Home
work of dogs
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Finding Cell Phones
Dogs sniff out smuggled goods in prison

Dogs have been trained to detect cancer, bed bugs, and even illegal DVDs. There really is no limit to how our pups can help us. Now canines are being trained to search prisons for smuggled cell phones.

Prisons ban cell phones because inmates can use them to plot escape plans, harass victims or document security procedures. Jail officials have always searched prison cells for phones, but they’ve only recently begun to train dogs for this purpose. Sergeant Wayne Conrad, who leads the K-9 detection program in California, says his dogs can search jail cells in a fraction of the time it takes a human officer. 

Inmates, and even staff members, go to great lengths to smuggle cell phones inside prison walls, where they can be sold or rented for large sums of money. These attempts include hiding pieces of cell phones in radios or watches, transporting phones with the laundry delivery, and even putting phones inside the body. But it doesn’t matter if the phones are on, off, or broken into a million pieces--the dogs will find them. 

Cell phone sniffing dogs work in state prisons across America, including California, Florida, Texas, Virginia and Maryland. The program has increased in popularity in recent years because it’s effective, but also economical. All of the 14 dogs working in California’s 33 prisons are adopted from shelters or rescue groups and go through an eight-week training program.

As of May this year, California prison officials have already confiscated almost 5,000 cell phones thanks to their team of talented pups!

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Lifeguards
Italian pups train to rescue humans in troubled waters

After vacationing abroad recently, I’ve been jealous of the abundance of parks and beaches in Europe that allow dogs. 

But in Italy, not all of the beach dogs are just lounging in the sun all day, some are also helping to keep the ocean safe. These working pups are graduates of the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs in Civitavecchia. Currently 300 dogs have been certified through the three-year program. 

The canine lifeguards are trained to jump from helicopters and boats, carry a buoy or raft, and tow victims to shore. The dogs play an important role in rescuing the 3,000 people saved by the Italian Coast Guard each year. 

According to program coordinator, Roberto Gasbarri, canine lifeguards have an advantage over humans because they can easily jump into the water and reach victims quickly. One dog can single handedly pull a boat of 30 people to shore. The canine lifeguards can even help reduce fatigue in the human rescuers by towing handlers to victims for medical attention. 

Think your crew has what it takes? The school will train any breed, as long as they weigh at least 30 kilograms (66 pounds) and are confident in the water, though Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlands are most common.  Each dog works with a volunteer handler, who also acts as the animal's trainer.

I don’t think my water phobic pups will be lifeguards anytime soon, but I’m thankful for the people and dogs who donate their time to keeping the beaches safe.

News: Guest Posts
National Dog Day
Celebrating canines, August 26

Thursday is National Dog Day, which was founded in 2004 to acknowledge all the dogs who “work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort.” Even if you’re naturally cranky like me and resent being told you need to show your appreciation on a particular day, it’s hard to argue with the fundamental idea that dogs give us a great deal and deserve our best in return.

  I’m willing to set aside my fundamental belief that dogs—just like mothers, fathers, grandparents, lovers, etc.—should enjoy special treats and praise daily to get behind the National Dog Day mission: supporting shelters and rescues, promoting adoption and saying no breed bans.   Among the celebration suggestions on the official National Dog Day website are parties, treats, a day lazing on a new bed (ugh!), and dressing up in patriotic attire (huh?). I think we can do better than that. How about committing ourselves to mastering some new tricks? Kicking off a more active regime? Volunteering for an animal welfare organization or making a donation? Launching a new strategy for helping animals? Reading a book about canine massage? Signing up for an organized activity, such as agility or Nose Work? With the right attitude, we can keep this from being another Valentine’s Day. Improving the health of our own dogs and reaching out to help dogs-in-need is a better investment than a box of chocolates or cut flowers (not that I’d refuse either).   Do you have plans for National Dog Day? Look for our National Dog Day poll this week on Bark’s Facebook page.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Service Dog Diversity
Pomeranian helps hearing-impaired woman

Pookee the Pomeranian helps Julianna Rigby by alerting her to sounds she can’t detect such as visitors at the door or the telephone ringing. Since the image many people have of service dogs is confined to German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, Rigby sometimes receives dirty looks or requests to take the dog outside when she takes her with her to the grocery store or other places where dogs are usually not allowed.

  I’ve met service dogs from a variety of breeds beyond the two standards mentioned above: Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, a French Mastiff, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Tibetan Terriers and Flat-coated Retrievers are just a few of them. Do you know of a service dog from a breed that is not typically thought of in that role? Tell us about the dog and what he or she does.  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Therapy Dog Gives Great Gift
A wife’s last smile.

 

There are a zillion stories about the amazing effects of therapy dogs on people, but this one moved me even more than usual. A husband was with his dying wife in a Florida hospital when Pogo, a Shetland sheepdog came to visit. The wife began to pet the dog, wrapped her arms around him, and smiled. It had been a long time since she had smiled, and it was to be her last one. She died the next day.   Pogo’s guardian got a letter from the husband soon after thanking her for letting him see his wife smile one more time. I’m actually dripping tears on my keyboard just thinking about how meaningful that single smile was to this man. I mean, seriously, have you ever written or received a letter because of a smile?  

 

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Only
Federal government narrows service animal definition

If you have a disability and want to bring your helper parrot, monkey or snake with you in public, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Revisions to the Department of Justice’s ADA regulations were signed by Attorney General Eric Holder last Friday, and they exclude exotic animals as service animals.

  Monkeys, rodents, and reptiles, among others, will no longer be permitted to accompany individuals with disabilities into places of public accommodation. The only animals who will qualify as service animals are … dogs.   DOJ regulations (implementing Title III of the ADA) used to define a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”   The revised regulations define a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this new definition.   These regulations will take effect six months after the date they are published in the Federal Register, and at risk of being labeled a species-ist, I must confess I look forward to the changes. I use a trained service dog who adheres to high behavioral standards. When you travel around with a dog like this you get an earful of stories about other service animals: Helper parrots pecking at shoppers in stores; comfort pigs going crazy in airplanes; a therapeutic rat that quells anxiety in his owner but ends up causing anxiety to others instead.     Seeing Eye pioneers worked long and hard to open the doors and give our dogs public access. Opening ADA legislation to even more animals who may not truly be qualified could possibly ruin the good name our Seeing Eye pioneers have worked so hard to build over the years. My hope is that limiting the number of allowable species will stop erosion of the public’s  trust in our well-behaved, helpful—and absolutely necessary—service animals.   

 

News: Guest Posts
A New Job for Pearl
Second graders illustrate book about Haiti SAR dog

Allyn Lee has volunteered for 16 years, teaching second graders about animals and the environment. In January, she was teaching Connie Forslind’s second grade class at Rancho Romero School in Alamo, Calif., about wolves—a subject, she says, always segues to dogs—when Haiti was hit by the devastating earthquake. Lee followed the coverage, in particular stories about the canine search teams, including California Task-Force 2 (CA-TF2), trained by the Search Dog Foundation. CA-TF2 saved 11 lives in Haiti and learned a great deal about saving more lives in future disasters. Lee decided she wanted to write the true story of a Pearl and her handler, Fire Captain Ron Horetski.

  When she told her students they became enthusiastic supporters and illustrators. They studied photos of Horetski and Pearl and watched Search Dog Foundation videos. Every student provided at least one image for A New Job for Pearl: A Homeless Dog Becomes A Hero, and they participate in book sales events nearby. “They are fully involved and determined to sponsor a search dog!” Lee says.    Lee and her students hope to sell 1,000 copies at $10 each to raise the $10,000 needed to sponsor the training of a search dog. To support the kids, SDF and/or to learn Pearl’s wonderful story, visit ANewJobforPearl.org.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Criminal Mistake
Running into K9 training

I love stupid criminal stories. My favorite is about a guy who robbed a liquor store. When the clerk asked for ID because he looked young and was taking beer, the thief presented his driver’s license. This made it easier for the police to apprehend him, in case you were wondering. Similarly, I like the one about the man holding up a bank who wrote his demands on the back of his personal deposit slip, which allowed police to go to his house to arrest him. Of course, he might not feel as stupid as the crook who pulled a trash bag over his face at the start of a robbery only to realize he’d forgotten to cut eye holes in it.

  Recently, two guys in the state of Washington fled their vehicle on foot after a high-speed chase by police. Whoops. The suspects ran right into a monthly training exercise of 15 police officers and their canine partners. Some of these dogs were trained drug-sniffers, and they indicated that there was the possibility of narcotics in the bags the men carried. After a search warrant was obtained, police found $1.2 million dollars worth of cocaine.   Police Dogs 1: Criminals 0  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Resident Canines
N.J. stadium gets two full time bomb-sniffing dogs

Last month two canine residents moved into New Meadowlands Stadium, the home of the New York Giants and Jets football teams. Rufus and Anja, both Labrador Retrievers, are believed to be the only bomb-sniffing dogs in the country that are full time residents of a sports stadium.

The canine duo was brought in after team officials determined that the pups’ $10,000 price tag was more cost effective than buying an X-ray machine or renting inspection dogs. Rufus and Anja’s job is to sniff every delivery from new turf to hot dogs to make sure that they are safe.

The dogs live in two different kennels that are furnished with a bed and a water bowl. No toys are allowed since they “will chew them to pieces,” but they are sometimes given rawhide.

I always love reading about dogs and people working together, and I was glad to hear that the dogs are trained with positive reinforcement, but Rufus and Anja seem to lead a lonely life. Unlike police dogs, who typically go home with their handlers, the Meadowlands pups have to stay behind at the stadium. It almost seems like the dogs are being taken advantage of. They work all day and have only a lonely kennel to return to at night.

What do you think about these working dogs?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Take Your Dog To Work Day
Live the dream on June 25, 2010

A very rare percentage of people feel that their job is so fantastic that there is little that could be done to make it better. For most of the rest of the world, one simple perk could make their work so much more enjoyable—if they could just bring their dog with them. Being allowed to bring dogs to work has so many advantages both for employees and for the businesses that allow it.

  Julia Kamysz Lane profiled four of the companies that welcome dogs. There are many other companies that allow their employees to bring their dogs to work every day.   Among the benefits of allowing dogs at the office are increased face-to-face interactions between co-workers. It is a real morale booster to have dogs around, and any employer smart enough to want the people who work at the company to be happy deserves the resulting increases in productivity, esprit de corps, loyalty, and general sense of well being. Then, there’s the fact that employees are not in a rush to get out the door to let their dogs out.   Of course, whether you do it every day or just once a year, there is certain “petiquette” and advice worth following to ensure a positive experience for all.   Since 1999, Bring Your Dog To Work Day has been a wonderful event for anyone who must leave a dog behind to go to work on all the other days of the year. This year, the event is Friday, June 25, 2010. The original purpose of this day is to celebrate what great companions dogs make and to encourage their adoption from shelters, rescue groups and humane societies.   Are you allowed to bring your dog to work, and if so, how much does that add to your job satisfaction? Do you plan to bring your dog to work on June 25?

 

Pages