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Service Dogs for Farmers with Disabilities
Missouri non-profit trains pups to help out on farms.

Service dogs play a key role in helping people keep their dignity, independence, and livelihood. But for those who work physically demanding jobs, like farmers, the needs for a working pup are unique.

That's what inspired Jackie Allenbrand to create P.H.A.R.M. Dog USA (Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri) in 2009. Her goal was to make life easier for farmers with disabilities, whether it be physical, cognitive, or illness related.

The dogs are trained by Jackie and other volunteers to do farm specific tasks, like retrieving dropped tools, opening latch gates, carrying buckets, and managing livestock. The pups are donated or adopted from shelters. The training process is a long one, and it takes about a year just to determine if the dog has the intelligence and temperament to be a service dog.

Thought to be the only one of it's kind in the United States, the small non-profit has placed ten dogs so far, with two more in training. Jackie receives requests from across the country, but is limited by P.H.A.R.M.'s shoestring budget and resources. However, the impact the group has made is immeasurable.

Alda Owen struggled her whole life with being legally blind. She managed her 260-acre Missouri farm as best she could, only being able to see blurry shapes and very close objects. Alda was making due, but after a bull knocked a gate into her, Alda's daughter decided she could use a helping hand. P.H.A.R.M matched Alda with Sweet Baby Jo, a Border Collie that she credits with helping her remain productive and keep the life her family has built.

Sweet Baby Jo not only helps with the chores, but provides key emotional support as well. Alda's disability kept her in her small comfort zone for most of her life, but since Sweet Baby Jo entered the picture, Alda has started traveling and speaking at panels about farmers with disabilities. Alda says she not has her self-esteem and pride.

It's simply amazing what can be achieved through the human-canine bond. 

Dogs and Kids Bond Over Shared Experiences
Best Friends Bash unites pets and children overcoming health challenges.

Kids often struggle with feeling different, so you can imagine the additional challenges of growing up with a craniofacial disorder. To help these children feel less isolated, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Penn Vet teamed up to introduce these kids to therapy dogs who have similar health challenges. Best Friends Bash has been so successful that this is the event's third year.

This year's canine attendees included, Cyrus, a mixed breed pup born without front legs, Bosco, a Rottweiler with a skull deformity who has also undergone four leg operations, and Jasmine, a Shetland Sheepdog who had surgery to remove a craniofacial tumor.

Many of the kids are shy and reserved, but they instantly light up when they meet the dogs. "Receiving unconditional love and attention is an essential part of the healing process," says Dr. Alexander Reiter, a professor at Penn Vet. The benefits that the children have gained from this event are countless.

Not only do the dogs provide comfort and an instant way to bond, the event also brings families together that are going through similar challenges, in various stages of the journey. Many friendships and support networks have grown out of the Best Friends Bash.

Learn more about this amazing program at the Penn Vet web site.

A Dog Named Glacier
Coat color influences choice of name

The color of a dog is often the inspiration when choosing a name, and I enjoy that these names fit the dog. It shows that people made the effort to pick a name specifically for that dog. It’s a rare occurrence when I meet a dog named Shadow (or the Spanish equivalent so common where I live—Sombra) who is not black. I’ve also met my share of black dogs named Raven, Cinder, Midnight, Smoky and Stormy.

Similarly, there are lots of brown dogs, especially Chocolate Labs, named Hershey or Cocoa. Other common names for brown dogs include Mahogany, Mocha, Kahlua, Hickory and Snickers.

A fair number of “redheaded” canines go by Ginger or Rusty. I’ve also met dogs with a red or orange coat color with the names Ruby, Amber, Cinnamon, Penny, Brandy, Chili and Merlot.

Even before meeting a dog, I’m inclined to expect a white dog with a name like Snowball, Coconut, Casper, Beluga, Pearl or Sugar. I recently came upon a Great Dane named Glacier, which I thought was just fantastic! I’ve met plenty of dogs with similarly inspired names like Jack Frost and Iceberg, but Glacier was a new one for me. I especially love that it can refer to both the dog’s white coat and his fantastic size.

Does your dog’s name give a nod to his coat color?

Your Dog’s Look
How does it measure up to his looks?

“Your dog has a great look!” I called out to a woman at the park.

She looked at me suspiciously and actually asked, “Are you talking to me?”

I assured her that I was, though understanding immediately why she questioned me on that point. Her dog was not what most people would consider an attractive dog. He was a bit odd-looking to be honest, with a head that was small in proportion to his body, some very random color patterns in his slightly straggly coat and an ear that had been torn at some point in his life and healed imperfectly.

When I had commented on his “look,” I was referring to an aspect of his behavior—his expression—rather than his overall appearance. The look on his face as she took a flying squirrel toy out of her bag was one that combined pure joy, complete attention and enthusiasm without the slightest sign of over arousal. That combination is hardly common in my professional work with dogs with serious behavior problems, so I enjoyed it and appreciated its significance. This was a great dog—attentive, not excessively revved up, playful and happy. I was impressed with his expression, prompting me to comment on his “great look.”

Thanks to the ambiguity of the English language, my comment was misunderstood, and I suspect that the woman thought I was overcompensating and pretending that the dog was gorgeous or mocking her. It’s a fair assumption that nobody had ever told her that her dog was a handsome fellow. He is beautiful on the inside, but most people aren’t going to argue that he is gorgeous on the outside, and that’s a shame.

I’ve always maintained that some of the happiest guardians are those who pick dogs based on who they are on the inside and actively choose to love what they look like on the outside instead of doing it the other way around. This woman seemed happy once I had explained that I was impressed with her dog’s expression and went into detail about it. She told me that she loves his look, too, but that not everybody sees beyond his looks.

I’ve loved dogs who were visually stunning and dogs who were not, except perhaps to me. Do you have a dog whose “look” is a better representation of who he is than his “looks” are? Or a dog whose “look” and “looks” are both lovely?

Rescue Dog Sniffs Out Incriminating Thumb Drives
A Black Labrador plays a key role in the arrest of Jared Fogle.

Former Subway celebrity Jared Fogle made waves when he was arrested earlier this month on child pornography charges. The team responsible for finding the incriminating evidence had a special MVP--a Black Labrador named Bear. The two year old pup sniffed out a hidden thumb drive that human searchers overlooked in Jared's house. The drive turned out to be a key part in the case.

Bear is one of only five dogs in the country trained to sniff out electronic data devices. The talented pup was also involved in the investigation behind this week's arrest of Olympics gymnastics coach, Marvin Sharp. Coming off of these two successful missions, Bear will now be joining the Seattle Police Department to help investigate internet crimes.

Steve DeBrota, the lead prosecutor on the Jared Fogle case, was skeptical when he heard about an electronics sniffing dog. But Bear quickly won him over with his abilities. Steve now calls Bear "a key part of the team."

Todd Jordan, a deputy fire chief in Anderson, Indiana, is the man behind this amazing pup. Todd adopted Bear a year ago and spent four months training him using reward based methods. When Bear sniffs out a device, Todd gives him a handful of food. Small memory cards easily missed by the human eye can be found easily by the canine nose.

Now that Bear is moving to Seattle, Todd has plans to train more dogs to do this type of work. In our internet age, it's certainly a skill in growing demand!

 

Emergency Shelter for Pets
Animals get their own sanctuary from the Washington state wildfires.

The wildfires in Washington state have grown so large that specialized firefighting crews have come from as far as New Zealand to join the battle. Now considered the largest wildfire in state history, the disaster has been steadily destroying homes and displacing thousands of people.

In order to help the affected families, the Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART) has set up a shelter for pets, giving evacuees peace of mind knowing their whole family--two and four legged--has somewhere safe to go. The sanctuary is headquartered in a local elementary school next to the Red Cross shelter for people.

WASART is a all-volunteer organization that helps animals in these types of disasters, but also in rescue situations such as saving pets that have fallen down a well or ravine. The group was founded in 2007 by Gretchen McCallum and Greta Cook after they learned about people forced to leave their pets behind during Hurricane Katrina. Gretchen and Greta wanted to ensure that if a similar disaster happened in Washington, evacuees would never have to make such a difficult decision. WASART has grown so much that they now hold training classes in field response and animal rescue, and have a dedicated emergency phone line.

To learn more about this amazing organization, or to make a donation, visit the WASART web site.

Hurricane Katrina Remembered: Survivors’ Tales

When the juggernaut that was Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, it taught the nation some hard lessons about the need to provide disaster assistance for both people and their companion animals. When told by emergency personnel that they couldn’t bring their four-legged family members with them, many chose to stay behind rather than abandon the dogs and cats who trusted them.

In the days and weeks that followed, groups and individuals from across the country converged on the Gulf Coast for what’s been called the largest animal rescue operation in history. The following year, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, which directed FEMA to take the essential needs of individuals with household pets and service animals, and of the animals themselves, into account.

Ten years on, the phrase “Not without my dog” has been taken seriously, and the depth of emotion that binds us to our animal companions continues to inspire.

BREED EXEMPLAR

Sally. Among the first group of dogs evacuated from New Orleans by the Marin Humane Society, Sally landed at San Francisco International Airport on September 11, 2005, and within hours, was charming the local media right out of its collective socks. A few days later, she was photographed for her debut as Bark’s Winter 2005 cover dog. According to her person, Sheri Cardo, 11-year-old, Sally continues to spread her Pit Bull love far and wide. 

AIDE-DE-CAMP

Katrina. While Bill Daugaard was leading a rescue team in New Orleans’ Eighth Ward in September 2005, he watched the liberation of a dog (above) who had been locked in a house for 22 days. Something about her spoke to him, but before he could put his name in to foster her, she was on her way to Los Angeles. Long story short, he found her, adopted her, named her Katrina and took her home to Seattle.

ADOPTION HELPER

Boots. The Golden/Chow mix with the badly burned feet was rescued from St. Bernard Parish by a group of EAMTs from the Arizona Humane Society and transported to AHS’s Second Chance Animal Hospital in Phoenix for treatment. Shortly thereafter, his foster home became his forever home. For the past two years, Boots (above) has been returning the favor by volunteering as AHS’s kitten nanny, helping five- to eight-week-old felines acclimate to dogs (and thus become more adoptable).

SQUADRON MASCOT

Katrina. Each time a helicopter from the 301st Rescue Squadron landed on the 1-10 overpass in New Orleans to take on stranded hurricane victims, an intrepid little Beagle would rush toward the craft and station herself nearby. On the last run, Pilot Mike Brasher  (above) and his crew realized that she was alone, and took her with them. Brasher adopted her, and she became his squadron’s mascot. Now 15, she lives the good life in Fla.

New Dog Photo Shoot
Just like a baby (and maybe cuter)

Years ago, my husband brought our seven-month old son to an all-day seminar I was giving on dog aggression so that I could feed him during the breaks. In many situations, a man carrying a baby would attract a lot of attention from women, but not in this case. There were about 200 people at the seminar, and approximately 180 of them were women. During the course of the day, only a handful of them approached my husband, and all but two of them came over to share puppy photos with him. (“Look! You have a young animal in your life. I have a young animal in my life, too!”)

I’ve noticed over the years that in the world of dogs, there are many people who are just not that into kids. It’s especially true for people whose professional lives revolve around dogs. I’m fond of saying that as a group, we dog people are not very “breedy.” Of course there are tons of exceptions (I myself have two human children), but many dog people are not as child-oriented as the rest of the population.

Any couple who does not have children has probably faced questions and criticisms about that, which is obviously rude. It’s thoughtless, narrow-minded, and potentially hurtful (not to sound judgmental or anything) to ask people personal questions about when they are going to have kids or why they don’t have kids. It’s nobody’s business, and it’s impossible to know if a couple has decided not to have children or if perhaps they have been unable to have children even though they want them very much. Either situation may involve a couple who is very focused on their canine companions, and that is a beautiful thing.

One couple took an unusual approach to letting their families know that they should not expect a human grandchild. They had a photo shoot with their puppy that mimicked the popular “new baby” photo sessions. The result was a gorgeous set of photos by Elisha Minnette Photography. It looks like they enjoyed themselves and judging by the response, many people share their sense of humor.

>Are you tempted to do a “new dog” photo shoot with your best friend?

Too Much for a Young Puppy
Overwhelming a dog is not good socialization

There were easily 300 people in the school building that Saturday morning, all milling around and signing their kids up for various after school activities. There was also one very young puppy being carried through the crowd becoming more and more exhausted and increasingly overwhelmed.

When I say “very young,” I mean that I suspected that they had just picked up their new Lab puppy within the last few days even before they told me. (In fact, they had just brought her home the night before.) The dog was so small that she was outsized by over half the purses there. In addition, she had that loose skin look of brand new puppies. You know what I mean—it looked as though if you blew up that skin like a beach ball, there would be room for at least one and maybe two additional puppies in there with her.

Her new guardians were carrying her in their arms and everyone was touching, petting and leaning in at the puppy, whose eyes were wide until she was so tuckered out that they closed for an involuntary nap. She seemed like a stable enough puppy and never looked downright fearful, but she did look overwhelmed. That’s no surprise really—she was in a big crowd with too many people getting too close to her, and many people were hugging her guardian so that she got wrapped up awkwardly in the squeeze.

It breaks my heart to see a puppies dealing with such situations during the first few days or weeks in a new home because I know the guardians think they are doing right by their dogs. Everybody knows you have to socialize your puppy and get her to meet new people, but many people think that having a puppy around large numbers of people is the right way to do it. That’s perhaps a reflection of how misunderstood the concept of socialization is.

Socialization is an important part of becoming aware of the social world and learning how to behave within it. Socialization is the exposure to potential social partners during the early part of dogs’ lives, and typically occurs when puppies are three to 16 weeks old. That time is a critical period of development during which dogs learn who their potential social partners are. A critical period is a stage during which an animal is especially receptive to learning something.

For example, a critical period for learning language exists for humans, and if we are only exposed to a language after that critical period, we are unlikely to ever speak it like a native. It will always be a foreign language to us with perhaps an accent or grammatical difficulties, however slight. Similarly, dogs who are not properly specialized during the critical period may always have social skills that are not natural to them, but have an “accent” or various difficulties with social behavior.

For dogs, socialization requires providing puppies positive experiences with people in the first few months of life. Note that I specifically said, “positive experiences.” If a dog has negative experiences with people early on, they learn not to be comfortable and social with people, but to be nervous or afraid around them. That’s why bringing a puppy to a large crowded place the day after being adopted is potentially damaging and not recommended. It’s far better to meet people one or two at a time and have those people provide treats, toys and gentle touching in a calm setting. Exposure to people and other dogs that results in positive experiences for the puppy provides proper socialization. Being in a large crowd and becoming overwhelmed does not.

Adopting her Canine Rescuer
A British woman brings home the dog who saved her on vacation.

This summer Georgia Bradley was vacationing in Greece and went for a walk alone on the beach. Two men began harassing her and started to become aggressive, when a small black dog ran over and scared them away. The pup then followed Georgia back to her rental apartment.

Georgia took the dog to a local animal shelter and vet, but was turned away by both. During the rest of the vacation, Georgia kept seeing the pup wandering around, hanging outside of restaurants, and waiting by the entrance of her apartment. When it came time for Georgia to go home, the dog even ran after her car to the airport.

Back in England, Georgia couldn't stop thinking about her canine rescuer. So she did the only thing that seemed right--book the next flight back, which was two weeks later. When Georgia returned to the small town of Georgioupoli, she found the pup on the same beach where they'd first met.

Georgia decided to name the dog Pepper and found a vet on the island to do a full check-up and issue a pet passport. Pepper had to spend 21 days in quarantine before entering Britain, where her story took another incredible turn. Pepper was pregnant! Within one week of arriving back at Georgia's home, Pepper gave birth to six puppies.

Both Georgia and Pepper were lucky to find each other. I wish them the best as they start an amazing life together!

Sniff!

Did you know that dogs smell in stereo? You will after watching this terrific animated short from TED-Ed. TED conferences are legendary for the range and quality of their speakers, and their three namesake fundamentals—Technology, Entertainment and Design—converge in the TED-Ed “Awesome Nature” animations. We recently stumbled over one focusing on a dog’s sense of smell, suggested by Alexandra Horowitz, whose book, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know, was on the New York Times bestseller list for 63 weeks. Take a look and be enchanted, not to mention enlightened.

Helping the Homeless and their Pets
The summer brings unique challenges to people and pups on the street.

In the summer, I always have to be mindful about walking my pups over hot pavement. It can be easy to forget about their sensitive paw pads when you have the protection of shoes. Fortunately I have many grassy areas to bring my dogs, and can always quickly usher them back into our air conditioned house, but it never occurred to me that this can be an inescapable dilemma for homeless people and their pets.

This summer, Lisa Peterson noticed a homeless man in Glendale, Arizona struggling to carry his dog, Roger. After speaking to him, Lisa found out that the pavement was so hot, the man had resorted to carrying Roger around all day to save his paws. You can imagine how difficult this must be to maintain day in and day out. Arizona has an extremely hot summer!

So Lisa reached out to Helping Hands for Homeless Hounds, who deployed a volunteer to give the man food, water, and a canine stroller to more easily tote Roger around. The organization also plans on sponsoring veterinary care, neuter surgery, vaccinations, a microchip, and a dog license.

Sometimes we can take our ability to retreat from the heat for granted, so this was an important reminder that not everyone is so lucky. And that the summer temperatures can manifest in some unique challenges for homeless people and pets.

If you're interested in supporting the work that Helping Hands for Homeless Hounds is doing, visit their web site.

Drooling Dog in Car
A mess that made us laugh

I’m in favor of keeping dogs safe when they are in moving vehicles, and that includes not allowing any part of their bodies to be outside the car. There are many dangers to dogs when they ride with their heads hanging out the window, yet seeing dogs enjoy themselves in this way nearly always makes me smile. Recently, I saw one particular dog riding with his face out in the wind looking thrilled with the experience, and it did more than make me smile.

In fact, it did two more things. One, I laughed out loud, as did my sons who were both with me in the car. Two, it made me aware of yet another danger of having dogs stick their heads out of the window. Namely, they could cause an accident by making a nearby driver (me!) laugh too hard for too long.

If I had to guess, I’d say the dog was a St. Bernard crossed with an English Mastiff, and I’m sure he weighed one-and-a-half times what I do. His lips were blowing in the breeze in that delightful way that only happens to dogs with big flews.

What really made us laugh was the enormous amount of slobber on the outside of the dark blue car in which he was riding. The door underneath him was covered with layers and layers of drool lines, some of which went down to the bottom edge of the car. Most of the lines were at an angle towards the lower back end of the car, suggesting that the wind had blown the slobber. It looked like a frozen waterfall except that it wasn’t nearly as shiny.

If you have a drooling dog, has that dog decorated either the inside or the outside of your car?

Poop is Full of Information
Recognizing individuals’ poop

At The Bark, we regularly share dog stories with one another, often just for fun. When Editor Claudia Kawczynska told me about one of her latest experiences out on a walk, I just had to blog about it. It deals with two wonderful topics in the canine world: 1) poop and 2) the amazing olfactory abilities of dogs.

Claudia’s dog Charlie sometimes like to try to pee on Kit, who is another of her dogs, while she is peeing or pooping. Claudia usually intervenes to prevent Kit from ending up with a yellow stain on her back. Of course, life being what it is, sometimes it happens anyway. Charlie will also pee on Kit’s poop, a behavior which is called “overmarking.”

One day in an off-leash area, Claudia couldn’t find Kit’s poop to pick it up, so she asked Charlie (who is always by her side) to help her find it, which he did. He peed on it, and then Claudia picked it up. On another occasion, Claudia asked him to do the same thing, and he did. This time, he ignored at least three piles of poop that were not Kit’s, but finally peed on hers. Claudia knew it was Kit’s because she and her dogs were the only ones at the park and the pile of poop was too fresh to have been anyone else’s. (In case you’re curious, Claudia bagged up the other three piles of poop, too. Some people do more than their share in all areas of life!) It’s hard to know whether Charlie was responding to Claudia’s cue to find Kit’s poop, or he was just seeking it out because that’s what he likes to do.

As a practical person, I love the way the detection of individual poop by Charlie allows Claudia to be sure she cleans up after her dog if she happens to miss “the event.” It’s so easy to have that happen in off leash areas, especially if you have more than one dog with you.

Given that dogs can use their noses to smell whale poop underwater, to detect low blood sugar levels in a person with diabetes as well as cancer in people, bacteria in diseased bee hives and a whole host of weapons and drugs, it’s hard to be surprised by what dogs can do. It also makes sense that dogs would be able to tell which poop comes from their housemates. The components of the odor of any pile of poop is going to include chemicals related to that dog’s diet, intestinal flora, sex, reproductive status and a whole host of other factors that create an individual odor signature. Social animals of all kinds are adept at recognizing individual members of the group, and dogs can do this through olfactory, auditory and visual means.

Still, just because I’m not surprised doesn’t mean I’m not impressed. I’ve not lost the admiration for dogs and their amazing abilities that began when I first focused on them professionally, and hopefully never will.

Do you have a dog who has demonstrated the ability to identify the poop of another one of your dogs?

Grassroots Social Media Effort Reunites Pets
An Indiana Facebook group has had a big impact on lost animals and the local shelter.

When Melody Heintzelman created the Facebook group South Bend Lost and Found Pets, she simply wanted to help reunite people with their pups. But in the last three years, Melody's social media creation has become so much more than what she initially thought was possible. With over 4,500 members, there's always a network of people looking out for wayward animals in the north Indiana city.

Since Melody started the group, South Bend Animal Care and Control manager, Matt Harmon, has seen a decrease not only in the number of animals coming into the shelter, but an increase in return to owner rates and a decrease in euthanasia rates.

On the Facebook page, members post pictures of lost and found dogs, hoping someone else in the network can help. Melody also encourages people that find a stray pet to scan the animal's microchip in order to try and locate their family before automatically turning them into the shelter. On off-hours, like weekends, Melody and other group admins make themselves available on-call to scan microchips with the universal scanner they have.

In order to increase the number of places where lost pets can be scanned, Melody is now raising money to buy microchip scanners to provide to other businesses in the area.

With the impressive statistics the South Bend Animal Care and Control has seen over the last three years, I hope animal lovers in other parts of the country will consider setting up similar Facebook groups. This is a great example of how a small action can make a big difference when we come together through social media.

JoAnna Lou

Editors

Karen B. London

Karen B. London

Editors

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

Shirley Zindler

Karen B. London

Editors

Karen B. London

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

Guest Posts

Karen B. London

Guest Posts

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

Karen B. London

JoAnna Lou