Every day, books about a dog saving a life or teaching a lesson land on our desk. Rarely, however, are points made more poignantly and convincingly than in this new memoir, George the Dog, John the Artist: A Rescue Story.
This inspiring story by former petty thief and once-homeless John Dolan—who today is an internationally respected artist—is really about George, the stray Staffordshire Terrier who started him on his remarkable journey of self-discovery and redemption.
Dolan narrates their story, which is quite unlike others in this genre. In a very down-to-earth, vérité voice, he recalls his early east London life and how years of neglect and poverty led to more than 30 prison incarcerations (some of which were intentional, a way to get inside during the cold winter months).
As a child, Dolan had a knack for drawing, a talent that he resurrected once he became responsible for George’s welfare and keeping himself outside of prison for the dog’s sake. They were living near Shoreditch High Street in London, a district that had become hip and arty. At first, Dolan and George got along by hanging out on the street and begging; the well-trained, friendly dog was a big draw. But as Dolan describes it, “I was always thinking about how I was going to get off the street and make an honest living for myself and George. Seeing all the art around Shoreditch, I began to wonder whether I could make a few quid out of drawing something myself.”
He started with meticulous renderings of local buildings, some of which he did thousands of times until he got them right. His self-confidence steadily grew, and the man with the pad and pencil and his dog became neighborhood fixtures. His first commission came from a woman who asked him to draw George.
As he readily admits, “George was the reason I could call myself an artist.” That drawing was the first piece that he felt he ever fully completed. The woman was thrilled with it, and after that, he started drawing George regularly. His art sold, opening up a whole new life for the two of them. In September 2013, he had his first solo show, “George the Dog, John the Artist,” which was a sell-out. This entertaining, inspiring story is unique in the annals of dog-saves-man tales and definitely merits your attention.
Now that summer is here with its long, warm days, we hope to inspire you to catch up on your reading. Here’s a list of a few of our favorites, both new and classic.
What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren
Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz
Do As I Do by Claudia Fugazza (DogWise)
Animal Wise by Virginia Morell
Zoobiquity by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD and Kathryn Bowers
The Secret History of Kindness: Learning from how dogs learn by Melissa Pierson
George the Dog, John the Artist: A Rescue Story by John Dolan
The Possibility Dogs by Susannah Charleson
Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park by Matthew Gilbert
A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life by Steven Kotler
Scents and Sensibility by Spencer Quinn.
The Mountaintop School for Dogs by Ellen Cooney
Timbuktu by Paul Auster
Breath to Breath by Carrie Maloney
Food for Thought
Canine Nutrigenomics by W. Jean Dodds and Diana R. Laverdure
The Secret Life of Dog Catchers by Shirley Zindler
This book, which should be mandatory reading for all veterinary students, is opening new vistas of nutritional science. It is also essential reading for people who live, work with and care for dogs: it takes us to the next level of critical and analytical consideration of companion animal nutrition, picking up where I and two other veterinarians left off in our book, Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Food. Specifically, on the so-called epigenetic effects of nutrients on health and behavior under the banner terminology of “nutrigenomics.”
The term references the interaction between diet and various food ingredients and the regulatory genes that influence metabolic, immune, neuroendocrine and other systems and bodily processes and functions. These fascinating connections are clearly and concisely addressed by Dodds and Laverdure, who highlight the need for special diets for dogs with certain genetic issues/anomalies, various health problems (from cancer and liver disease to arthritis and obesity) and a host of other common canine health issues.
This information is coupled with a detailed review of changes in diet and nutraceutical supplementation that may be indicated to help treat a variety of diet-connected health problems. The book takes us into the new integrative dimension of veterinary and human medicine, in which optimal health, disease prevention and treatments are considered from genetic and nutritional perspectives.
In explaining the interplay between genes, nutrients and intestinal bacteria (the “microbiome”), this book reaches a new level of understanding of some of the dynamics of diseases hitherto unrecognized and unaddressed by human and animal doctors—professionals who now have, with this book and the emerging science of nutrigenomics, a more integrated and holistic perspective. Chapter-highlighting summaries and practical instruction give the book a tutorial quality that enhances the learning experience.
One of my greatest enjoyments was reading about the vital importance of a healthy gut flora population—the microbiome—and how dietary ingredients can harm or improve this symbiotic community, which often benefits from oral probiotics and prebiotic nutraceuticals.
The early part of the book gives the reader a deeper understanding of the importance of optimal nutrition, and identifies certain basic nutrients and essential nutraceutical and herbal supplements, as well as food ingredients to avoid (a number of which are still in far too many manufactured pet foods).
In addition to their companion animals, readers of Canine Nutrigenomics will have reason to reconsider what they’re eating themselves, and what they’re feeding their families. It also brings the cruel realities of livestock and poultry factory farms and misuse of antibiotics, hormones and other drugs; polluted and over-fished oceans; nutrient-depleted soils and pesticide-contaminated, genetically engineered crops of industrial agriculture to mind, along with the mainstream pet food industry, a subsidiary of this “agribusiness.”
In the face of this reality, Canine Nutrigenomics offers a way out of the dystopia of what I call the Ouroboros of the food and drug industrial complex, which continues to create an increasingly unsafe, non-sustainable and nutrient-deficient food chain while profiting from selling a myriad of petrochemical and pharmaceutical products (many to treat and prevent crop and livestock diseases), and costly diagnostic and therapeutic interventions to treat (but not prevent) a host of human and companion-animal maladies.
Our dogs, consumers in this industrial rather than humane and organic food chain, are our sentinels. Like the canaries down the mineshaft, they alert us when they succumb to health problems similar to those we see in the human population.
This book is part of the nascent transformation of agriculture and the “One Health” revolution, which connects public health and disease prevention with optimal nutrition. We must all join and support it in the marketplace with our dollars.
Canine Nutrigenomics provides an excellent directory to this evolution in human consumer habits, and scientific validation of the Hippocratic injunction to let our food be our medicine and our medicine, our food.
Read the book for dog’s sake, for health’s sake and for Earth’s sake—and join the revolution!
News: Guest Posts
Find the perfect car for you and your pup
We use our vehicles for many things, often looking to them as an extension of our lifestyle and sometimes even a member of the family. Some people buy vehicles because they’re sporty, others because they’re rugged, and still others because they are good family haulers or get great fuel economy. Some of us, though, have a certain four-legged friend in mind when we purchase a vehicle.
For a vehicle to be considered dog-friendly, it needs several things. First, it should be large enough to accommodate most common breeds, whether it’s the smallest Chihuahua or the largest Saint Bernard. The vehicle should also be able to carry our canine friend safely and with plenty of room so that tails and tongues aren’t shoved into the front seat to distract us. Most will have enough room in the cargo area for a kennel, some will have wide doors to let Rover in and out easily, and most will be low enough that no one’s paws will get hurt jumping in and out once we’ve arrived.
All dogs are not created equal, of course, so we’ll split our choices into three groups according to canine lifestyle choices.Outdoorsy Dogs
Some dogs love to swim, some enjoy hunting, some just like going outside and seeing the world. All outdoorsy dogs like to go places and do things, though, and many of those places might be beyond the pavement and out in nature. For the outdoorsy type, here are the best vehicles for their humans to own.Subaru XV Crosstrek or Forester
(Subaru of America, Inc.)
Nothing says “lets go outside and play” like a Subaru. The relatively new XV Crosstrek is proving itself to be a popular choice, thanks to its right-sized nature and capable ruggedness. The XV Crosstrek has more ground clearance than the Impreza, but isn’t as big as the Subaru Outback. A hybrid option adds to the XV Crosstrek’s appeal.
The Subaru Forester is the long-lived and well-loved Subaru SUV, of course, with plenty of capability and a lot of interior space. It’s also very ergonomic both as a daily-use vehicle and a weekend getaway machine. Dogs will love the head room, big cargo area and roomy back seat.Jeep Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, Wrangler
(Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)
Any of the Jeep brand vehicles are probably a good fit for a dog. Popular choices are theCherokee, Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler. For those who love the outdoors and take their dogs along with them, it’s hard to see a Jeep as the wrong choice.
The Cherokee is a midsize crossover with good off-road capability and plenty of interior room for family, friends and canines. The Grand Cherokee is even larger and adds an air of refinement along with a little more ground clearance. The Wrangler, of course, is the iconic Jeep that can go anywhere, with or without a top, and is suitable for extreme explorers and their humans.Nissan Frontier Pro-4X
(Nissan North America, Inc.)
As far as small pickup trucks go, there are no choices as off-road or adventure-ready as the Nissan Frontier Pro-4X. Coming standard with a large cab or crew cab (four-door) configuration, the Frontier has plenty of space for your furry friend. The rear bed and optional integrated tailgate extender are a wise choice, allowing you to bring plenty of supplies and an overnight crate for camping. The built-in roof rack just adds to this, of course, so maybe you can bring a tent for yourself as well.Ram 1500 Outdoorsman
(Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)
A full-size truck, the half-ton Ram 1500 is a great choice on its own, but the Outdoorsman model with the EcoDiesel engine, makes the 1500 fuel efficient and capable. With plenty of room in the cab and a big bed to fill with gear, the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman is a great “get there, do that” machine. The Ram Box storage system makes it even sweeter.Refined, Upscale Bowsers
Blue ribbon holders, certificates of lineage and regular trips to the salon. These are things that appeal to more than just British royalty. Some canines prefer the good life and live it to the fullest. Exclusive dog parks, high-rent fire hydrants and food spooned into porcelain are the expectation. For dogs like this, the delivery chariot must be as refined and well-bred as they are.Lexus RX 450h
(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)
Here we’re talking luxury for luxury’s sake. The beautiful Lexus RX 450h is made to be refined, capable and efficient. The hybrid powertrain means fewer stops at the gas station and more time on the road. The plush, roomy interior has a large cargo area, an excellent back seat and more than enough room to stretch. Although capable on beach sand and dirt roads, the RX 450h doesn’t sit so high that mon chéri must look undignified getting in and out of the car.Porsche Macan
(Porsche Cars North America, Inc.)
For the truly upscale canine, it’s hard to say no to a Porsche. TheMacan is a nicely sized crossover that has plenty of space and looks good. It also retains that signature Porsche driving experience. The understated beauty of this SUV will not eclipse the poodle exiting for the daily stop at the groomers either.Volvo XC60
(Volvo Cars of North America)
The Volvo XC60 is a small, capable crossover with an upscale look, a beautiful interior and a back seat that has enough space to stretch out and be comfortable. There is a luxurious ride, a built-in kennel option for the rear cargo area and a panoramic sunroof option for cloud watching and stargazing.Pack Cars for Family Dogs
Sometimes, it’s all about family. Dogs roam in packs and today, those pack mates might include other dogs, some humans, and perhaps the occasional cat. For the family-focused dog, a vehicle must have plenty of room and comfort to get everyone there safely. A third row is a must-have extra and a lot of cargo space is a given.Chrysler Town & Country
(Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)
The best-selling minivan on the market, the Chrysler Town & Country offers comfort, style and aplomb. This “Cadillac of minivans” can accommodate even large packs of humans and families of dogs.Ford Flex
(The Ford Motor Company)
For those who want the size and space a minivan offers, but need the ability to traverse snow, dirt roads, and other obstacles where all-wheel drive and a little ground clearance are a good thing, there’s the big Ford Flex. This crossover has a huge third row, plenty of cargo room and a big, wide interior that allows both dogs and humans to really stretch out and get comfy.Mazda Mazda5
(Mazda North American Operations)
If a minivan with its capabilities is a necessity, but fuel economy and price tag are a concern, theMazda5 delivers. This “right-sized” minivan has a small third row, plenty of cargo room and that signature Mazda “Zoom-Zoom.” Sliding doors and a sleek look add to the appeal, and the Mazda5 has plenty of space for a dog and his friends.Conclusion
There you have it, friends. The best choices for dogs on the move. Any car can, of course, become the ultimate canine driving machine, but the vehicles we’ve listed are inherently good at it as-is. Enjoy the ride and remember, sticking your head out the window is addictive, so do it in moderation.
This story was originally published by carfax.com. Reprinted with permission.
The comic book of the year is a dog story for the ages.
Great comic books are pretty common these days. Saga, a family drama set in space, is winning raves and readers. Batman 66 has picked up where the Adam West series left off, bringing back campy Batman for a new generation. Afterlife with Archie is a genuinely terrifying mashup of Archie Andrews and the gang with zombies. There’s a wealth of exciting work in comics, from self-published web comics to Marvel, DC and Image.
But when the time came to name the best single issue of a comic book published in 2013, both the Eisner Awards and the Harvey Awards (named for comics legends Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman) selected the same one: Hawkeye 11, otherwise known as the Pizza Dog issue. This incredible piece of art—written by Matt Fraction, illustrated and lettered by David Aja, and colored by Matt Hollingsworth—wowed the comic book world. It’s also an issue every dog lover would enjoy, offering a remarkable level of insight into our best pals.
Hawkeye has been raved about since its first issue, which also introduced Pizza Dog. “Pizza Dog” is the nickname for the pooch who was named Arrow when he was owned by the “Tracksuit Draculas,” a group of gangsters who menace the residents of Hawkeye’s building. Hawkeye saved Arrow—literally, taking the poor dog to the vet after he was hit by a car—and renamed him Lucky after adoption. Just like other superheroes and adopted dogs, Pizza Dog has several names.
Unlike comic book pets of the past—such as Krypto the Super-Dog and Ace the Bat-Hound—Lucky isn’t a superpet, and Hawkeye isn’t really a superhero comic. Hawkeye (Clint Barton) is a member of the Avengers, but he’s just a regular guy who shoots arrows really well. He’s no god like Thor or super soldier like Captain America. Hawkeye takes advantage of Barton’s status as a regular guy by following his life during his off-hours, when he’s not being an Avenger fighting for the fate of the world. The result is the superhero equivalent of an indie comic, both in terms of the everyday, relatable content and the art influenced by independent comics legend Chris Ware.
The story of Pizza Dog fits right into this already off-kilter Marvel Comic. Hawkeye 11—titled “Pizza Is My Life”—is told entirely from the point of view of Lucky, as Fraction and Aja make readers experience what Lucky sees, hears and (especially) smells. As we all know, dogs live in a world of smells that puts our puny noses to shame. Aja’s art depicts Lucky’s smell-based world through pictograms. For example, when Hawkeye meets with a police officer who is investigating the murder of neighbor Grills, we see Lucky’s mental flow charts for both characters. Little images of a cop car, a gun and the crime scene are linked to the cop. For Hawkeye, there are pictures of beer bottles and a figure getting out of bed—a very subtle way of suggesting that Hawkeye had a few beers last night, just got out of bed, hasn’t showered and smells like it. Similar smell maps exist for other characters (such as Kate Bishop, who is also called Hawkeye) and the whole building, showing Lucky’s internal map of his world.
Like a lot of great ideas, this issue started as a joke. As Aja recounts in Comic Book Resources, he was talking to Fraction and editor Steve Wacker and said “[M]aybe we should draw one issue from the dog’s point of view and I can draw it like how a dog sees. It was a joke. Suddenly, Steve and Matt said yes, let’s do it.” Aja planned to use the dog issue to catch up on deadlines, thinking it would be an easy issue for him: heavy on text, light on illustrations. As it evolved, it became the exact opposite, and Aja ended up doing even more work than usual, including the lettering. Remember the Far Side comic where Gary Larson showed how dogs hear English as a bunch of gibberish plus a few select words, like their names? That’s the same approach taken by Aja. He wrote in the dialogue, then erased the words that would be Greek to a dog, figuring it would be easier to do that himself than to explain it to Hawkeye letterer Chris Eliopoulos.
Lettering tricks and pictograms aside, Aja’s skill in drawing the body language of dogs is astounding. Every issue of Hawkeye is impressive, as Aja brings a far more humorous, human feel than can be found in most superhero comics. You can tell he obviously has a dog or has been around dogs. Aja captures Lucky’s curiosity, anger, happiness, sleepiness, sadness and shock perfectly as our hero dog investigates Grills’ murder, falls in love with a neighbor dog, barks at his abusive former owners and lives up to his nickname of Pizza Dog by rummaging through the trash for a blessed slice.
The commitment to portraying Lucky’s world also extends to the colors. Via email, colorist Hollingsworth told me, “The issue was approached entirely differently from any other comic. It was colored using only the color range that dogs see. So, I always had a reference image open that showed that range and stuck to that, which is basically yellow and blue to blue violet—so, sort of a two-color palette. That was Matt Fraction’s idea.”
Hollingsworth also took the opportunity to have a little extra fun with this unusual issue: “At the time that I was coloring it, I perpetuated a hoax on Facebook and Twitter. I faked up an image of some goggles and posted that picture. I live in Croatia, and I wrote that these had been made for me by Nikola Tesla’s great-great grandson. Tesla lived in Croatia at certain points of his life, and I said that his descendent had made these goggles for me which replicated dog-vision colors, and that I was wearing them the entire time I was coloring the issue. Everybody was taken in by this for about one day, and they were retweeting it. Funny.” Even without magic goggles, Hollingsworth’s colors are impressive.
So if you’re looking for the perfect gift for one of the dog people in your life, hunt down Hawkeye 11—or, even better, the collection Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits, which includes the Pizza Dog issue.
They say you don’t need a cape to be hero. Pizza Dog proves that statement applies to hero dogs too.
Another dog named Dash surfaces in the new addition to the “Dog Diaries” historical fiction series. This one, Dog Diaries #5: Dash by Kate Klimo (illustrated by Tim Jessell), is about an English Springer Spaniel who joins the Pilgrims on their Mayflower voyage to the New World. Dash and his Mastiff friend, Mercy, have front row “seats” for all the action, from the arduous ocean journey to the settlers’ first harvest with the Wampanoag Indians, whom they had befriended. An ideal Thanksgiving read. (Ages 7 to 10)
Norman, Speak! by Caroline Adderson (illustrated by Qin Leng) is a lovely picture book. Norman is adopted by a family who wants to give a home to the dog who has been in the shelter the longest. This is the first important lesson offered in this insightful book. Though the family loves Norman, they think he might not be the brightest because he doesn’t seem to understand them. But one day at the dog park, an Asian man calls to his dog in Chinese, and Norman runs up to him, too, listening intently to what the man has to say. Mystery solved! Norman “speaks” Chinese. Inspired by the need to communicate with Norman, the family signs up for Chinese lessons. They find the language difficult to learn, which helps them understand Norman’s difficulties with English—another valuable lesson. (Ages 4 to 7)
For the DIY set of all ages, we highly recommend Pop-Out & Paint Dogs & Cats by Cindy Littlefield. Thi s fun-packed book provides blank animal templates —13 breeds of dogs and 5 of cats— with ample painting/coloring instructions. You pop out these heavy-paper templates, paint them and then, if you like, trace them onto other paper for even more paper dogs (great idea for tree decorations). The dogs can also stand on their own with the help of paper clips. There are even directions about how to make other items, like a dog house, an agility course, collars and leashes, all for your new paper pups. This clever book packs hours’—maybe days’—worth of creative, artistic endeavors between its covers.
(Simon and Schuster)
Not long ago, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD, looked at the connections between human ailments and those suffered by other animals. In the process, she coined a new word, zoobiquity, to describe that nascent field of study. The 2012 publication of her book of the same name marked an awakening interest in exploring the “animal-human overlap.”
Now, as an apt complement to that work, comes Animal Madness by Laurel Braitman, a science historian with a PhD from MIT. In her book, Braitman explores the ways in which the human mind and its disorders are inextricably linked with those of other social animals. She was launched into this line of study by her struggle to understand and heal Oliver, her compulsive, phobia- and anxiety-plagued Bernese Mountain Dog. Through caring for Oliver, Braitman experienced firsthand the challenges that animals with extreme mental illness present to themselves and to the people who love them.
Oliver’s trauma began when he was pushed aside by his first family after the birth of a child, an event that severely affected his mental and emotional life; Braitman and her then-husband only learned about this after adopting him as a four-year-old from his breeder. When the dog’s intense separation anxiety caused him to leap out of the couple’s fourth-floor apartment window, it became clear that it was almost impossible to leave him alone. As a result, their lives were increasingly constrained by Oliver’s fears, anxieties and compulsions. In trying to understand just how to best to help him, Braitman began to wonder how similar Oliver’s experiences were to those of humans with mental and emotional problems.
As the subtitle notes, the scope of this book spans multiple species—not just anxious companion animals but also, compulsive parrots, depressed great apes and donkeys, suicidal sea mammals, jealous elephants, and many others. While Oliver’s plight—which Braitman admits had her acting like a service animal for her own dog—runs through the book, she also covers topics like Charles Darwin (a firm believer in animal emotions), anthropomorphism (not a bad thing at all, since it allows us to understand “the other” better) and animal-pharma (an industry that has become quite pervasive in the treatment of animal psychological problems). Regarding the latter, she notes that initially, these drugs—which are projected to reach $9 billion in annual sales by 2015—were only prescribed by vet behavior specialists but are now readily available from most general-practice vets.
While some of these stories can be difficult for animal lovers to read, most have mediated recoveries. However, taken together, they make a salient case for acknowledging the “parallels between human and other animal mental health,” which, as Braitman notes, “is a bit like recognizing capacities for language, tool use and culture in other creatures.” And, given how important emotional enrichment is to all social animals, she definitely has qualms about the capacity of any social animal to lead an emotionally stable life in captivity in a zoo environment.
In the hands of an observant and engaging writer like Braitman, this story is an outstanding example of a rigorous investigation presented in a most accessible way. Readers will also be rewarded by the deep compassion and gratitude she shows for all her subjects, both the animals and the humans who care for them. As she humbly observes, Oliver was “one anxious dog who brought me the entire animal kingdom. I owe him everything.”
For more insights, see the Q&A with Laurel Braitman.
News: Guest Posts
Sponsored by Sleepypod
“I haven’t even allowed myself to imagine the loss I would have suered had I decided not to purchase the Clickit that day”
For a while I was contemplating purchasing the Clickit harness from Sleepypod. My dog and I go everywhere together and so she is in the car 40 minutes each day.
I thought, “I’m a safe driver, maybe I’ll hold off until my next paycheck to purchase the Clickit.” Well finally, one day when browsing Sleepypod.com (for the hundredth time), after measuring my dog four different times to be sure, I decided to do it. I purchased the small Clickit harness in orange! Little did I know, this would be the most important purchase of my entire life.
Fast forward about a month, I am driving through the same intersection I drive almost every single day with my dog. This intersection is very busy, and the speed limit is 45 mph, so I’m always very careful. As I’m driving along, going 45 mph, a car suddenly turns in front of me. I didn’t even have time to apply pressure on the breaks before we collided. My car spun wildly, and I ended up crossing three lanes, landing on the opposite side of the median. My car made some funny noises before it died, smoke pouring from the hood. Immediately when my car settles, I look back at my dog. Her doggy bed that she lays on was tossed from the seat. The leashes I keep in the back are strewn about the car. My dog is sitting on the seat, wide-eyed and confused, perfectly unharmed. She was just sitting there. I immediately start crying. I couldn’t believe it … she was actually okay!
My boyfriend came to the scene as the police arrived. He took our dog out of the car, and she hopped right down as if nothing had happened. When the EMT’s strapped me to a board, she came over and jumped up to see if I was okay, whining for me, tail wagging.
I suffered a fractured sternum, and had to be transferred to a special hospital overnight. The first thing I did when I came home from the hospital was bring my dog to my veterinarian. I had to be sure she was definitely okay. My vet checked her over and gave her a clean bill of health.
I seriously owe all of this to my Clickit harness. Without it, my entire world would have been turned upside down. I haven’t even allowed myself to imagine the loss I would have suffered had I decided not to purchase the Clickit that day.
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