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Apartment's Canine Mascot
D.C. building has a community dog for residents to enjoy.

Many people don't have the time or resources to take care of a pet, so one Washington D.C. apartment building is making it possible to enjoy a dog without all of the work.

2M building manager Doug Crawford's English Bulldog, Emmy, will be playing the role of community dog. Residents can come down to the building office seven days a week to visit the 10-month old puppy and take her for walks. Each night Emmy will still go home with Doug, who is responsible for her full care as his dog.  

In addition to providing a benefit to the residents, Emmy will be an exceptionally well socialized pup!

2M made me think about programs I've seen where shelters let tourists borrow a dog, giving the humans an enthusiastic sightseeing companion and the canines some exercise and exposure to potential adopters.

The residents at 2M are fortunate to have a building manager who is willing to share his pup, but it would be nice to see other apartments collaborate with local shelters to connect people looking for their pet fix with rescue pets.

Uptown Funk Parody Encourages Adoption
East Bay SPCA gets creative

The purpose of this video, according to the East Bay SPCA in Oakland, Calif., is to get the word out that adopting pets is the cool thing to do, but it’s also just plain entertaining. It shows beautifully behaved, well-groomed dogs of all shapes and sizes. I’m impressed with how relaxed the dogs are. Sure, there are a few tongue flicks and yawns, so there was a little stress, but considering all the people and cameras around, it’s pretty minimal. These look to me like delightful, happy dogs.

In addition to the footage of the dogs hanging out with people (and the occasional cat) I love the lyrics. For days, the following lines are sure to be running through my head:

“I’m adopted, Hallelujah!”

“Spay or neuter your pup!”

“When I show up, gonna show you how awesome shelter dogs are!”

“Going to my forever home, break it down!”

My personal favorite is, “If you’re sexy, then flaunt it, if you’re drooly then own it.”

Best of all is the note at the end saying, “All dogs and cats in the video were adopted from East Bay SPCA.”

Wilderness Rescue
Oregon's volunteer animal rescue team helps injured pups in the backcountry.

It's really important for people that hike with dogs to have an emergency plan. Besides bringing canine first aid supplies, I usually bring a large backpack so that I can carry my pup if she's injured. But both people and dogs can get themselves into situations that require professional help when entering the backcountry.

Earlier this month a man was hiking along the Butte Creek Falls in Oregon when he got separated from his dog, Ranger. When he finally found the Great Dane/Mastiff mix, the poor pup was injured in a deep ravine. Unable to get down the steep cliff, a friend went to get help. Firefighters were the first to arrive on the scene and kept watch while a team of seven volunteers from the Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team (OHSTAR) were deployed from Portland to perform the actual rescue.

OHSTAR is made up of volunteers that are trained to evacuate injured pets from wilderness areas, including spots that can only be accessed safely using ropes, climbing equipment, and other technical rescue gear.

The specialized team drove two hours to the trail head and hiked in a mile to the rescue site. It took several attempts before they successfully pulled Ranger to safety. One person rappelled down and secured Ranger in a rescue basket. Then the two were hoisted to the top of the cliff. Although the most dangerous part was over, they still had to carry the 80-pound dog out to the trail head on a gurney where Ranger could then be driven to the emergency clinic.

Ranger was lucky on so many levels. He suffered a broken leg, scrapes, and other injuries, but was fortunate to not have any life threatening injuries from the 230-foot fall. Additionally, most areas don't have a specialized rescue team like OHSTAR. Emergency teams for people don't have the mandate or proper equipment to attempt an animal rescue, so they often can't help in a situation like this.

It's critical to be prepared when enjoying the outdoors with your dogs, but it's great to have people like OHSTAR's volunteers to help when things take a turn for the worse. 

The Look of Love
It bonds people and dogs

You gaze into your dog’s eyes. Your dog gazes back at you. It’s true love, right? Yes, absolutely! And it’s not just any kind of love, but perhaps one of the most powerful kinds of love that exists—the love between mother and child.

So says a new study published in the prestigious journal Science called ”Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the co-evolution of human-dog bonds.” This research provides evidence that our feelings of love for dogs are mutual and are in part a result of looking into one another’s eyes, just like mothers and babies do to form their strong attachment.

In humans, it has been shown that mothers who spend more time in mutual gazing with their babies have higher levels of oxytocin. (Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a large role in the formation of social bonds as well as feelings of love.) Additionally, there is a positive feedback loop in humans. Mothers with higher oxytocin levels engage in more mothering behavior, which affects oxytocin levels in their babies. That in turn leads to higher levels of attachment, which increases oxytocin levels in mothers, leading to more maternal behavior, and so on.

The purpose of this new research was to investigate whether humans and dogs also have a positive-feedback loop in which oxytocin plays a role, and if so to learn whether gazing is a part of the process. In one part of the study, researchers measured levels of oxytocin in the urine of people and their dogs both before and after they interacted. They found that in pairs in which the dogs gazed at their guardians for a long time, levels of oxytocin rose in both the people and the dogs.

In the second part of the study, experimenters examined whether giving oxytocin to dogs affected their gazing behavior or the oxytocin levels of their guardians. Researchers gave oxytocin to dogs (intranasally) and observed that female dogs given this chemical gazed at their owners for longer periods of time than female dogs given saline as a control. (It didn’t affect male dogs the same way.) Even though they were not given oxytocin, guardians’ levels of this hormone increased after interacting with female dogs who had received it. Researchers are not sure why the behavior of female, but not male, dogs was affected by the oxytocin.

This research suggests that the bond we feel with our dogs is not only similar to the bond between mothers and children, but that the mechanism behind the connection is the same. This type of attachment between different species is rare and continues to interest scientists and dog lovers alike. It’s possible that the process of domestication of the dog was possible in part because dogs co-opted the social communication and social bonding process of babies.

Do you feel the love when you and your dog gaze into one another’s eyes?

Midwest Canine Influenza Outbreak
A New Virus Hits Canines in the United States

If you keep tabs on dog-related news, you’re probably already aware of the recent outbreak of canine influenza in the Midwest. Chicago appears to be at the epicenter of the epidemic.

The first dogs affected by this virus were observed in mid-March of this year. Since then, more than 1,000 known cases have been reported in and around Chicago, and there have even been a few deaths.

New virus within the United States

Until a week ago, the virus responsible for this canine influenza outbreak was thought to be H398, a strain of Influenza A that has been present in the United States for some time. Cornell University (thumbs up to my alma mater) recently reported that scientists there have isolated a brand new influenza virus from affected dogs in the Midwest. This virus, referred to as H3N2, is closely related to strains of influenza affecting dog populations in South Korea and China. H3N2 is now making its debut appearance within the United States. How the virus was introduced here is anyone’s guess.

Dogs living within the United States have no natural protection against H3N2 because their immune systems have never been exposed to it before. For this reason, it will remain highly contagious until canine populations develop immunity, either through natural infection or vaccination.

The contagious stage of canine influenza begins a few days before symptoms arise. In other words, the healthy-appearing pup at the dog park or doggie daycare center may be on the verge of developing viral symptoms. Spread of the disease occurs via respiratory secretions (discharge from nose, mouth, and eyes). Both dogs and cats are susceptible to the H3N2 virus. It is not transmissible to humans.

Symptoms

The symptoms most commonly associated with influenza virus include: high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. In the best-case scenario, an infected dog may show only mild symptoms or none at all. Worst-case scenario, pneumonia may develop. Pneumonia was the likely cause of death in five dogs who have reportedly succumbed to this disease.

Diagnosis

Many infectious bacterial and viral diseases are capable of producing the symptoms described above. Knowing that H3N2 is the culprit requires specialized testing performed on a mouth or nose swab. Cornell reports that the development of a blood test capable of diagnosing this disease is in the works.

Treatment

Treatment of influenza ideally involves supportive and symptomatic care until the dog’s immune system wins the battle against the virus (requires approximately two weeks for most dogs). Therapy may include supplemental fluids, special diets to entice appetite, anti-inflammatory medications, and cough suppressants. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent secondary bacterial infection.

If evidence of pneumonia is present, much more intensive therapy is indicated and may include hospitalization for intravenous fluids and antibiotics, supplemental oxygen, and 24-hour monitoring by a veterinarian.

Prevention

At this time, it is not known if the vaccine currently available to prevent H3N8 is also protective against the newer H3N2 strain. There may be some cross over protection, but just how much is uncertain. I suspect that updated information about the effectiveness of the current vaccine and/or development of a new vaccine will be forthcoming in the near future. For now, I recommend discussing use of the current influenza vaccine with your veterinarian.

If you live in or around Chicago, or if you learn that influenza cases are beginning to pop up in your neck of the woods, know that the very best protection involves keeping your dog away from popular, public, canine venues such as dog parks, boarding kennels, grooming parlors, pet stores, and doggie daycare facilities.

Please know that there is no cause for panic. The vast majority of dogs affected by this new strain of influenza fully recover. Talk with your veterinarian about the incidence of canine influenza in your locale to help determine the level of concern for your dogs.

Have you had any experience with canine influenza? If you live in the Midwest, are you taking specific measures to protect your dog?

FDA Warns on Pet Exposure to Topical Pain Meds
Creams can sicken and kill animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners who use prescription topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen to use care when using them (on humans) in a household with pets.

Pets are at risk of illness and death when exposed to certain pain medications applied to the skin of their owners. Even very small amounts of flurbiprofen, such as a slight amount left on a cloth applicator, could be dangerous to pets.

This advice follows reports made to the FDA of cats in two households that became ill or died after their owners used prescription-strength topical medications containing flurbiprofen on themselves to treat muscle, joint, or other pain. The pet owners had applied the cream or lotion to their own neck or feet, and not directly to the pet, and it is not known exactly how the cats became exposed to the medication.

The products contained the flurbiprofen and the muscle relaxer cyclobenzaprine, as well as other varying active ingredients, including baclofen, gabapentin, lidocaine, or prilocaine. Flurbiprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

People are warned to keep all medicines out of reach from their companion animals. With any sort of cream, lotion, or ointment, keep any applicators or cloths with the drug away from pets and be mindful of any drug that falls to the floor. If your pet experiences lack of desire to eat, lethargy, vomiting, or tarry stools, and you suspect exposure to such pain creams, bathe the animal and seek veterinary care immediately. Inform the veterinarian of the potential for flurbiprofen exposure.

Forbes also reports that:

Not included in the FDA warning is that no topical prescription product exists with these combinations. While the drug combinations are still prescribed by physicians, they are formulated at compounding pharmacies. These tailor-made, individual products are advertised for treatment of neck and back pain, tendon inflammation, and myalgia (muscle pain). Applying them directly to the skin allows for greater concentrations of the drugs to penetrate to the desired site of action while minimizing the toxicity to the rest of the body if large doses were taken orally.

Veterinarians with patients suspected of NSAID toxicity should ask whether flurbiprofen-containing products are used in the household.

As our dogs, the FDA warning states, “Understand that, although the FDA has not received reports of dogs or other pets becoming sick in relation to the use of topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen, these animals may also be vulnerable to NSAID toxicity after being exposed to these medications.”

- Store all medications safely out of the reach of pets.

- Pet owners who use topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen should take care to prevent exposure of the pet to the medication.

- Consult your health care provider on whether it is appropriate to cover up the treated area to prevent your pet from being exposed.

- Safely discard or clean any cloth or applicator that may retain medication and avoid leaving any residues of the medication on clothing, carpeting or furniture.

- If you are using topical medications containing flurbiprofen and your pet becomes exposed, bathe or clean your pet as thoroughly as possible and consult a veterinarian.

- If your pet shows signs such as lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, or other illness, seek veterinary care for your pet and be sure to provide the details of the exposure.

- Pet owners and veterinarians can also report any adverse events to the FDA.

Note that even very small exposure to flurbiprofen can be potentially life-threatening to pets.

Almost Your Dog’s Name
Which monikers were near misses?

A college friend of mine got his first dog at the age of five, so naturally he wanted to name his new best friend Big Bird. His Dad objected, saying there was no way that he was going to stand on his front porch and call out, “Big Bird, Come!” His Dad was dignified and manly, so this would indeed have seemed incongruous. However, he was also an incredibly kind man who was willing to meet his son halfway. Following some discussion, my friend named his puppy after another Sesame Street character instead. Grover lived a long and happy life, and when he was buried, he was covered with about a foot of dirt and even more tears. Thanks to the change in plans, he never suffered the embarrassment of a silly name.

Many dogs have had similar near misses in nomenclature. We had some friends who were seriously considering the name Lucy for a new puppy that would be arriving soon. However, the husband’s tendency to make up nicknames put the kibosh on that idea. His wife was fine with Luscious, Lucy Lou, Lucille and LuLu, but when he added Lucifer to his growing list, she was not okay with that. She requested that they come up with a name that shared no nicknames with the devil. Maggie came home a week later.

A former co-worker of mine adopted a dog one day before her nephew was born, and named her pup T.J., which didn’t stand for anything in particular. She just wanted to use initials and liked the way T.J. sounded. Luckily, she didn’t have a chance to share this name with her family members before the baby news came. Why is that lucky? Because her new nephew was named Tajinder, for which Teejay is a common nickname. After considering A.J., B.J. and D.J., she eventually just reversed the original initials and named her dog J.T. Family conflict averted!

Have you ever almost settled on a dog name only to change your mind at the last minute for some reason?

Urban Canine Good Citizen Test
AKC adds a new set of skills for city dwelling pups.

I've long wished that the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test would grant well behaved pets more privileges. Why should a few unruly pups ban all dogs from apartment complexes, parks, and other community spaces? It's not a magic solution, but it's a start. Since 1989, more than 700,000 dogs have passed the test, which requires pets to demonstrate manners such as sitting politely for petting and walking on a loose leash.

This month the AKC introduced a new level of the CGC test called the Urban Canine Good Citizen, which focuses on the special skills that city-dwelling dogs need. The Urban CGC can only be taken by dogs that already have their CGC certification and is comprised of ten parts in a public area:

  • Exiting/entering a doorway (of a dog friendly building) without pulling
  • Walking through a crowd on a busy urban sidewalk
  • Reacting appropriately to city distractions (horns, sirens, etc.)
  • Waiting on leash at a crosswalk and crossing the street under control
  • Ignoring food and food containers on sidewalk
  • Allowing a person to approach on a sidewalk and pet the dog
  • Staying in a 3-minute down in the lobby of a dog friendly building
  • Safely negotiating stairs and elevators
  • Being housetrained
  • Entering/exiting and riding dog-friendly transportation (car, subway in a carry bag, taxi)

The first Urban CGC test was administered by the Obedience Training Club of Palm Beach County at the pet friendly shopping mall CityPlace, where dogs had to walk by teenagers on skateboards, wait patiently while their handlers ate lunch at an outdoor cafe, and hop into a taxi. Moving the CGC test from the classroom to a public space also results in some good publicity for well behaved pups!

Norman Rockwell Moments
The charm of dogs in daily life

I love few things more than seeing a dog lying on a rug in front of the fire. This is due in part, perhaps, to my perspective as a canine behaviorist. While most people simply see a dog relaxing on a rug, I see a dog who is resting on the rug rather than chewing on it.  That automatically puts the scene on my “things of beauty” list.

Apart from my own issues with, well, canine issues, most dog lovers find the scene appealing as well. It ranks right up there with a dog physically preventing a toddler from going in the street, playing happily with a group of children or comforting a grieving person of any age by gently resting the head in that person’s lap. Any time people and dogs are spending time together as companions, I’m likely to observe the scene and find it endearing.

There is no end to the situations in which I find charm as well as joy in the actions or poses of dogs. I suppose I have been influenced by the work of Norman Rockwell, whose art captures the appeal of American life, including dogs, better than anyone ever has. Rockwell was well known for including dogs in his paintings and understanding the happiness people felt when seeing images of all kinds of dogs portrayed as a part of daily life.

His work is so well known that to describe something as a “Norman Rockwell moment” is instantly understandable to most people as a situation (often in a small town) that provides suitable material for one of his paintings. What’s your favorite “Norman Rockwell moment” with your own dog?

Creative Shelter Dog Photos
Playful pictures boost adoption rates in Utah.






















Good photographs can make all the difference in successful adoption rates. Even my local city run shelter has started taking pictures of dogs against a wall with painted flowers or wearing bandannas. Fortunately many rescue organizations are lucky enough to have professional photographers lending their talents to the cause. But one shelter in Utah has been taking canine glamour shots to a new level.

Photographer Guinnevere Shuster, a volunteer with the Humane Society of Utah, came up with the idea to take photo booth style portraits of dogs to capture the many aspects of their personalities. Guinnevere wanted the pictures to change people's perceptions of shelter pups and showcase some of the harder-to-adopt animals. Now the shelter has a 93 percent adoption rate!

This wasn't her only creative photo venture at the humane society. Earlier this year Guinnevere started another photo project to highlight the notoriously hard to adopt dark furred pups. In this series, the dogs were highlighted with a glowing light and homemade flower crowns. Since the photos were posted in January, six of the eight pups featured were adopted, including two 10-year old Labrador Retrievers who had received no interest previously, despite being featured on the Humane Society's weekly television spot.

Since then, many shelters and rescue organizations have reached out to Guinnevere for tips on how to creatively photograph their own homeless pets. I hope that these incredible pictures inspire more photographers to get involved with their local shelters and encourage more people to consider adoption.

Tax Deduction for Shelter Pups
New York lawmakers propose tax credit to encourage adoption.

As we enter the height of the tax season, it's natural to think about getting some relief related to the countless dollars we spend each year on our pups. Getting a tax break on pet care has been proposed before, without success, but recently there has been new energy around getting a law passed. This time the relief would be specific to rescue pups. Deductions related to fostering is already allowed, but does not include expenses related to adoption.

Since January, four bills have been drafted in New York State that would offer a tax credit to residents who adopt a pet. City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras says that the tax credit would encourage more people to adopt, bringing relief to the state's shelters. She estimates that 3 million animals in New York shelters are euthanized each year due to overcrowding.

  • S4576-2015, sponsored by Sen. Phil Boyle, R-Nassau County, would offer $100 per dog or cat, with a maximum of 3 adopted pets covered per household
  • S2894A-2015, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, would offer $100 per dog, cat, or other animal, with a maximum of 3 pets
  • A5182-2015, sponsored by Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny, D-Brooklyn, would offer a single $350 credit for a dog or cat
  • S3670-2015, sponsored by Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, would offer $500 per household pet, with a maximum of 3 pets — which means a credit of up to $1,500

If one of these bills is approved and signed by the governor, it would make New York the first state in the nation to offer a tax credit like this. I certainly welcome anything that will get adoption numbers up, but I'm also sensitive to the fact that state budgets are already stretched thin. In 2012, a similar bill was defeated in Pennsylvania by a tiny margin--97-96, so it's clearly a divided issue.

Are you for the adoption tax credit?

Breed Identification By Coat
Dog fur brings back grooming memories

Having dog fur on the brain is common for me. In fact, it’s my normal state, like dog fur on my clothes, and highly preferable to dog fur on my tongue. (I love dogs, but I hate it when they shed and it ends up in my mouth. Ugh! Not only does it feel weird, but it interferes with my ability to enjoy chocolate and that is simply not okay.)

Because I worked as a dog groomer for a year, I feel nearly as familiar with dog coats as I do with dog behavior, which is my real specialty. So, when I saw an online quiz titled “Can You Tell The Dog By Its Fur,” I had to take it. There are countless quizzes out there and I usually avoid them because of the time sink that they are, but this one was irresistible. There was self-imposed pressure not to miss any, and I’m happy to report that my grooming time was not in vain—I knew all 12 coats well enough to answer correctly.  I suspect many dog people will have similar success.

Of course, not everyone will think of the coats the same way I do, but I hope my fellow groomers will.

  • Where others may see a smooth coat, I see an easy-to-groom coat that does not need to be bathed often and will easily air dry in a reasonable amount of time. Low maintenance coats have their advantages!
  • What’s a wire coat to many people is a please-don’t-make-me-strip-it coat to me. I know that stripping can prevent mats, but so can regular grooming and the use of conditioner if you get behind. I know this is controversial—many people prefer the look and feel of these coats when they are stripped—but I worry about how hard it is on dogs.
  • Whenever a curly-coated dog came into the shop where I worked, my response was honestly, “I hope another groomer has time for this dog today!” Clipping these dogs is for the highly skilled, and the other women in the shop were better artists than I was with more practice. I could do a passable job, but I would have needed more experience to guarantee that I could make them look their very best every time. With curly fur, I see a beautiful coat as much as the next person, but I also see a serious challenge.
  • It’s impossible for me to see a long-haired coat and not think of all the tools needed to prevent or work out mats. A pin brush and a smooth bristle brush along with a lot of conditioner, a good detangler and a dryer with several different settings are usually involved in grooming these dogs. Long-haired dog who are brushed daily often have gorgeous coats in beautiful shape. However, many people who brought their dogs to us only brushed infrequently or brushed just the top layer, leaving many hidden mats.
  • What looks like a lush double coat to most people looks like an oh-boy-that-will-take-a-lot-of-time-with-the-dryer coat to me. Double coats can be long or short, and both can stay damp a long time without a lot of time with a high-quality dryer—though of course this is usually a far bigger issue with the longer double coats. As a groomer, one of my first lessons was to allow plenty of time to dry these dogs.

When I see dogs, I am often impressed with the beauty of their coats. That may simply reflect my personal experience with how much work it can take to keep them looking that way. Or, it may just be that I know fur and I love it.

Missing the Dogs

I was on vacation in a tropical paradise with the love of my life. One whole week with perfect weather and no responsibilities, no work stresses and no heavy uniform. I lay on shore with the sun on my skin, my toes in the sand and wearing nothing but a floral sundress. My darling husband sat beside me and our hands were intertwined. The whales were playing off shore and turtles and tropical fish were visible from my chair. The balmy breeze tickled my skin and the palm trees and blue green waters were picture perfect.

I was having the time of my life. Still there was a longing, unfulfilled, that rears its head frequently during the week. There aren’t many dogs where we are, nestled among our fellow vacationers. Mostly retirees with their chest high Bermuda shorts and some families with kids out for spring break. Hardly a dog to be seen. When I see a dog trotting along with a local, I stare shamelessly, eagerly, like a kid in a candy store.  

Babies and dogs bring up similar feelings in me, powerful maternal things, a longing to touch, embrace and connect on a deeper level. I try to hold back, feeling ridiculous at the desire to fawn over every dog I see. I’m an animal control officer for heaven’s sake. I work with dogs all day, every day. I have four dogs of my own and always have foster dogs or puppies at home. You would think I would get over it, or at least be able to get through a week’s vacation without feeling the need to throw myself at every dog I see. I mostly hold back, both out of respect for the dog’s space and for the owners.

Thankfully my dog withdrawal is somewhat eased by an adorable brown poodle cheerfully greeting shoppers in an outdoor market. I restrain myself but he sees me watching him and prances over and lets my husband and I adore him close up, tousling his curly coat and laughing as he licks our hands.

The next day I see a big hunky pit bull lounging in the shade near the beach with his person. I catch his eye and he bounces over, muscles rippling and a huge doggy grin on his face. Some dogs don’t like close contact but this big marshmallow of a boy burrows his big head into me, snuggling and wiggling as close as he can. He’s one of those mushy dogs who can’t get enough human attention and I can’t get enough of dogs so we have a happy little love fest for a few moments. Finally he tears himself away and back to his owner leaving me with my dog fix temporarily satisfied.  

I think I must have been born with the desire to connect with dogs. I’ve always been drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Some people develop it later in life and are equally smitten but either way, I can’t imagine life without dogs. They are just such an incredible gift.

When were you hit with the doggy bug? Has it always been there or was there a turning point that made you a dog lover?

Billie Holiday and Her Dogs on Her 100th Birthday

This week marks the centennial (April 7, 1915) of one of America’s greatest and most individualist artists, Billie Holiday. Considered the greatest jazz vocalist of all time, Holiday’s distinctive vocal style made her musicianship equal to the titans of the golden era—Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Lester Young—all musical collaborators with the great “Lady Day.” Her troubled life, drug addiction and arrests, could not overshadow one of the most creative legacies of the 20th century. Holiday’s influence still reverberates today. A constant presence in her later years were her dogs—Mister, a Boxer and Pepi, a Chihuahua. They no doubt provided comfort during uncertain times, and the love that echoes throughout many of her songs.

Mister and Billie Holiday, 1946. William P. Gottlieb/Libray of Congress
Pepi and Billie Holiday, 1957. Bob Willoughby/Redferns

Yoga and a Fearful Dog
Fittingly, it helped her relax

We all know that many people see the great value of yoga for relaxing, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and developing a more positive outlook. Many people are also fully on board with the idea that Doga (the practice of yoga with pet dogs) has similar benefits for dogs and guardians alike. Still, I was caught off guard with the amazing effects of my own yoga practice on a fearful dog who is spending the week at our house.

Peanut is a brindle terrier mix who is spooked by many things, Though she adores dogs and loves to play with them, she is on the nervous side with people. Additionally, loud sounds or unfamiliar objects give her pause. She is sweet, gentle and smart, so we enjoy having her in our lives. However, we have concerns about her well being when she visits. She is not at her most comfortable here when compared to how she is at her own home with her own guardians.

We are on day 6 of her visit, and she has become progressively more comfortable. Some of that is probably a function of simply getting used to her new surroundings, but much of it is a result of our purposeful efforts. We are using treats and toys as part of a counter classical conditioning program to help her overcome her fears. We are working hard to avoid surprising her, and we are doing our best to have her out of the house on a walk when anyone is practicing the trumpet, French horn or saxophone. We speak gently to her, let her approach us and make sure she never feels trapped by us in a corner or in a narrow hallway. Using our “Fearful Dog 101” skills has no doubt helped her, but yoga did even more.

On her second day here, I did a short yoga routine, and the instant I began, she trotted over and sat down next to me. (Prior to that moment, she rarely approached, and spent a lot of her time in rooms that were unoccupied.) From my first pose, I could see that she was more relaxed than she had been and more comfortable being close to me. Her guardians regularly practice yoga, so my best guess is that the familiarity of yoga was the key factor.

Now, I am taking advantage of how yoga affects Peanut to make life easier and less stressful for us all. When we’re in the backyard and I need her to come in, I can do a downward dog inside the doorway, and she’ll come right over to me. If I want to leash her up for a walk, a child’s pose is inviting. When a few too many visitors came over to watch a basketball game, and she ran to hide under our bed, I went to our room and did a short routine, which drew her out and improved her emotional state.

Most dogs become less afraid when play and treats are used thoughtfully and carefully in a program to help them overcome their fears. Peanut is unusual in that yoga seems to work better. Have you had a fearful dog who improved in response to something unexpected?

Karen B. London

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

Karen B. London

Karen B. London

Editors

Shirley Zindler

Karen B. London

Karen B. London

JoAnna Lou

Editors

Karen B. London

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

Karen B. London

Karen B. London

Karen B. London

Karen B. London