Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.
August 31 2016
Kim Kavin’s provocative and probing new book, The Dog Merchants, takes a hard look at the “business” models behind how we get our dogs and the fur flies in many directions. We talk with her about some of her insights.
Bark: Why do you think people chose the dogs they have? Do you think that mixed-breeds are changing breed favoritism?
Kim Kavin: That’s a question it took me a whole book to try to answer. To sum up briefly, I think our choices about the dogs we bring home result from a combination of history, tradition, religion, culture, politics, gender, societal obligations and personal responsibility—all the stuff of humanity’s greatest world wars.
I think most of us feel in our hearts that we love dogs and are doing the right thing, whether we choose purebreds or mutts. And I think that most of us—on both sides—have never considered the enormous business interests and marketing efforts that are at play, all of which feed into our beliefs as well.
BK: You aren’t a big fan of televised dog events like Westminster, why not? What do you suggest as an alternative?
KK: To be clear about Westminster, I’ve never said the breeders who participate are necessarily doing anything wrong with their own dogs. What I’ve written is that when you take a show like Westminster and put it on millions of televisions and computer screens around the world, it stops being about the people and dogs in the ring and starts becoming about the resulting mass-market demand, which cannot possibly ever be filled by the types of breeders in that show ring. By their own estimate, they are merely 20 percent of the supply chain. When you turn a dog show into a mass-media event, it becomes the biggest marketing asset for all of the worst offenders, no matter how good the intentions of the people in the show ring.
The alternative I suggest in The Dog Merchants is that we evolve the concept of televised dog shows into a format that is more in keeping with our morals, media impact, and breeding and shelter realities today.
I’ve seen the attempts Fox has made, and cheer them. I think they’re a good start, and I give Fox and those producers like Michael Levitt who care deeply about dogs a great deal of credit for trying to be the first to break down that wall. They’ve made at least a small hole in it.
What I’d like to see is the entire wall smashed to smithereens. I think we need to get even more top-notch, highly talented people involved who are truly dedicated to animal welfare, people on the level of Simon Cowell of American Idol and Ricky Gervais. We need to use what they know about producing those big-time, international broadcasts to create a new format for dog shows that the general public will actually switch channels away from the Westminster-style shows to watch.
We need American Idol meets X-Games meets the Oscars, not just another version of a rescue-dog telethon, to really move the massmarketing needle.
Tell me dog lovers wouldn’t change the channel to watch. Tell me it wouldn’t show, inside of five minutes, just how antiquated the big beautypageant productions like Westminster have become. Tell me it wouldn’t change the way people think about dogs, and about what’s important when deciding to bring one into their families.
BK: What advice do you offer to people who are considering adopting a rescue dog but still wonder if it may be safer to buy a dog from a breeder?
KK: I think we all need to be far more conscious consumers, whether we’re buying from breeders or from rescuers. There are responsible and irresponsible people dealing in dogs on both sides, and it’s up to us all to put the latter out of business.
My book offers a litany of openended questions that people can ask to try to determine the true nature of any breeder or rescuer, and dogmerchants.com—if we all come together as dog lovers to post ratings and reviews—will go a long way toward helping us crowdsource the answers we need.
Here’s my ultimate advice: Stop being on the side of the breeders. Stop being on the side of the rescuers. Let’s get together on the side of all the dogs.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
August 25 2016
It’s springtime, the warm weather and longer days give us time to see how our gardens and yards can be made more dog-friendly. One way is to make sure they’re free of plants that might make them sick; another is to add a few small amenities they’ll enjoy more than digging up the flower bed. Here are some ideas from Maureen Gilmer, landscape designer, horticulturalist and dog lover. More can be found online at moplants.com, where you can also download The Dog-Scaped Yard: Creating a Backyard Retreat for You and Your Dog, the eBook from which these were adapted.
Warm Weather Flop Spot
A Disguised Seasonal Dipping Pool
Al Fresco Nibbles
Wheat and oat grass dog patch. Fresh wheat grass juice is a popular drink for humans. Wheat and oat grass are also good for dogs, in moderation. They will naturally graze on it when they need the nutrients it contains, rather than browsing through your flowers. If you have a dog in a small city yard, consider planting wheat grass in an outdoor patch. It grows great in low, wide troughs. Most pet suppliers sell the seeds in small quantities. For a sizeable dog patch, save money by purchasing your oat and wheat seed in quantity at a health food store. It’s free of chemicals and ideal for large plantings.
Keep Your Yard Foxtail Free
July 21 2016
Be sure to tune into and visit “Clear the Shelters” this Saturday, July 23. It is the largest adoption initiative in the nation with over 400 animal shelters and rescue organizations, holding street fairs and opening their doors to people interested in bringing a new family member home with them. The event is sponsored by NBC Owned Television Stations and the Telemundo Station Group. The animals will be ready for their new homes and come spayed or neutered, microchipped. Many shelters are also waiving adoption fees, plus offering benefits like free training lessons, dog food, coupons for toys and other products. Clear the Shelters helps to address the overcrowding issues that local animal shelters typically experience in the summer months because of spring litters. Last year some shelters actually were so successful that they were emptied of their animals, so let’s make this year’s event even bigger and better. Even if you can’t adopt a dog just now, it still is a good time to come out and attend a local event, to talk with shelter personnel, or local rescuers to understand the importance of adopting your next pet from a shelter. See for yourself how many wonderful animals need new homes. Check out this map for an event in your area. And let us know if you adopt a dog on July 23, and if send us a photo of you with your new dog we’ll give you a free subscription to The Bark. Send us your photo submission here.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
July 13 2016
Reading is a year-round pleasure but summer is particular seems to invite us to kick back, chill out and dive into the printed—or digital—page. Here are our candidates for your reading list, books we feel offer intriguing perspectives and tell good tales.Non-Fiction
The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love
Behind the scenes with a remarkable organization that trains dogs—some from shelters—for highly specialized work for young children with disabilities. Inspirational and absorbing.
By Melissa Fay Greene (Ecco)
Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon
This is a thoughtfully-researched book examining the history, stereotypes, fictional and societal worries surrounding a breed that was once considered an American icon.
By Bronwen Dickey (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers
This is a compelling investigation of the many ways that dogs come into our lives—keeping in mind how the financial transactions involved affect all dogs.
By Kim Kavin (Pegasus Books)
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Noted ethologist shows us that animals are not only smarter but also engaged in different ways of thought we have only begun to understand. The importance of looking at other species through their own world-views.
By Frans de Waal (W.W. Norton & Company)
Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures
Looking at the correlation between human and animal healing and how finding a cure is important to both species.
Arlene Weintraub (ECW Press)
Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home
A thoroughly engaging book about a lost dog’s journey and a family’s furious search to find him before it’s too late.
Pauls Toutonghi (Alfred A. Knopf)
Pets on the Couch: Neurotic Dogs Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry
Noted veterinarian behaviorist breaks new ground with the practice of One Medicine, the recognition that humans and other animals share the same neurochemistry, and that our minds and emotions work in similar ways.
By Nicholas Dodman, DVM (Atria Books)
Free Days with George: Learning Life’s Little Lessons from One Very Big Dog
An inspirational story about the healing power of animals, and about leaving the past behind to embrace love, hope and happiness.
By Colin Campbell (Doubleday)Fiction
A touching and dramatic story about saving animals in a no-kill shelter from a virulent virus. Some claim that dogs are the source but the veterinarian in charge of the shelter needs to prove this isn’t the case to save the animals.
By Neil Abramson (Center Street)
Stalking Ground: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery
The second in a new mystery series about a small town policewoman and her K-9 partner. Realistic portrayal of how the two work together; plus good character development that includes a sympathetic veterinarian and his two young daughters.
Margaret Mizushima (Crooked Lane Books)
No Better Friend: A Man, a Dog, and Their Incredible True Story of Friendship and Survival in World War II
A young readers’ version of one of our 2015 picks. This is a compelling and well-researched book that does justice to the remarkable dog Judy and the men whose stories are told so effectively and poignantly. Theirs is truly one of the great sagas of WWII.
By Robert Weintraub (Little, Brown and Company)
Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess
Elegant, charming and whimsical a story of a governess teaching 67 dogs and how she imparts 20 important lessons to her furry brood.
By Janet Hill (Tundra Books)
Picture Book (Ages 4 to 8)
July 11 2016
A ruling in an animal abuse case in Oregon should have far-reaching ramifications because the Supreme Court of that state ruled recently that pets are not just “mere” property. The case involved the conviction of a dog owner who was starving her pet. In this instance the owner had appealed her conviction for second-degree neglect because a veterinarian had drawn the dog’s blood (without her permission).
According to the Court’s summary of the case:
The case at issue began in 2010, when an informant told the Oregon Humane Society that Amanda L. Newcomb was beating her dog, failing to properly feed it and keeping it in a kennel for many hours a day. An animal-cruelty investigator went to Newcomb's apartment in December 2010 and, once invited in, saw "Juno" in the yard with "no fat on his body." The dog, the investigator reported, "was kind of eating at random things in the yard, and trying to vomit."
The investigator asked why, and Newcomb said she was out of dog food but that she was going to get more that night, according to the summary of the case.
The investigator believed that defendant had neglected Juno. He asked her for permission to take the dog in for medical care, but defendant, who thought her dog looked healthy, refused and became irate. The officer therefore took protective custody of Juno without defendant’s consent, both as evidence of the neglect and because of the “strong possibility” that Juno needed medical treatment. He transported Juno to the Humane Society, where Juno would be housed and medically treated as appropriate. From medical tests, the officer expected also to be able to determine whether neglect charges were warranted or whether Juno should be returned to defendant.
The vet gave Juno food, charted his weight and measured his rapid weight gain over several days. The vet also drew Juno's blood and ruled out any disease. The investigator concluded nothing was wrong with the dog other than it was very hungry.
Newcomb was then convicted of second-degree animal neglect, a misdemeanor. Among other problems with the conviction, Newcomb argued, authorities violated her constitutional rights to be protected from unreasonable searches of property by drawing blood from her dog. Under Oregon law, animals are defined as property.
The prosecutor Adam Gibbs had argued that taking the dog to the veterinarian office was similar to care in suspected child-abuse cases. And further argued that a dog is not a container—like an inanimate piece of property—that requires a warrant. Rather, Gibbs argued that a dog "doesn't contain anything"—and that what's inside a dog is just "more dog."
The Supreme Court’s ruling agreed with his, stating that the chemical composition of Juno's blood was not "information" that Newcomb "placed in Juno for safekeeping or to conceal from view."
And concluded that the “defendant had no protected privacy interest in Juno’s blood that was invaded by the medical procedures performed.” And while dogs are considered personal property in Oregon, the ownership rights aren’t the same as with inanimate property, imposing other limits. “Those limitations, too, are reflections of legal and social norms. Live animals under Oregon law are subject to statutory welfare protections that ensure their basic minimum care, including veterinary treatment. The obligation to provide that minimum care falls on any person who has custody and control of a dog or other animal.”
Also interestingly the court added,
“As we continue to learn more about the interrelated nature of all life, the day may come when humans perceive less separation between themselves and other living beings than the law now reflects. However, we do not need a mirror to the past or a telescope to the future to recognize that the legal status of animals has changed and is changing still[.]”
See the full opinion here.
June 28 2016
Pat Summitt, the legendary basketball coach who brought women’s basketball to new heights, died at the age of 64. She had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at 58.
Not only did she have an amazingly successful career with the University of Tennessee’s Lady Vols, but she was an inspiration both on and off the court to her players, all of whom also graduated, school officials said. She coached for almost 40 years, and started her career as coach when she was only 22 years old. She also inspired a variable Who’s Who in women’s sports, see this sampling of head coaches with ties to her.
Not only that, but her toughness, resilience—and love for her dogs—was demonstrated in 2008 when she dislocated her shoulder while forearming a raccoon off her deck to protect her Lab, Sally.
Her son, Tyler Summitt, issued a statement Tuesday morning saying his mother died peacefully at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.
“Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced,” Tyler Summitt said. “Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.”
[This following post appeared in 2011]
Pat Summitt is one gutsy woman, not only is she the winningest NCAA basketball coach in history (male or female) but this week she announced she has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at 59. Her talents, on and off the court, are near and dear to our hearts and we were thrilled when we had the opportunity to interview her about how dogs have inspired her and her style of coaching. Not only that, but her toughness, resilience—and love for her dogs—was demonstrated three years ago when she dislocated her shoulder while forearming a raccoon off her deck to protect her Lab, Sally. We wish her, and her family, well—and hope that she will continue to inspire her players and all those who love the game of basketball.
June 24 2016
One doesn’t often get the chance to have a hand in saving the life of another individual but early yesterday morning I had the rare opportunity to experience exactly that. A few days before, I and my pal, Naomi, were out walking our dogs at the Albany Bulb when we spotted a stray dog. The Bulb is a very unusual park constructed as landfill in the bay with debris from a previous highway. For years it was regarded as semi-marginal land full of mammoth chunks of concrete spiked with rebar tentacles but it became the favorite haunt for homeless encampments and outsider artworks, and, oh yes, for dog people too.
Recently the Bulb has received more attention from park planners, and is in the process of an intense clean-up and gentrification effort, some of it good, some of it threatening to become restrictive to our dogs. But it is still a wild and wonderful urban park with stunning views of the Golden Gate bridge. This past Saturday morning that is where my dog Lola found the dog at the end of what is referred to as the Bulb’s neck. It was only a fleeting image, of a white/brown fluff who yapped at Lola but as soon as we humans came on the scene, ran away. The next day we saw the dog at the same time and place but after a few barks, she sped off. We asked other park goers if they had seen such a dog and yes many had seen this dog for a very long time but didn’t know much more nor do much about it.
Obviously this was a dog who needed help, one can’t imagine where a dog could find any food and with no fresh water anywhere nearby, it seemed that she was in an extremely perilous situation calling for immediate intervention. So I contacted another friend, dog park advocate, Mary Barnsdale who, among many other dog-related interests, chairs an organization called Aldog, and maintains its Facebook page. I also asked her to also contact Jill Posener, another dog advocate and rescue person who runs a spay/neuter initiative called Paw Fund, who I knew has orchestrated successful stray rescues. They both had heard about this dog for at least four months, but the sightings were in many different areas that this was the first time they heard of sightings that were more precise and detailed. After our weekend initial sightings, my partner, Cameron, went out on day three, and he too found the dog in the same area. So now we now had a trifecta that could launch a rescue plan.
To further help the effort, Cameron put bowls of water, and tiny feeding stations throughout that area, and placed small irrigation flags to highlight the area. So on Tuesday evening Mary and Jill brought out the two traps, baited them and waited for a few hours. Nothing happened that night or the next, so it was decided that since we had seen the dog early in the morning, that the vigil on Thursday would be moved up to the crack of dawn.
Jill arrived first and had already baited the traps when I showed up at 5:30 a.m. She was standing off to the side of a pathway far from the traps to not be seen by the dog. She and I stood there whispering about the strategy, and at around 6:00 I saw a white flash go to the copse of trees where one of the traps was located. So we had our sighting. Jill told me that we might hear the trap door close but also cautioned that if the dog didn’t enter the trap within a few minutes that it would be it for that day. If that didn’t work then, we would have to remove the bait and plan to return the next morning and then scatter food around (and in) the trap to get the dog used to finding the food nearby. We waited with bated breath but did not hear anything, no barking, no cage door closing. But at 6:15 we quietly went out, not expecting to see anything but empty crates, but lo and behold, Jill quickly exclaimed, “bingo, we got a dog!” And there was the little wild one inside the trap, all the food had been eaten and when as we approached she barked up a storm and tried to dig her way out. It is really hard to express what a joyous moment this was but we took it very cautiously not coming too close, but close enough to see that she was safe and secure.
Jill then phoned Officer Justin Kurland of the Albany police department, who the day before had sent her this photo of the dog that he had taken at the exact spot where we were standing. He had seen the traps with a notice with Jill’s contact info. He had told her that if the trapping worked to call him and he would open the gate to the trail so she could drive up to the area instead of carrying the heavy crate down to the parking lot. So I was left alone to watch over the pup who I tried my best to reassure and cheer up, as Jill went to wait for him and to get her van. Even though the pup continued to bark, her body language seemed to calm down and she wasn’t frantic, there was even a slight tail wag. A few minutes later I was happy to see Officer Justin on a motorcycle escorting Jill’s van up to the rescue site. It was great getting his help, and he told us that he had two small dogs and might even adopt this one! We all were cooing and marveling at her. She sure is a cutie. He helped carry the traps to the van. He also added that he was so excited to get Jill’s call, that he left his cellphone at the station!
Once in the van, the dog totally calmed down, the barking stopped and she eagerly gobbled up the greasy chicken given to her between the bars, and even licked our fingers. It was like she was seemed relieved to get the wild life behind her. She didn’t appear too frightened, perhaps a little bewildered, but who wouldn’t be? We all fell under her spell.
Jill then drove her to the Berkeley animal shelter to see if she was chipped (negative) and check up on her health etc. She seemed fine considering her long ordeal, a few fur mats, but so far so good. They thought that with her nice white teeth that she was perhaps two years old (almost a quarter of her life spent as a stray). A vet will be checking her out thoroughly on Friday. So look like a Lhasa mix, with short legs and a lovely fluffy tail indicating a breed like that. Cameron and I paid a couple of visits to her today and we got to see a totally different dog as she greeted us at her kennel’s glass door. We weren’t permitted yet to go into her kennel, but Jill has the authority to do that, and it was so heartwarming to see how she was greeted by little Allie (with her new name) playing and nuzzling her. Jill will act as the adoption agent, finding her a foster home first and then picking the perfect forever guardian for her. Officer Justin might be just the candidate, and I heard that he has planned to bring his wife to meet with her. I am confident that all will work out for Allie, and I will be posting future news about her. But if anyone in the SF Bay area might be interested, you can contact me directly.
I can’t say enough about the great work that Jill and Mary do by picking up the slack from local shelters that are too strapped for staffing and funding—they simply do not have the resources to mount trapping efforts. This one was resolved quickly but normally it can take many days or even weeks and someone must be on site to check the traps so that other animals or dogs aren’t being caught. But individuals, like Jill and Mary, who freely donate their time and expertise, can also enlist others, such as eager ride-along novices like myself, to pitch in too. So this one worked out almost effortlessly, a full community effort, even involving a police officer!
I would love to hear your stray rescue stories. How were they resolved? Any tips to offer to others? Jill did teach me, that calmness and patience are key, but the payoff when a dog is safely rescued pays dividends that are definitely worth it all.
June 22 2016
Golden Retriever Rocky 3 was hit by a car and sustained a major spinal cord injury, that virtually paralyzed him. Watch how Karen Atlas, MPT, CCRT and her team at HydroPaws in Santa Barbara performed amazing rehabilitation physical therapy on him. Karen also serves as the president of the California Association of Animal Physical Therapists. This is a coalition of animal physical rehabilitation professionals (licensed physical therapists with advanced training/certification in animal rehabilitation) who seek to play a leading role in defining appropriate legislative/regulatory language in California; similar to those states (such as Colorado, Nevada, and Nebraska) who have already successfully regulated this area of animal care. Even now, the California Veterinary Medical Board wants to limit/restrict our access to qualified non-vet rehab therapists and this video is proof of why this coalition disagrees. This inspirational video of Rocky 3 certainly does demonstrate the important work that is performed by these highly skilled professionals.
June 17 2016
Bark’s long-time contributing editor Twig Mowatt has been covering humane efforts both here and abroad for nearly two decades. She recently had the chance to visit Bhutan, the country with the enviable “Gross National Happiness Index” to cover a story for us about how the Bhutanese are tackling their stray dog population. Twig just got back from this amazing trip and was approached by PRI’s “The World” (Public Radio International) for an interview with Marco Werman that aired yesterday. We are so proud of her (this was her first radio interview) and thrilled that the Humane Society International received this invaluable promotion. We hope that other countries are inspired by Bhutan’s innovative national effort in spaying and neutering. Twig’s indepth article on this program and her trip will be featured in our next (Fall) issue. And, yes, there is a dog magazine called The Bark. And we are proud to have Twig as our International Humane Editor!
Click for a full transcript of the PRI interview and photographs.
Dog's Life: Travel
Putting Out the Welcome Mat
June 8 2016
Farsighted people at many state tourism offices are turning dogward to promote the benefits of travel to their states. From Virginia to Nebraska, Arkansas to Oregon, states across the nation are catching on that dog lovers—who are inclined to include their dogs in their vacation plans—are a perfect target audience.
Better yet, it gives them good opportunities to promote their states’ own homegrown, dog-friendly businesses, from pet shops/boutiques and lodging, dining, hiking and recreational events to more out-of-the ordinary attractions —for example, Michigan’s ferry boat, the Isle Royal Queen IV, and Oregon’s dog-welcoming breweries.
Arkansas maps out its own pooch-friendly “Barkansas” itinerary; on the list is a stop at Crater of Diamonds State Park, where your dog can help you dig for gemstones. They also recently hosted a photo contest show-
Traveling northward, Wisconsin’s video campaign extols its canine chops with a winning slogan: “Dogs are welcome in Wisconsin, and they can bring their people, too.” The state of lakes aplenty highlights water features, festivals and fabulous off-leash trail programs like the 160-acre OLA that borders Ice Age National Scenic Trail at Prairie Moraine County Park at Verona. Or, near Madison, Lake Kegonsa State Park has a pier where you can teach your dog to jump into one of the state’s 10,000 lakes.
THE GOOD LIFE
Nebraska has its own dog-friendly marketing program: “Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice.” So we asked Bark reader (and smiling dog entrant) Michelle Hultine to suggest some tips on her home state. She points with pride to Nebraska’s “Rails to Trails” program, notably in the northern part of the state. Also, she tells us, many small towns are in the process of repurposing and reclaiming abandoned rail corridors. In fact, one cuts through her hometown of Hastings and is now a trail for hikers and bikers that many people use to walk their dogs. Hultine also bragged that there are more linear miles of rivers in that state than any other. Who knew? She adds that since many of the rivers aren’t all that deep, dogs will sometimes walk across them. Splashing in shallow, slow-moving water: a perfect activity for a hot summer day. Very nice, indeed, and very welcoming.
GEORGIA’S WALKING CHALLENGE
Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites is hoping to encourage more people to hit the trails with their pups by creating Tails on Trails. The dog-walking club, which launches this weekend, features a seven-trail hiking challenge. Learn more about the program.
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