Trekking to a New Beginning
Stray pup's feat of endurance earns him a spot on a Swedish adventure racing team.
Team Peak Performance, made up of four Swedish athletes, were on a break last week before the final two stages of the 430-mile Adventure Racing World Championship in Ecuador. Mikael Lindnord, the group's captain, was eating his lunch when a scruffy stray dog started begging for a snack. Mikael couldn't resist throwing the sad looking pup a meatball, but little did he know that the tiny morsel would represent the beginning of an unlikely friendship.

The Adventure Racing World Championship is no ordinary race, making this story even more incredible. It's an extreme sport that combines non-stop hiking, trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, and navigation for up to 10 days.


The next stage of Team Peak Performance's journey was to complete a steep and muddy 20-mile trek through the Amazon rainforest. To their surprise, the dog followed them through treacherous terrain. So the team named the persistent pup Arthur (after the legendary King) and began sharing their meals (a significant sacrifice since competitors carefully plan the food they carry during the calorie intensive race). They could tell the dog was exhausted, but Arthur was determined to stay with his new friends.

After they completed the hike, the race was down to the final leg--a 36-mile kayak trip. Organizers warned the team that taking Arthur in a kayak posed a safety risk, to both the dog and people, so the plan was to leave him behind. But when Team Peak Performance launched their kayaks, Arthur swam out to follow them, desperately trying to keep up. Mikael knew there was only one thing to do. He pulled Arthur into his kayak, prompting cheers from spectators.

Mikael told Public Radio International, "You can't reject a dog that put in so much energy into you. It felt like he was one of the team members, and we didn't want to let him down."

However, it wasn't always easy to kayak with Arthur. The pup kept jumping into the river to chase fish, requiring Mikael to repeatedly stop to pull Arthur back on board.  But they managed to finish the race together.

This story really shows the strength of the human-canine bond, even between those who just met. Arthur wasn't the ideal teammate, he slowed the guys down and took their valuable resources. But the group was committed to matching Arthur's amazing friendship and loyalty. When they were all shivering on the river, Mikael took off his own Gore-Tex jacket to keep Arthur warm. When the guys opened cans of food, they took one bite and gave the rest to the exhausted pup. And while the relationship initially started over a bite of food, Arthur surely stayed with the group for more than just meals.

After Team Peak Performance finished the race, Mikael took Arthur to the vet to help him recover from the ordeal. Then the tough little pup began the next leg of his adventure--Mikael adopted Arthur and brought him back to Sweden. Once Arthur clears quarantine, he'll get to travel to his new home with Mikael.

Team Peak Performance may not have won the Championship, but they're certainly winners in our eyes!

Mornings With Puppies
Advice for navigating this stage of life

I was woken up this morning at 4:45 a.m. by a puppy who needed to go out. The high-pitched sounds indicating her distress were impossible to ignore, and both my husband and I shot awake with uncharacteristic haste. The puppy took care of business immediately when I took her outside, and then came back in to finish the night.

I’m convinced she was ready to start the day, but we are having no part of teaching her that she can wake us up to play or to feed her breakfast whenever the mood strikes her. (I’m concerned enough about teaching her that whining and yelping will make us get out of bed, but since she really had to go and we are still working on house training, I’m choosing to let that go for now.)

It’s a tricky balance with puppies to take them out in the morning when they need to eliminate without teaching them that they control when the fun begins each day. Here are some guidelines for navigating this challenging stage.

1. DO take them out when they need to go, no matter how early it is. Housetraining should definitely be the top priority, which means that your sleep, regrettably, is a distant second.

>2. If possible, DO take your puppy out before she is frantic. The sooner you respond to her cues that she is ready to eliminate, the less you risk teaching her that screeching is the way to get you out of bed. (This morning, we failed to do this, but we had success on other days.)

3. Do NOT make the outing fun. If it is exciting in any way, you will increase her motivation to act like a rooster and crow at first light. That is not good for you or your relationship with your best-friend-in-training. Be dull and matter-of-fact. Leave your personality in bed where it belongs at this early hour. Keep your dog on leash so she can’t frolic joyfully all over the yard and have fun while you try to collect her again. Use treats to reinforce her for urinating or defecating outside to keep housetraining moving along, but don’t have a party over it. If your puppy really wants to go outside to potty, the relief of emptying her bladder along with a good treat is enough. (If you are having serious trouble with housetraining and your puppy rarely eliminates outside, then you should make a really big deal of her success. For the typical puppy who does get this right most mornings, you can be low key about it).

4. Do NOT do anything but take your puppy outside for a bathroom break. The day has not begun yet, so don’t be tempted to feed the puppy or play with her. That just makes the puppy more eager for you to haul yourself out of bed at an ungodly hour. Once she goes, wait a minute or two before you bring her back to her bed or crate. The brief wait prevents you from accidentally teaching her that urinating or defecating results in you bringing her back inside immediately. Dogs who learn this tend to hold it as long as they can until they are ready to return to the house. That may not be such a big deal with a puppy-sized bladder, but once she’s older, you may end up staying outside far too long in freezing weather or when you’re going to be late to work.

One of the biggest challenges in raising a young puppy is dealing with those early wake ups. It’s an important training period because you are working on both housetraining and morning etiquette. In other words, you are teaching your puppy that you only get up for a potty break, and that nothing really fun happens until you (not the puppy!) are ready to face the day.

If you are currently in the stage of puppy raising that involves early mornings, I wish you longer nights in the not-too-distant future and a well-behaved dog for years to come!

Weekly Smilers 11-24-2014
Smiling Dogs

Our featured smilers of the week. 

This week: Ava, Axel, Jesse, Mishka and Sissy

See more smiling dogs in our gallery or share your own.

Emotional Contagion
Dogs affected by state of their guardians

Emotional contagion is the trigger of an emotional response due to perceiving a similar emotional state in another individual. Emotional contagion has been studied extensively in birds, primates and dogs, among other animals. It is generally more pronounced between individuals who know each other than between strangers.

Emotional contagion occur between dogs and people. There is evidence that dogs are sensitive to their guardians’ emotions and that dogs’ behavior is influenced by the emotional expression of those guardians. It has been suggested that dogs have “affective empathy” towards people. That is, dogs can actually feel the emotional experiences of humans, including stress.

Stress has an interesting influence on memory in both humans and non-humans. The effect of stress on memory follows an inverted U-shaped curve. This means that as stress goes up to moderate levels, tasks that rely on memory improve, but as stress increases further, memory tasks are impaired.

In the recent study Emotional contagion in dogs as measured by change in cognitive task performance published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, researchers investigated the role of stress and emotional contagion between dogs and people on performance in memory-related tasks.

Each dog was randomly assigned to one of three groups—stressed guardian, non-stressed guardian or stressed dog. The direct manipulation of canine stress levels allowed researchers to compare whether stress by emotional contagion had a similar affect as direct stress on the dogs’ performances. Dogs’ stress levels were increased by briefly separating them from their guardians.

Researchers experimentally manipulated the anxiety levels of people and then recorded their responses to a word list memory task. Stress levels were manipulated by giving the person mainly positive or mostly negative feedback during the experiment. Researchers recorded changes in dogs’ responses to memory tasks after guardians were stressed or not stressed as well as after directly manipulating dogs’ stress levels.

Stressed guardians performed better in the memory task than non-stressed guardians. Dogs improved their performance on memory tasks after they were stressed and after their guardians were stressed. Dogs in the non-stressed guardian group showed no such improvement. This study shows that guardian anxiety affects by and has a positive affect on dogs’ ability to perform well on a memory-related task.

Mayor for a Day
Frida the Chihuahua mix takes over San Francisco's City Hall.

San Francisco, a city where fur kids outnumber the human kids, had a very special honorary mayor last Tuesday. Frida, a Chihuahua mix, took office for the day, having attained her position through a winning $5,000 donation bid made by her human, Dean Clark, at the Animal Care and Control Department's gala fundraiser in September.

On Tuesday, Frida toured City Hall and other city landmarks before attending a Board of Supervisors meeting in the afternoon, where her human counterpart, Mayor Ed Lee, paid respects to her in his opening remarks and Supervisor Scott Wiener read her a commendation for service. The day concluded with a press conference on the steps of City Hall where Frida was asked about her ties to Governor Jerry Brown's Corgi, Sutter, and her plans for the future. Dean graciously answered on her behalf. Then the event ended with a "retirement package" full of toys, a bed, and other goodies.

Frida is no stranger to the limelight. She rides each year in the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade to promote rescue pups and is an active member of the San Francisco Chihuahua Meetup Group at Stern Grove Dog Park.

Dean, the head of a pet advocacy organization called For the Love of Dog USA, adopted Frida several years ago and calls her the "best I've ever had." He describes Frida as laid back and very smart. The Chihuahua mix was found nursing two puppies under a log in Nevada and was rescued by the ASPCA.

Mirian Saez, acting director of Animal Care and Control, said that it was fun to see Frida at City Hall, but it was also a great way to bring attention to the great work that the organization does. According to Mirian, the department cares for about 10,000 animals per year and has a live release rate of upwards of 85 percent (adoptions, outgoing transfers, and return to guardian), a number that is particularly impressive given they're San Francisco's only open door animal shelter.

It was certainly cool to see Frida show how awesome rescue pups can be, and I hope that future politicians are inspired to be as pro-dog as she is!


Woman’s Dogs Kill Beagle
Now she’s suing the dead dog’s guardians

Emerald White’s four dogs entered her neighbor’s yard and killed a 10-year old Beagle named Bailey, and now she’s suing Bailey’s guardians for a million dollars in damages. Though my legal knowledge is minimal and my information about this case is limited to what appeared in a newspaper article about it, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this doesn’t seem right.

Apparently, the owner of the four dogs who attacked Bailey is claiming that she was injured when she went into the yard to collect her dogs. She says that she was bitten as well as scratched and requires ongoing medical care for her injuries. She also asserts that her pain and suffering are an issue because she is dealing with anxiety and fear as a result of being “unexpectedly and viciously attacked.” Her legal documents refer to an “unprovoked attack” but I don’t know which dog or dogs she says attacked her. Part of her claim is that Bailey’s family did not have their dog in a secure enclosure. There is some suggestion that the families talked about repairing the fence prior to this incident, with Bailey’s family pointing out that White had not responded to requests to fix her part of it.

The Beagle’s family chose not to sue the woman whose dogs killed their dog, because it would not bring Bailey back. They also felt that the legal response of declaring the other dogs dangerous was appropriate, and were comfortable with the obligations placed on White because of that designation.

I’m heartbroken for Bailey’s family and can only imagine how unfair it feels to be sued on top of suffering the loss of their dog.

Ebola Guidelines for Pets
AVMA releases quarantine recommendations for animals.
Nina Pham is reunited with Bentley after his quarantine.

When Bentley, the dog of Ebola patient and nurse Nina Pham, was released from quarantine a few weeks ago, it was a success for handling pets humanely during a crisis situation. Particularly in contrast to Spain's euthanasia of Excalibur, a dog exposed to the virus last month.

The two dogs, Bentley and Excalibur, led the American Veterinary Medical Association to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture on official guidelines for pets and Ebola. The outcome was released this week.

The recommendation is for pets to be moved out of the residence of anyone being monitored for the virus before symptoms start. However, if these preventative measures aren't taken, animals who have been in close contact with Ebola-infected people need to be quarantined for 21 days. If at any time the pet tests positive for the virus, the animal should be euthanized and the body incinerated. Maybe one day we'll have a cure, but for now this seems like a fair process until we have a better understanding of the disease.

The AVMA guidelines also contain recommendations both for containing the virus (e.g., handlers must wear special protective equipment, animals should receive a new crate and collar when they leave to be transported to quarantine) and for protecting the pet (e.g., the quarantine facility should be up to a certain standard, the food provided should be the same brand and type the pet is used to eating).

According to the CDC, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola, or being able to spread the virus to people or other animals. This statement does seem to contradict previously published research that showed dogs can carry Ebola. It's certainly clear that we don't completely understand how Ebola affects animals. Putting exposed dogs in quarantine gives our pets a fighting chance, but also allows scientists to learn more about the virus. Hopefully one day they'll know how to treat animals that test positive for Ebola so they won't need to automatically euthanize.

Weekly Smilers 11-17-2014
Smiling Dog

Our featured smilers of the week. 

This week: Katie, Maxx, Mila, Mischief and Tripp

See more smiling dogs in our gallery or share your own.

If Only I Could Tell Them
What I want to say to dogs

“We’re just going back in so I can get tissues, and then we will go on the walk.” That’s what I wanted to tell Marley after we went outside and came back inside two seconds later. With a terrible cold, I did not want to head out for an hour with nothing but my sleeve to help me out. Marley came in and out with me agreeably enough, but I so wish I could have told him why his walk was delayed.

If I could talk to dogs—really talk to dogs!—I would want to say so much to them in tremendous detail. Sure, we can communicate in many ways, but I still crave the fuller communication that comes from speaking the same language. Here is what I most find myself wanting to say to dogs:

I love you! Yes, I think they feel my love, and I have many ways to show them that I love them, but it would be glorious to say those simple words and have them simply understood.

I’ll be back in a minute (or 5 minutes or 30 minutes or much later today.) Sure, dogs can recognize patterns and probably have a sense of whether it’s a long absence when I’m dressed for work and head out through the garage to leave by car or a short one when I walk outside with no shoes on because I’m just going to get the mail. Still, it would be so appealing to be able to communicate more specifically and have them understand that. Then, they could be happy about the short absences and ready for a snooze with the long ones.

I know this hurts now, but it’s to make you feel better later. NO matter how gentle we are with our dogs and how carefully we tend to them, sometimes things are uncomfortable for them. Whether it is removing a thorn or a tick, or a serious medical procedure, we don’t have a way to tell our dogs that this is for their own good. Many dogs lovingly accept what we do to them because of their trust in us, but wouldn’t it be nice to able to tell them that we are doing this to relieve their pain, not to cause it?

I agree with you—that dog is a nuisance. I do my best to protect dogs from other dogs, whether I’m talking about serious aggression or simply poor social skills. Yet, occasionally, every dog has an encounter with a dog who is not overly kind. I would love to be able to tell dogs that I agree with them when it’s clear they don’t think much of a particular dog or even think that other dog is rude or obnoxious.

Of course, we do communicate a lot with our dogs through our daily interactions and all of our training, so our dogs often do have an understanding of our plans, intentions and emotions. They often know what the future holds based on previous experiences and patterns. Still, there’s no denying that we lose some detail and subtlety because we are members of different species.

Most of all, it would be wonderful to be able to tell dogs how much better they have made our lives and how much happier we are because of them. We can show them great loving kindness and hope they get the message, but it would be so amazing to express these important sentiments and know our dogs understood them fully.

What do you wish you could tell your dog directly, in simple English (or your native language if it’s not English) if you had that capability.

Building a Second Chance
Program gives at risk teens and homeless pups a future.

Dogs have a way of bringing out the best in people. A great example of this is in programs that teach prison inmates to work with shelter pups (as well as future service dogs). These initiatives have resulted in reduced re-incarceration levels and increased adoptions.

In Georgia, the Department of Juvenile Justice started a new program this summer that gives teens and homeless dogs a second chance to change their lives. Rescue 2 Restore expands on the idea of the classic prison pup program to make an even bigger impact on at risk kids.

Rescue 2 Restore, run by Friends of Dekalb Animal Services founder Chrissy Kaczynski, aims to teach valuable life lessons through positive animal interactions, volunteer projects, and community partnerships. The pilot program is running at Muscogee Youth Development Campus (YDC) in Midland, Ga. and Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC) in Dalton, Ga.

During the 12-week program, a shelter dog is paired with one of the approved participants. Chrissy then organizes weekly training sessions to show the teens how to teach basic cues, like sit, stay, and walking on leash. They also prepare the pups for the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test. After the 12 weeks are over, the dogs go back to the shelter to find their forever home.

Since the program's launch, eight shelter pups have participated. Dogger, Nora, Pansy, Rosie, Roxie, Tag, Bella, and Panda were chosen because of their medium size and friendly temperament. Six of the dogs in the first group have already found their forever home, while Pansy and Tag are still available for adoption.

What makes Rescue 2 Restore unique is that it's not just about the training. The program involves service projects, like making dog houses and volunteering at the Houston County Humane Society, and talks on animal welfare, rescue, abuse, and training.

Past speakers have included Anna Bettina from Happy Healthy Pup on the benefits of positive reinforcement training, Lauren Janis from Big Daddy Biscuits on starting her own business, Aimee Davis of “Pitties in the City” on pet care and misunderstood Pit Bulls, and Katharine Luongo and “Zaxby The Chicken Wing Dog” on overcoming challenges.

I love how well rounded this program is in terms of getting the teens involved in the community and the focus on learning. You can really see the possibility for building compassion and giving these kids a second chance.

Currently the program is running in two of Georgia's 26 juvenile detention centers, and Chrissy hopes to expand the program to more locations next year.

For more information on the programs, or if you're interested in adopting one of the dogs, email Chrissy at ChristineKaczynski@djj.state.ga.us.


Statue Won’t Play Fetch
Dog remains ever hopeful

In this video, a dog tries repeatedly to convince a statue to play fetch with him. He places his stick at the statue’s feet over and over, but never gets the response that he wants.

Of course my response to watching this was laughter, but it really made me think. Why is this dog undaunted by the statue’s unresponsiveness? I’m guessing that most people do engage in play with this endearing and persistent dog, but some may not respond right away. Perhaps this dog is accustomed to trying multiple times before people toss the stick for him.

On the other hand, we need to explain why it has escaped the dog’s notice that he’s approaching a statue, not a live person. Perhaps he just sees a human shape and immediately equates it with the prospect of playing fetch without the need to assess other details of the situation. Maybe this dog has paid little attention to many aspects of human behavior. “They throw sticks for me,” might be all he has taken in. Or, maybe the statue is just too realistic for him to discriminate it from live people, especially if he has no prior experience with statues.

Here’s a dog who apparently views people as stick throwers, and has probably had great success with that view of the world. To him, any human form is a potential stick thrower, and he has not had the opportunity to learn to distinguish humans who can throw sticks from statues of humans that cannot.

Interestingly, the statue the dog wanted to engage with is of Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and code breaker who is generally considered the father of theoretical computer science. As a genius and a completely original free-thinker, Turing was clearly too preoccupied considering some deep mathematical problem to pay attention to the dog.

Never Give Up: a Lost Dog is Reunited

Girl Scout went missing on June 14, 2014 after jumping a five foot fence at a friend’s house in another town. An athletic 30 pound mixed breed, she was on the run in an unfamiliar area many miles from home. Her frantic owners immediately began the search and plastered missing posters on every surface for miles around. I saw the fliers every day as I went about my calls and I patrolled the area repeatedly hoping I would be able to find her and give her people the happy ending they were looking for. Girl Scout was microchipped and wearing a collar and tags (an animal control officer’s favorite), and occasionally there would be sightings, but she was too frightened to go to anyone.

Weeks and then months went by and the sightings grew fewer. I wondered about her often, as I still saw the faded and tattered fliers everywhere. Sometimes new fliers would pop up as a result of another sighting but Girl Scout was no closer to being caught. Even formerly friendly, outgoing dogs sometimes get where they don’t trust anyone and they just stay alive scrounging from trash cans and outdoor pet food bowls.

Three months after Girl Scout went missing, someone who had seen the fliers recognized her with a homeless man and was able to reunite her with her ecstatic family. A vet visit showed her to be thin, covered in tick bites and having broken her leg at some point. The leg had healed slightly crooked but overall, she is doing well.

 Girl Scout’s owners did a lot of things right to help her come home. They made reports to animal control, offered a reward and put up (and are taking down) more than 700 fliers, many of which were laminated, helping them last longer. They left their car, her crate, blankets etc at the areas she was seen. She had tags and a microchip, which would have helped in many situations although they weren’t the saving factor in this case. They posted on Facebook, took out ads and searched relentlessly, but most of all, they never gave up.

I would love to hear from readers who have recovered a lost a dog. Tell us what you did to find them and how you were reunited.

Walking for Shelter Pups
App donates ad revenue to shelters in all 50 states.

Wouldn't it be great to help shelter pets by simply taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood? Now you can do just that with the Walk for a Dog app developed by WoofTrax. The program uses money from sponsors, advertisers, and investors to benefit homeless animals around the country.

Once you download the program to your cell phone, you choose the shelter you'd like to walk for, and then hit "Start Walking" to record your outings. Over 800,000 miles have been logged to date, with over 4,000 shelters on board to receive donations.

To determine how much money goes to each organization, WoofTrax uses an algorithm that weighs the number of users per shelter, the number of walks, and the number of miles. They didn't want to assign a strict donation amount per mile in order to make the app accessible to people of all ages and fitness abilities. However, the first round of checks averaged a payout of about 25 cents per mile walked. People without pets can also use the app by choosing the "Walk for Cassie" option.

The idea for Walk for a Dog came from founders, Doug Hexter, Bill Helman, and Mark Wheeler. They wanted to come up with an app that would encourage people to be active, while helping a good cause. They also wanted to take advantage of the millions of people already walking their pets every day.

The app has also helped in other ways as well. One user, Donna, attributes Walk for a Dog with transforming her relationship with her rescue pup, Sugar. Ever since Donna adopted Sugar back in 2011, Sugar always hated being on a leash. When the Walk for a Dog app launched, Donna decided to commit to walking with Sugar so they could raise money for their local shelter. Donna figured even if they only make it to the end of the driveway, it was better than nothing. Now Donna and Sugar walk a mile every day and always gets compliments on Sugar's wonderful leash manners. Sugar also wakes Donna up each morning to make sure they go on their daily walk!

Visit the WoofTrax web site to learn more about the Walk for a Dog app, or how your local shelter can sign up to receive donations.

Weekly Smilers 11-10-2014
Smiling Dogs

Our featured smilers of the week. 

This week: Boxy (adoptable), Icee, Millie, Tanaka and Ty

See more smiling dogs in our gallery or share your own.

Adoption Without Whole Family Involvement
Have you done this?

I just saw a friend’s Facebook post with a photo of her two children and an adorable puppy. The post read, “Can I use this photo to break the news to my husband?” They had been to a shelter and found themselves unable to resist getting a puppy.  Her husband is out of town and she hasn’t told him yet. She is apparently waiting for the right moment, but she has some time because he’s not on Facebook.

I have no idea whether the idea of adopting a puppy had come up and it was a part of the family plan or whether this was a true impulse decision. Either way, I’m fascinated by the idea of such a big decision (a new family member!) happening without everyone’s participation, especially one of the adults.

The general response to the post has been “Aww, it will all work out when he meets the puppy. He’ll melt.” Perhaps that’s true, although the alternative is concerning. As one person commented, the adorable photo is a better choice for breaking the news to her husband than a photo of the dog pooping in his shoe. And therein lies the real issue: Puppies are adorable and wonderful and every other superlative adjective that exists, but they are also exhausting and frustrating and a lot of work.

Everyone with a puppy deals with emotional ups and downs, but it’s easier to take the struggles along with the joy if you’ve been part of the decision to adopt the puppy in the first place. If not, it’s all too commonplace to consider the tough jobs (cleaning up accidents, taking the puppy out in the middle of the night, puppy-proofing the house, etc.) the domain of the person who decided to adopt the puppy without your input.<

If someone is not involved in choosing the dog, the relationship between that person and the dog can be affected. We tend to stick by our decisions, loving a dog we have selected through good times and bad, and for some people that’s harder with a dog that comes into their life without their consent. Of course, there are also countless cases where a “surprise” pup turns into somebody’s best friend without speed bumps along the way, but it’s taking a risk to assume that’s how it will work out.

A unilateral decision can also cause strain between human family members. There’s something very powerful about going through the process that leads to agreement: “Yes! This is the dog we should welcome into our family!” It’s an altogether different experience to come home to unexpected news that a new puppy now lives with you.

Have you or another member of your family every adopted a dog without involving everyone in the decision?

Karen B. London


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