Contests
Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Favorite Shelter or Rescue
Winner of free private screening of Hotel for Dogs to be announced soon

(Update: Thanks to everyone who nominated a deserving shelter and rescue organization. It's been inspiring to hear about all the wonderful efforts to help companion animals around the country. The contest is now closed to entries. We'll announce the winner of the Hotel for Dogs screening soon.)

Thanks In the new movie Hotel for Dogs, a couple of street-smart siblings in a foster home with a strict no-pets policy hide a feisty Jack Russell Terrier in an abandoned hotel. With the help of a few friends, they are soon providing love and shelter to a motley assortment of city strays, keeping them happy, healthy and well fed with some truly ingenious inventions. (Go behind the scenes with Alysia Gray Painter in the Jan/Feb '09 issue.)

While vending machines that spit out shoes for chewers and automatic ball launchers aren’t available in most shelters or foster homes, Hotel for Dogs celebrates something very real—the heart, hard work and creativity behind every successful rescue effort. That’s what Bark loves about this movie, and why we’re thrilled to share it with folks who know all about fighting the good fight for dogs.

In partnership with Bark, Paramount Pictures is offering a free private screening of Hotel for Dogs to a shelter organization or rescue group (and its choice of employees, volunteers and supporters) at a local movie theater. From humane societies to small grass-roots networks, all are welcome. Entries should be posted as comments below,  so that we can all read about these inspiring programs to help homeless companion animals.

HOW TO ENTER: Nominate your favorite shelter or rescue in 100 words or less as a comment below by February 15, 2009. No phone calls. A winning organization will be selected at random from all qualified nominations and announced on TheBark.com. Please note: Multiple entries from the same address or duplicate entries will be disqualified. Screening can be held Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, excluding holidays, in a 200-seat theater. Theater location based upon availability.

Important fine print: This film is rated PG. All federal, state and local regulations apply. A recipient of prizes assumes any and all risks related to use of prizes and accepts any restrictions required by prize provider. Paramount Pictures, Terry Hines and Associates, Bark Magazine and their affiliates accept no responsibility or liability in connection with any loss or accident incurred in connection with use of a prize. Prizes cannot be exchanged, transferred or redeemed for cash, in whole or in part. We are not responsible if, for any reason, winner is unable to use his/her prizes in whole or in part. Not responsible for lost, delayed or misdirected entries. All federal and local taxes are the responsibility of the winner. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. Participating sponsors their employees and family members and their agencies are not eligible.

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Is My Boyfriend?

These days, dogs on the small screen are doing less fetching and romping and more relating. On The Sarah Silverman Program, a Chihuahua-Pug mix named Doug, is essentially Silverman's rent boy. Last night, she amped things up by declaring herself engaged to Doug (mostly to rain on her sister’s betrothal). It's edgy, funny stuff—the sort of thing that keeps Prop 8-proponents up at night. While the interspecies nuptials are getting some buzz, that canine plot-twist is timid compared to an earlier episode.

In a new series, Puppy Love, created by Amy B. Harris (of Sex in the City fame) a parade of dogs serve as boyfriends, chick magnets and child-surrogates to anxiety-prone New Yorkers. My favorite sequences are during closing credits, when actors, such as Alicia Witt and Janel Maloney, describe their rescue co-stars—who, by the way, steal most of the scenes. These shorts are available at L Studio hosted by Lexus (yes, the carmaker), which attracted headline talent (working for free) with a $50,000 donation to the ASPCA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culture: Reviews
Book Review: The Hidden Life of Wolves

For six years, they shared a 25-acre enclosure at the base of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains with a pack of gray wolves. Their office was a Mongolian yurt; their sleeping quarters, a canvas tent. In the winter, the path to the outhouse required frequent shoveling to clear the snow away. This was the life of Jim and Jamie Dutcher, awardwinning documentary filmmakers. Their book, The Hidden Life of Wolves, is the culmination of this unique experience.

Although the book is oversized and contains hundreds of the Dutchers’ compelling photographs (as well as beautifully rendered maps and illustrations), it is not a skimmable coffee-table tome. An extensive study of wolves both inside and outside of the enclosure, it is comparable in depth to Barry Lopez’s Of Wolves and Men.

The Hidden Life of Wolves details their social structure, hunting techniques and body language (among other things) as well as human-influenced issues, including the Yellowstone and central Idaho wolf reintroductions of the mid ’90s. The Dutchers explore similarities between the eradication of wolves in the 1800s and the current explosion of wolf hunting and trapping, which became legal when wolves were dropped from the Endangered Species List in 2011. Solutions to wolf problems, including livestock depredation, are discussed, and the “Little Red Riding Hood” myth is thoroughly debunked. The Dutchers also incorporate insights from a number of respected authorities, including Aldo Leopold, Gordon Haber, L. David Mech and Carter Niemeyer.

Acknowledging the vast disparity of opinion on Canis lupus, the Dutchers suggest that the wolf “may be the greatest shape-shifter in the animal kingdom.” Through intensive observation of their hand-raised pack, which they assembled from rescue centers in Montana and Minnesota, the Dutchers gained intimate knowledge of the inner workings of wolves. They came to the conclusion that their extremely social and complex subjects were “neither demon, nor deity, nor data.”

Readers come to know the Sawtooth wolves. Kamots, the benevolent leader, maintains order without undue force. Littermate Lakota is larger than Kamots, yet remains at the bottom of the pecking order, often harassed by the others; younger brother Matsi comes to his rescue, blocking blows from the aggressors. Clever Wyakin, a small female, loves to snatch extra food and cache it for later.

These individuals and other members of the pack are brought to life as they interact with one another and with the Dutchers, who record them with cameras and sound devices. Though their hearts are never quite out of the picture, the couple observes at a distance that allows for an objective view.

With a foreword by Robert Redford, The Hidden Life of Wolves is a richly layered work that speaks to the complicated and controversial place wolves occupy in the human imagination. While some consider them embodiments of a litany of evils, the Dutchers maintain that “more than wolves themselves, it is our relationship with them that needs to be managed.” Their aptly titled book provides a valuable roadmap to guide us through this process.

Culture: Reviews
Love Has No Age Limit
McConnell Publishing, Ltd., 96 pp., 2011; $9.95

Volunteer long enough with shelter dogs and you develop a long list of their needs — each as essential as the last — that you absolutely must share with adoptive parents as they walk out the door with one of “your” pups. She loves belly rubs! Oh, he’s a bit scared of men, especially men wearing hats. Watch her with the cats; remember that when her prey drive kicks in, she may lose her manners. They’re common enough concerns, but we can’t squeeze them all in, let alone talk about how to work with these issues.

Love Has No Age Limit: Welcoming an Adopted Dog into Your Home by renowned animal behaviorists Patricia McConnell, PhD, and Karen London, PhD, is the next best thing to following the dog home (and a whole lot more articulate). This slim book from two powerhouse experts covers all the basics of adopting an adolescent or adult dog, preparing you for success when bringing the new family member into any kind of home — even one with kids, cats or other dogs.

Given that adopted dogs have their own unique histories, half of the book is dedicated to very brief considerations of the most common behavioral problems, which include house-training, fear of strangers and resource guarding. From its smart tips for dog-proofing in advance and the car trip home to sound advice on bonding, training and establishing daily routines, Love Has No Age Limit is a gift, one that will help everyone successfully weather the first month’s experiences. It would be an ideal addition to take-home packets supplied by shelters, rescues and breeders. Assuming you won’t let a volunteer tag along, that is.

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