JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Pilot Program Connects Dogs With Students Overcoming Speech Anxiety
Presenting to Pups
Every semester, my Sheltie, Nemo, participates in a program where we go to one of the local colleges during finals week. The students always say how much they look forward to these visits, and how much comfort the pups provide during a stressful time of year. Bonnie Auslander, director of American University's Kogod Center for Business Communications, was inspired by how much students seemed to benefit from these programs that she decided to connect dogs with students trying to overcome speech anxiety. "As a dog lover, it occured to me what a wonderful thing it would be to practice with a dog," she said. "It's easier to practice with a nonjudgemental presence."

Last semester, the center booked about a dozen sessions using six pups recruited for their calm personalities. Students were sent photos of their canine match in advance and then met in person.

Masters student Zachary Fernebok was skeptical at first, but decided to try it out because he was familiar with the amazing work of therapy dogs. "My background before coming to business school was actually in therater," Zachary says. "So I had experience speaking in front of a lot of people, but never as myself." He found it extremely helpful to practice his final masters presentation in front of Ellie, a Bernese Mountain Dog.

    Jessica Lewinson, who recently practiced a presentation on corporate responsibility, said that the pups made her smile during her speech, but they also play a practical role as well. "It kind of gives you a chance to step back from your presentation, to step out of that track you get stuck in."

For those of us with dogs, I'm sure we've all used our pups as guinea pigs for everything from practicing speeches to testing a new cookie recipe. It's always great to see new ways the human-canine relationship manifests itself. In the words of Bonnie, "what is more human than loving an animal?"

News: Editors
Dog Helps a Lost Hiker in Mexico
A injured and disoriented teen is aided by a local pup.
We've written about rescuing dogs that get injured on a hike, but what about when it's the other way around? 14-year old Juan Heriberto Treviño was attending summer camp in Mexico's Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range when he got separated from his group on a hike. Things quickly got worse when Juan fell down a ravine looking for wood to start a fire.

But thanks to a watchful pup, Juan wasn't alone. A Yellow Labrador Retriever, that Juan had encountered a few hours before, found him and stayed by his side through the cold night. Juan hugged the pup and took advantage of the extra body warmth. In the morning, Juan says the dog even led him to a puddle where he was able to drink some water.

When rescuers found the pair, 44 hours after they began their search, Juan and the pup were airlifted to safety. Juan was dehydrated and malnourished, but he quickly recovered at the hospital. Juan's family was so grateful for the dog's help that they requested to adopt the pup. But it turns out the Lab's name is Max and he already has a family in the area (it's not clear if Max was lost at the time or is allowed to wander for days at a time).

As an avid hiker, this story underscores the importance of being prepared when in the wilderness. However, I'm glad that Juan and Max found each other and that this story had a happy ending!

News: Guest Posts
Herding in Glacier National Park
This summer a Border Collie is attempting to move goats and sheep from crowded visitor areas.
This year the National Parks Service has gotten a lot of attention as they're celebrating their Centennial. I'm planning a trip to Glacier National Park later this month and, besides the breathtaking landscapes, one of the highlights I hope to see is the mountain goats. Over two million people visited the 10th most popular national park last year causing the mountain goats and bighorn sheep to become unnaturally accustomed to humans, particularly around the Logan Pass visitors center.

Mark Biel, the park's natural resources program manager, says that the sheep and goats are highly attracted to salt and even lick sweaty backpacks that people leave near the trails. The herd animals also started using people as a shield against predators, since bears and wolves won't come near crowded places. In the past, park employees have used methods like arm waving, shouting, sirens, shaking cans of rocks, and moving vehicles to get goats and sheep out of the visitor center parking lot, but none have been effective in the long term.

So this summer the park has initiated a pilot program where Mark's Border Collie, Gracie, will herd sheep and goats off the pavement and condition them to stay a safe distance from crowded visitor areas. Gracie is the first employee-owned dog trained for work in a national park.

Starting in April, Gracie went to the Wind River Bear Institute, to learn basic banners, off-leash work, manners in crowds, and sheep herding. Allyson Cowan, the Wind River dog training program coordinator, says that Gracie was discouraged by the sheep at first, but now absolutely loves it. Allyson over prepared Gracie for her new job by putting her in more challenging situations than she'll ever be in at the park. For instance, using a round pen in training creates a confined environment that can be stressful for the sheep and the dog because there's nowhere to go. At the park, there will be open spaces where Gracie will have more room to push the sheep and have increased control.

When Gracie isn't herding, she'll be an interpretive learning tool for visitors, teaching them the importance of minimizing their impact on the environment and keeping a safe distance away from wildlife.

I hope to see Gracie during my visit later this month!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Canine Role in Near Extinct Koala Populations
Experts weigh banning dogs in areas with threatened koalas.

We've written before about dogs that help conservation efforts for endangered species around the world. But in some south-east Queensland, Australia suburbs, dogs are hurting the at-risk koala population.

Following a mandate this month from Environment Minister Steven Miles, a group of koala experts—University of Queensland's Professor Jonathan Rhodes, Central Queensland's Dr. Alistair Melzer, and Dreamworld's Al Mucci--have been working on possible last-ditch solutions to stop koala extinction in Redlands, Pine Rivers, and other critical areas collectively known as the “Koala Coast.”

They found that past government policies to protect the koala's environment were not enough to manage the main threats--dogs (both domestic and wild), cars, disease and habitat loss.

One past study found that seventy percent of the 15,644 South East Queensland koalas that died between 1997 and 2011 were struck by cars, mauled by dogs, or killed by stress-related disease. As many as 80 percent of koalas have disappeared from the Koala Coast, causing some to fear that it's already too late.

According to the expert panel, koalas are found in small numbers, so the massive declines they've been seeing recently is likely to result in local extinctions for some populations within a small number of generations.

The group has come up with a number of potential solutions, one being a dog ban in these critical areas. I'm certainly not a koala expert, so I can't say if there might be a way to save koalas without eliminating dogs (also not all of the pups in question are pets, some are wild). But this issue does raise the importance of any of us with dogs to be aware of the effect our pets have on others and the world around us. I see this including everything from preventing our pets from jumping on strangers to not letting our pups run into bird nesting areas when playing on the beach. This is an important responsibility we have as our dogs' guardians.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Traveling by Sea with Dogs
Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2 gets a pet friendly renovation.

When Bark writer Michaele Fitzpatrick moved to Germany, she wrote about taking her pup Captain on an adventure aboard Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2. That ship, the only long-distance passenger vessel to carry pets, just became even more luxurious for traveling cats and dogs. The ship just underwent a $132 million renovation that includes new accommodations for the four-legged passengers.

The Queen Mary 2 doubled the onboard pet capacity to 24 kennels and created expanded play and walk areas. The canine and feline lodging is extremely popular and books months in advance at $800-1,000 per kennel. The first sailing on the newly renovated ship will be a seven-day trans-Atlantic crossing from New York City to Southampton, England.

Kennel master Oliver Cruz is in charge of caring for the pets onboard, walking, feeding, and playing with them. Their human families can visit, but can't take them back to their cabins. Oliver says that it's always hard to say goodbye to the pets on the last day because he gets very attached to them. When you're providing round-the-clock care, it's easy to form a bond in a short period of time!

Cunard ships have a history of welcoming pets, including dogs belonging to Elizabeth Taylor and the Duke of Windsor. With more people traveling with their furry family members, it's always nice to have more alternatives to flying with dogs that are too big to ride in an airplane cabin.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pokemon Go to Help Pets
Shelter encourages people to borrow a homeless pup while they play the popular game.
By now you've probably heard of the Pokemon Go phenomenon, or are even playing the game yourself. This app is getting people walking around outside in record numbers, hunting for virtual Pokemon to "capture" with their smartphones. Many have been taking their pets along too, who are no doubt enjoying some extra active time, even if it may not be the best quality time. The dog walking while playing has inspired some viral Public Service Announcements about paying attention to where you're walking for the sake of you and your pups. But there is also a lot of good coming out of the app as well. One animal shelter in Indiana has taken advantage of the latest craze to help their dogs.

Muncie Animal Shelter Superintendent Phil Peckinpaugh noticed droves of people walking and playing Pokemon Go. He thought to himself how awesome it would be if they each had a dog. So the shelter started encouraging Pokemon gamers to visit and borrow a dog to take on their next walk. All you have to do is show up at the shelter, sign a waiver, and they'll match you up with a pup. So many people came during the first weekend that the shelter ran out of leashes. 

But if you don't live near Indiana, you can still help. Many people have been promoting the use of WoofTrax's Walk for a Dog or the ResQWalk fundraising apps during their quests. Both apps are free and allow you raise money for animal rescue organizations by logging your steps. This way you can run the apps while hatching eggs and searching for critters on Pokemon Go, earning money for homeless pets with little extra effort.

As long as people are careful and sensible with the dogs they're caring for, it seems like a win-win to me!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Four Military Dogs Honored
K9 Medals of Courage were awarded last week at Capitol Hill.

Last week four incredible dogs were honored at Capitol Hill for the K9 Medal of Courage, the nation's highest honor for military dogs. The award, given for extraordinary valor and service to America, were created by philanthropist and veterans advocate Lois Pope along with the American Humane Society.

“It is important to recognize and honor the remarkable accomplishments and valor of these courageous canines,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, co-chair of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, which hosted the event. “By helping locate enemy positions, engage the enemy, and sniff out deadly IEDs and hidden weapons, military dogs have saved countless lives in the fight for freedom.”

These are the four pups that were honored, all of which are still playing valuable roles back home.

Retired Army Specialist Brent Grommet credits Matty with saving his life, and the lives of everyone in his unit, more than once. During his time in Afghanistan, the Czech German Shepherd uncovered countless hidden IEDs (improvised explosive devices), but his work didn't stop when he returned home. Brent and Matty suffered through many attacks together, one of which left Brent with a traumatic brain injury. Today, Matty helps Brent manage the debilitating symptoms of both the visible and invisible wounds of war, bringing him a sense of security, calmness, and comfort.

Fieldy served four combat tours in Afghanistan, saving many lives by tracking down deadly explosives. The Black Labrador had an especially life-changing impact on U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Nick Caceres. Nick says that Fieldy offered invaluable emotional support, providing steadfast companionship, affection, and a sense of normalcy, during a time of unimaginable stress. Today Nick and Fieldy live together in retirement.

Bond has worked more than 50 combat missions, and was deployed to Afghanistan three times as a Multi-Purpose dog in his Special Operations unit. This role requires keen senses, strength, and agility to apprehend enemies and detect explosives. The toll of combat affected the Belgian Malinois' and his handler, who are both struggling with anxiety and combat trauma. Bond will be reunited with his handler in a couple of months to help ease his transition back into civilian life.

Isky has worked not only as an explosive-detection dog in Afghanistan, but also with his handler, U.S. Army Sargent Wess Brown, to safeguard four-star American generals and political personnel, including the Secretary of State in Africa and the President of the United States in Berlin.

While on one combat patrol, Isky's right leg was injured in six places, leaving the German Shepherd with so much trauma and nerve damage that it had to be amputated. But even on three legs, Isky continues to serve alongside Wess. Isky is now Wess' PTSD service dog. Wess says that there isn't a moment when he doesn't feel safe with Isky by his side.

Hats off to these amazing pups!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Statewide Ban of Doggies in the Window
New Jersey seeks to ban retail pet sales.

According to the ASPCA, every year approximately 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters and 1.2 million are euthanized. Meanwhile, thousands of puppy mills sell pets to stores that encourage impulse buying, which too often results in these dogs ending up at the local shelter.

New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak has been looking to break that cycle by prohibiting new pet stores in his state from selling dogs and cats from breeders. Senator Raymond feels strongly about stopping puppy mills, which put profit ahead of the humane treatment of their animals, creating health and behavioral problems.

Last week, his bill was passed in the state Senate by a 27-8 vote and is now in the hands of the Assembly. If put into law, the restriction would apply to any pet store licensed after January 12. Existing stores would not be affected.

The pet industry of course opposes the bill, claiming the legislation would make it difficult for new pet stores to open and would weaken a pet protection law that has been a model for the rest of the country. The bill revises the New Jersey Pet Protection Act and includes other additions, such as prohibiting shelters from purchasing dogs or cats from breeders or brokers, and requiring rescue organizations to be licensed in the town in which they are located.

Other cities, such as Richmond, British Columbia, West Hollywood, California, and South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, have already banned pet store dog and cat sales, but if Senator Raymond's bill passes, it would be the first statewide mandate.

While the law would not stop all stores from selling dogs and cats, it's certainly a step in the right direction.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fourth of July Aftermath
The annual fireworks tradition doesn't mix well with pets.

Fireworks are a favorite summer ritual, but for those of us with dogs, these light shows can result in traumatized pets. We just passed the peak time for fireworks, Fourth of July, but shelters around the country are still dealing with the aftermath. The week after the holiday is a busy time for animal shelters. San Diego area shelters alone reported 90 dogs that came into their shelters on Monday night, many of which are still waiting to be claimed.

It's our responsibility to make sure our dogs are safe, and that means making sure that they're secure if they might be afraid of loud noises. I was viewing a fireworks show last weekend and was surprised to see so many people who brought their dogs. As it turned out, one pup ended up panicking and ran very close to the area where the fireworks were being lit. It didn't look like the workers could see him, so they didn't stop. Fortunately the dog was not hurt, but it really underscores how dangerous this situation could be.

This week in Atlanta, Georgia, a man was charged with animal cruelty when a video surfaced online of him lighting fireworks close to his dog. Even if it wasn't intentional (which is still being debated), it's important to know where your pets and kids are if you choose to light fireworks.

These light shows will continue throughout the summer, so it's important to be careful and keep our dogs safe.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Why Were 24 Bomb Sniffing Dogs Killed?
Suspicion surrounds a company who euthanized highly trained working pups in Kuwait.
Earlier this month, 24 bomb-sniffing civilian working dogs (CWDs) were euthanized by Eastern Securities, an American-owned company that provides explosives detection services in Kuwait. No one knows exactly why these highly trained pups were killed. Some say they were sick, while others say it was done because of a cancelled contract, or even out of revenge.

A former employee believes it was a result of Kuwait National Petroleum Company terminating their contract with Eastern Securities, which was being paid about $9.900 per month for each dog to detect explosives at oil drilling sites. Allegedly the contract was cancelled because the dogs failed to pass explosives detection tests. Another former employee believes that the dog's abilities declined over time because they weren't cared for properly.

Eastern Securities claims this is all the result of a conspiracy against them, but at least one U.S. based bomb-sniffing dog company stopped doing business with Eastern States years ago because they were "so terrible."

Esmail Al Misri, a local lawyer and animal activist, has another theory. She believes that the dogs were killed to punish 29 handlers who filed complaints with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor because they hadn't received a paycheck from Eastern Securities since April. Esmail has asked local police to investigate the killings and press criminal charges. She's also concerned about the 90 bomb-sniffing dogs that are still at Eastern Securities.

Amy Swope, one of the former employees, has started a petition asking for the U.S. Embassy to step in and save these pups. She believes that signing the petition, getting media attention, and putting pressure on our government and the Kuwaiti government is the best way to get results.

No matter what the reason, dogs aren't tools you can just throw away when they're no longer useful. These animals gave their lives to serving people, and it is up to us to protect them.