Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.
and all species too
September 25 2015
As proclaimed in the New York Times, Pope Francis is definitely a pope for all species. Like we noted in the past the pope has not only shown compassion and concern for animals but has suggested, underscoring what a previous pontiff had declared, that there is a place in heavens for animals. I’m sure we can all agree that what would a heaven be without dogs. But to see the joyfulness that this spiritual leader greats, acknowledges and blesses dogs is its own blessing. His visit to the White House would of course include a meet and greet with the ebullient pair Bo and Sunny, canine members of the Obama family.
It’s also important to note that in Laudato Si’, his encyclical on the environment that he warned that, “We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism.” Certainly a strong position on animal right’s! Laudato Si’, translated in English is either as “Be Praised” or “Praised Be,” and is a quotation from a popular prayer of St. Francis of Assisi written in 1224 praising God for the creation of the different creatures and aspects of the Earth. “Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun,” St. Francis wrote in the third stanza of the prayer. He then continued, expressing praise to God for “Sister Moon,” “Brothers Wind and Air,” “Sister Water,” “Brother Fire,” and “Mother Earth.”
As noted by Nicholas Kristof:
Charles Camosy, a Catholic theologian at Fordham University who has written a book about the theology of animal protection, says that Francis’ carefully reviewed encyclical this year constitutes the first authoritative Catholic statements that animals enjoy eternal life.
It was so fitting that this pope took the name of the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, and has followed him with humane and enlightened positions. It is wonderful to see him visit our country, spreading his inspiring messages wherever he goes.
Plus brushing tips
September 23 2015
We’ve been hearing from a few readers about why one of the most popular dog toothpastes on the market, seems to have vanished off the shelves, they were hoping we could dig into the cause. Its popularity is such that there have even been reports about one tube of it being offered on e-Bay for $75! We did a quick search at our local stores, thinking perhaps this scarcity was limited to other parts of the country, but our sources were right, there is no C.E.T. to be found anywhere. With ingredients that include glucose oxidase, lactoperoxidase, sorbitol, dicalcium phosphate anhydrous, hydrated silica, glycerine, poultry digest, dextrose, xanthan gum, titanium dioxide, sodium benzoate, potassium thiocyanate, it would be hard to think there could be shortages in any of those substances.
We just got off the phone with a spokesperson from Virbac, the maker of this elusive C.E.T Enzymatic Dog & Cat toothpaste, and he said that this product, along with a few of their others, were undergoing a quality production upgrade, and they started to make it again back in July but it takes a long time to get back into the distribution chain, and will be back on the market within 60 days!
Hopefully for those of you who ran out of C.E.T. you will be using an alternative until that time. But here are some facts to underscore how important tooth brushing can be:
If you are new to brushing your dog’s teeth, keep in mind that with patience and a few positive techniques, you can help your dog be more cooperative. Or as Barbara Royal, DVM told us “If your pet won’t tolerate a toothbrush, wrap a piece of gauze around your finger, then dip it in some flavored dog toothpaste (not human toothpaste—it can be toxic!) or a paste of baking soda and water.” Also check out The American Veterinary Medical Association has an excellent instructional video, see below.
One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs, and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway
September 16 2015
Have you ever wondered what the great migration of southern dogs to new forever homes in the north is all about? Or who’s behind the long-distance transports, how they’re orchestrated or why they’re needed? And, importantly, who to thank? You’ll get answers to these questions, and so much more, in the inspiring and riveting new book, Rescue Road.
This is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn about some of the heroes on the front lines of animal rescue—what inspires them and how, miraculously, they pull it all together. The author, a journalist, was at the winning end of the long line of helping hands that brought his family Albie, a dog from Labs4rescue. Inspired by the process, he decided to look into this south/north rescue movement by focusing on Greg Mahle, long-haul transporter and owner of Rescue Road Trips, who chauffeured Albie up from Louisiana. Mahle is also responsible for uniting 30,000 other dogs with their new families, in what he likes to call their “Gotcha Day.”
Zheutlin first profiled Mahle for Parade magazine, but for the book, he accompanied the driver on a 4,200-mile road trip, during which they transported more than 80 dogs. The expedition starts out in Mahle’s hometown of Zanesville, Ohio, winds down to the Gulf Coast, then back up to the northeast. Along the way, we learn about the amazing rescuers, shelter staff and vets who coordinate with Mahle to get their dogs into his big rig safe and sound as he tries to meet a grueling, precisely timed schedule.
We also meet kind-hearted volunteers in towns like Birmingham, Ala., and Allentown, Pa., where, twice a month, dozens come out to greet the dogs and the transporters. They walk and play with the rescues, clean out crates, and bring both the humans and the dogs goodies to eat. Mahle calls them the “Angels,” and we agree that it’s an apt description. As Mahle modestly notes, “We are all cogs in the wheel of rescue; everyone has a part to play.”
This revelatory and joyous story is sometimes heart-wrenching, particularly when the scale of the challenges and unmet needs of the dogs who are left behind are considered. But it has a vital message, one we hope will inspire many readers to join in however they can to help our nation’s unwanted dogs no matter what part of the country they are from.
And this is a very good thing
September 15 2015
We first learned about the microbiome In “The Secret Life of Germs,” a fascinating article (with a great cover) in the New York Times Magazine. In that article back in 2013, Michael Pollan explored the subject of microbiome—the microbial species as he notes, “with whom I share this body.” The “gut” it seems is all the rage these days. Many writers like Pollan and Mary Roach (author of Gulp) are taking on the subject of bacterial life, many of which resides in our “guts,” and how influential they are to our good health and well-being. There is also a new fascinating book by Dr Robynne Chutkan, The Microbiome Solution, that will be featured in the next issue of Bark (winter 2015), along with an interview with the author.
But back in 2013, Pollan observed that “as a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota with a multifronted war on bacteria and a diet notably detrimental to its well-being.”
From antibiotics (both medicinally and from our foods) and anti-bacterial soaps to our obsession with ridding ourselves of germs and dirt—modern life is destroying our microbial ecosystems—with very harmful results.
It was pointed out that, "This may “predispose us to obesity and a whole range of chronic diseases, as well as some infections.” Also.
Some researchers believe that the alarming increase in autoimmune diseases in the West may owe to a disruption in the ancient relationship between our bodies and their “old friends” — the microbial symbionts with whom we coevolved.
When Pollan pressed the researchers about the best ways to ensure a rich and thriving diversity of microbiome, dogs rank high in their suggestions:
“Some spoke of relaxing the sanitary regime in their homes, encouraging their children to play outside in the dirt and with animals — deliberately increasing their exposure to the great patina.” …
“What about increasing our exposure to bacteria? “There’s a case for dirtying up your diet,” Sonnenburg told me. Yet advising people not to thoroughly wash their produce is probably unwise in a world of pesticide residues. “I view it as a cost-benefit analysis,” Sonnenburg wrote in an e-mail. “Increased exposure to environmental microbes likely decreases chance of many Western diseases, but increases pathogen exposure. Certainly the costs go up as scary antibiotic-resistant bacteria become more prevalent.” So wash your hands in situations when pathogens or toxic chemicals are likely present, but maybe not after petting your dog.”
This underscores the findings from a couple other studies that we also reported on. In these studies researchers looked specifically at how dogs contribute to making children healthier, especially related to respiratory aliments. In one study, conducted in Finland, they found that
Children with dogs at home were healthier overall, had fewer infectious respiratory problems, fewer ear infections and were less likely to require antibiotics. Researchers considered these results supportive of the theory that children who live with dogs during their early years have better resistance throughout childhood. They also found that the effect was greater if the dog spent fewer than six hours inside, possibly because the longer dogs are outdoors, the more dirt they bring inside with them.
And the other conducted by a study team at the University of California, San Francisco found that, “Exposing the gastrointestinal tract to pet dust and other microbes early in life prepares it to respond appropriately to a variety of invaders. But since our modern lifestyles involve living in immaculate houses, our immune systems often overreact instead.” Early childhood is a critical period for developing protection against allergies and asthma, and exposure to pets can help.
Dr. Chutkan also fully endorses the healthful benefits to living with a dog and getting a dog tops her list of "LIve Dirty Lifestyle Dos." Noting too that "children with pets have fewer infections and require fewer antibiotics."
There certainly are many reasons why we consider our relationship with dogs to be mutually beneficial—we provide them with love, mental and physical stimulation, shelter and food. And what research is discovering is that we are only beginning to uncover the extent of the benefits dogs bestow on us.
August 26 2015
This is the 10th anniversary of Katrina, one of the five deadliest hurricanes to hit the U.S. Back then, we were days away from our deadline when we began hearing about the flooding and the desperate situations so many people and their pets were facing. We decided to scrap our lead stories and concentrate on covering Katrina. Fortunately (for us, at least), there were Bark readers and writers in the area, and they shared their on-the-spot perspectives. In the end, one of the big takeaways had to do with the importance of dogs in our lives—and the phrase “Not without my dog” has become a part of the public’s consciousness. In this issue, we reflect on that storm and the hard lessons that were learned in a guest editorial by former NOLA resident Ken Foster. We also meet up with Sally, our 2005 Katrina issue cover girl. She was among the rescued “Katrina dogs” who headed west in the first wave of humanitarian flights. She is also among the lucky ones who went on to inspire their new families—we write about hers, and other survivors’ remarkable stories.
On the feature front, Susan Tasaki makes the case for more research into the possible health benefits that medical cannabis might have for dogs, and Rebecca Wallick introduces us to an amazing volunteer first-responder team whose mission is to help animals in crisis situations. In a new series we hear from dog professionals about their work; we lead off with home-visit veterinarian Melissa Shapiro.
On the new book front we talk with Tracey Stewart (her husband recently retired from a popular Comedy Central news show) about her first book, Do Unto Animals. We also chat with New Yorker’s Maira Kalman about her new illustrated memoir with dogs. Intrigue novelist Alex Kava fields questions about her new series, anchored by a K9 handler with a true love for rescue dogs. Cathy Alinovi, DVM, and Susan Thixton, authors of Dinner PAWsible, promote the value of nutritious homemade meals. Amanda Jones reflects on her new book, Dog Years, which featuring dogs in youth and old age—she also took this issue’s cover photograph. And award-winning photographer, Traer Scott rounds out our “On Book” series with her new work, Finding Home, a tribute to shelter dogs everywhere. This list just hits the high spots, there is quite a lot more that we surely engage your interest and that you’ll be back for more.
P.S. As an added bonus, if you like Greek yogurt, be sure to see my take on how to whip up a batch, and what you can do with the “left behind” whey (here’s a hint: dogs love it).
A Good Herb? Medical cannabis might hold promise for ailing companion animals. By Susan Tasaki
It’s a Dog’s Life
BEHAVIOR: Nice to Meet You—taking the angst out of canine introductions. By Karen B. London, PhD
August 21 2015
A new book, K9 Scent Training by Resi Gerritsen and Ruud Haak, two of the leading specialists in identification, tracking and detection-dog work, provides beginners and pros alike with a handy guide to what you need to know about this fascinating activity. The authors cover the science of odors and how dogs perceive them, and there are step-by-step programs you can follow to help your dog earn her “searching and tracking” stripes. The book is also replete with interesting facts and insights, some of which we’re including here. Even if you don’t aspire to formal detection work, this is a natural activity that all dogs enjoy, and definitely one that will increase your bond with your dog.
• Feet first. What human body part has the most sweat glands per square centimeter and produces the signature odor that dogs use to track us? If you guessed feet, you’re right. They top the odor chart; sebaceous glands on the soles, sides and top secrete fats and cellular debris that, when mixed with bacteria and fatty acids, produce a scent that drives ’em wild. Even shoes don’t hinder transmission of the odor; it penetrates whatever is between it (sock, insole, shoe) and the contact surface (pavement, grass, sand). No matter what we’re doing, our feet produce a constant stream of smell. And, good to know, worn shoes are “especially good at spilling foot odor,” so if you’re thinking of making a quick getaway, get yourself a new pair of sneakers.
• Sex plays a role. According to the authors, when it comes to the sex of the dog and how good the dog is with scent detection, “It has long been known that females have a better sense of smell than males.” So why are K9 officers predominately male? Seems like the females’ smell, especially when in heat, is distracting to their male coworkers. So, while spayed females retain high marks in detection work, the higher pay scale jobs goes to the males.
• Sniff rate. A dog breathes in and out around 15 times per minute when sitting calmly. That frequency goes up to 31 times per minute while walking. But when a dog is actively sniffing, the inhalation/exhalation rate goes up to 140 to 200 times per minute. Hunting dogs and other detector dogs employ a technique called “air scenting”: one very long inhalation (lasting 20 times longer than a normal sniff), followed by an exhalation through the mouth. This transfers a huge volume of scent up their noses into their olfactory epithelium, which is directly responsible for odor detection.
• Humans have the knack, too. While we have far less sniffing talent than dogs, researchers have found that with a little practice, we can get better at odor detection. For example, study participants have been able to detect fear in human sweat as well as pick out our their own T-shirt in a batch of 100 identical shirts. In one study, two-thirds of the participants were able to follow a 33-foot-long scent trail of chocolate oil even though they were blindfolded and wore gloves and earplugs. They did it by smell alone.
It's been good to know yuh
August 6 2015
As at least half of the world knows by now, tonight is Jon Stewart’s final night at the helm of the Daily Show. I must admit that I get choked up just contemplating what we’ll do without him. Accolades, reflections and perhaps some Fox-directed gibes, have been pouring down on him, so it’s hard to add much more. Except that I really want to thank him again, and the writers, producers, staff and all the office dogs, for letting me share one whole day with them in 2012. That will always be one of the highlights of my Bark career. Being invited to “do the Daily Show dogs” was quite the honor for us. And being given free rein to use the show’s set with our photographer KC Bailey, including excited dogs being able to sit in his chair and climb up on to the desk (leaving a few scratches here and there), and then allowing me to trail along for the day, poking into offices, chatting with all the people behind this amazingly creative show, well, you probably can guess it—how much more fun could there be?
Jon Stewart is a man with a big heart and a wise head who gave us endless hours of insightful entertainment and now what might he do? In a recent interview with his wife, Tracey Stewart, whose delightful book, Do Unto Animals comes out in Oct., she let us know that the family is about to grow a little furrier and feathery when they add an animal sanctuary to their New Jersey homestead. She also revealed one of Jon’s secret passions—but you gotta tune into our fall issue to find out what that might be! Let’s also hope that he’ll follow in the footsteps of Sen. Franken—another dog-loving comedian/politico—and make a play for public office. Who knows, there might be a future opening in his state’s governor’s office.
But for now I just want to add our “thanks for the memories” to Jon Stewart for all that he has given us and wish him and his family the best in their next chapter. And yes, the tears are now flowing.
August 1 2015
Recently we reported on the use of genetic testing of dogs in a Manhattan luxury co-op.That time it was used to ferret out the breeds that a co-op board thought unsuitable for its residents, including Basset Hound, St. Bernard, and even Shih Tzu. It even went so far as requiring such testing to detail the percentage of each breed in any mixed dog—a ridiculous expectation because of the unreliability for such current DNA testing.
But now there is another story from New York, or in this case, Brooklyn, that actually focuses attention on the misadventures of the dog guardians themselves. While this story involves DNA testing too, it isn’t to finger breeds, but to identify which dogs were allowed to defecate (and do other messy things) inside of the One Brooklyn Bridge Park condo complex. This condo is one of those few dog friendly ones, even boosting a Wag Club (grooming and training center) on its ground flour. It has 440 units, and it's estimated to also be home to 175 dogs. But, get this, some people have been allowing their dogs to relieve themselves inside the building, on staircases, along hallways and even in elevators! Incredible, isn’t it? Even bad weather can’t justify such discourtesy and lack of common decorum. As was noted in the article:
“During December, the memo revealed, there were 52 reported occurrences, ‘a mix of diarrhea, feces, urine and vomit: found on virtually every floor including the main lobby and north and south lobbies; found in all five elevators and with the staff cleanup time ranging from 10 to 50 minutes (average time roughly 20 minutes) per incident.’”
So the decision was made to have all resident dogs have their DNA registered and kept on file to help to find who was fouling the common area. Do note that this building, where a two-bedroom goes for $2.5 million, is welcoming to dogs, its board president has a Shih Tzu-Poodle mix (that wouldn’t be allowed in that Manhattan co-op), so they clearly understand that mistakes can happen. As was reported:
In fact, the building had maintained a very tolerant position toward dogs that couldn’t make it to the ground floor. If your dog had an accident, you took care of it as best you could and then told the concierge, who alerted a porter to clean up the remains.
But certainly enough is enough, so it was decided that more needed to be done. The board went ahead and employed a service called Poo Prints, a subsidiary of a biotech company in Tennessee, which has attracted over 1,000 apartment and condominium buildings around the country to its service. So for the low cost of $35 for such each test and registration—balance that out by the cost of an unit in that building—everyone can hope the soiling will stop and the true culprits are caught. Even though this measure might have an element of shaming in it, it does seem to have helped. Since May when the program started, seven matches were made with fines of $250. And one resident was even caught twice.
What do you think? Any other suggestions of how to get people to act responsibly when it comes to picking up after their dogs? And while allowing your dog to poop inside a building and expecting others to clean up for you seems to be outlandish, there are still those who seem to refuse to pick up after their pups in parks, along trails and sidewalks too. This is the number one problem that communities still have about our dogs, and sadly, it reflects badly on all of us. So would love to come up with creative solutions, do you have any that have worked in your area?
July 23 2015
Great news! A small town in Spain, Trigueros del Valle, has become the first to acclaim that dogs and cats are “non-human residents” awarding them equal rights to co-exist alongside their human counterparts. With only a population of 300, Trigueros del Valle, has become the first municipality in Spain to enshrine the rights of “pets” alongside those of their human residents.
Pedro J. Pérez Espinosa, the socialist mayor of the town in the Castilla y León province of Valladolid, introduced the so-called Renedo Declaration to guarantee the rights of dogs and cats as citizens of the town.
“Dogs and cats have been living among us for over a thousand years,” said the mayor after the measure was voted in during a plenary session on Monday. “And the mayor must represent not just the human residents but must also be here for the others.”
The animal bill of rights was approved unanimously by the new town council.
It comprises 13 articles including statements such as “all residents are born equal and have the same right to existence” and “a resident, whether human or non-human, is entitled to respect.”
It also goes on to outline basic tenets against cruelty to animals such as article 9a. that states: “No non-human resident should be exploited for the pleasure or recreation of man,” And article 6b. that states “the abandonment of a non-human resident is a cruel and degrading act.”
Animal charities hailed the move and said they hoped it would be introduced across Spain. "This is a great day for humans and non-human citizens alike," said a statement from animal rights NGO, Rescate 1.
“Today, we are closer as species and we are now more human thanks to the sensitivity and intelligence shown by the people of Trigueros del Valle,” the charity said.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Room to Run in Shawnee, Kansas
July 2 2015
Shawnee Mission Park is the largest in eastern Kansas (and one of the most visited in the state); at 1,600 acres, it’s more than twice the size of NYC’s Central Park. A multi-use recreational space, it provides room for diverse activities such as disc golf, archery, fishing (the lake is stocked) and lots of hiking and bike riding. And, oh yes, a 53-acre off-leash dog area.
The OLA is, of course, what grabbed my interest. It’s one of the largest in the nation, and so for size alone, it deserves attention in this column. But wait! It gets better. Not only do dog lovers have an ample trail-laced area for their own exercise, there’s also plenty of space for their dogs to frolic and romp. All that, plus a cove with access to a 120-acre lake to practice dog paddling and ball diving. On a hot summer day in Kansas, that must be a welcome relief to both wading humans and their dogs.
According to superintendent of parks Bill Maasen, Shawnee Mission Park was created by a bond initiative and opened in 1964. The off-leash dog area was developed roughly 15 years ago, at a time when dog parks were springing up across the land. Typical of many large OLAs, it is not fully fenced, so a good recall is must here, something that’s often mentioned in the rave online reviews. (Smaller dog parks and dog runs generally are fully fenced, but—depending on their location and proximity to roads—larger OLAs seldom are. As in this particular park, fencing tends to be concentrated near roadways and parking areas.)
The landscape includes prairie and woodland, and because it’s bordered by dense woods, there are sightings of deer aplenty. OLA-goers need to be watchful of their dogs and follow the rules, including the requirement that “dogs must be under the control and in view of their handler at all times.” A wise choice.
Maasen explained that they are undertaking improvements soon, including expanding the often-overflowing parking area by many new spaces and installing safer gates so dogs won’t be able to push them open and run out to the road. They also have a large accessibility project coming up that will provide more stable paving for the quarter-mile walkway to the lake, improving its navigability for those who use wheelchairs and other assistive devices.
As for the lakeshore itself, instead of sand or dirt, pavers are used in what is called keystone construction: they “lock” together like Lego tiles, with pea gravel in between. The hard surface makes it easier to keep a wet dog clean after a dip and protects paws from hot sand.
Being inured to a region where park users have to beg for any kind of maintenance whatsoever at our OLA, I’m blown away by the fact that the Shawnee one closes on Tuesdays from 5 to 9 am for weekly park maintenance. Other than that, the OLA has generous opening times: summer hours are from 5 am to 11 pm, with minor adjustments in winter.
Reviewing this Kansas landmark tempts me to take a “Pete Campbell” plunge. In one of the series’ final episodes, the Mad Men character was poised to trade an office on Madison Ave. for one in Wichita. For him, the carrot was access to a Learjet. For me, it would be to have a park with a management philosophy that recognizes the importance of providing generous open space for both us and our dogs, operated by people who see the wisdom of meeting the needs of this important constituency.
To paraphrase another famous Kansan, “Toto, I have a feeling we are in Kansas,” and it feels good.
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