Julia Kamysz Lane

Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

News: Guest Posts
Ugly Dog Couch
Takes a beating, but still beloved
ugly dog couch

I'm an interior designer's worst nightmare (isn't clutter just another word for "Victorian chic"?), but even my eye is offended by the yellow mustard sofa squatting in our house. To say it is distressed is to be kind. It has been chewed up, peed on, destuffed, and muddied. Yet the ugly dog couch lives on! I've repeatedly fantasized about being selected for "Extreme Makeover." Ty Pennington would leap into my living room with a single bound, and heroically hurl that thing to the curb. Yes, the dogs would be upset; at least I would no longer be the villain of this story. Of course, whenever garbage day arrives, it only takes one sleepy dog stretched across it to transform it into the cutest loveseat I've ever seen.       

News: Guest Posts
Regret at the Vet
A beloved family pet died because they didn't ask questions
Justice for Jack ProHeart6 warning

Like most dog owners who trust their vet, Ashley Sassaman didn't hesitate to follow her vet's suggestion that her two dogs, Jack and Katrina, be given a new heartworm preventative, ProHeart6, at their last wellness check up. The convenience of a shot every six months instead of remembering to give monthly medication was a big selling point for the working mom. A week after the shot, Jack grew lethargic. He no longer wanted to play fetch or go for walks. The family brought him back to the vet, but she couldn't find an explanation for the behavior change. Three weeks after the shot, they found Jack dead at home. Ashley began to ask questions - ones that she wishes she had asked before Jack received the shot - and discovered that the FDA had briefly taken ProHeart6 off the market due to adverse reactions, including death. Also, Pfizer, the company that made ProHeart6, advised vets that they should discuss possible side effects with the dog's owners, and have them sign an "Owner Consent Form" before the first injection, a protocol that Ashey's vet did not follow. Ashley has since changed vets and Pfizer offered to pay for Jack's necropsy. It is her hope that sharing Jack's story will encourage other dog lovers to ask questions and do research in order to keep their dogs healthy and safe.    

News: Guest Posts
Protesting Animal Abuse
Convicted Chicago area animal abuser faces sentencing May 31
German shepherd Lab mix breed dog

While the national media is focused on anti-NATO demonstrators in Chicago, there's another kind of protest going on in one of its suburbs. Convicted animal abuser Phillip Rinn, of Aurora, IL, recently plead guilty to beating his one-year-old Lab/shepherd mix, Magda, with a broom and breaking five of her teeth. He had previously served jail time in 1993 for chaining his German shepherd to his car, dragging him, then detaching the horribly injured dog so he could run over him and kill him. For that heinous crime, he only received 30 days in jail and 200 hours community service. Nearly 20 years later, the man is still abusing his pets and faces relatively stiffer penalties - up to three years in jail. Animal lovers have gathered outside the courthouse at each of his hearings to encourage the judge to give him the maximum punishment possible at his sentencing on May 31. If you're in the Chicago area and would like to participate, please contact On Angel's Wings executive director Jeanette Schulz through the nonprofit rescue's adoption center at (815) 356-8170.       

News: Guest Posts
My Dog Is Heartworm Positive
If it happened to me, it can happen to you
heartworm test preventative dalmatian

My vet can't remember the last time she had a heartworm positive case. Until now. My 8-year-old Dalmatian, Jolie, tested positive for heartworms at her annual check up last week. We retested the blood in hopes that it was a false positive. But there was no need to send the sample back to the lab. Through a microscope, my vet could see microfilaria swimming in her blood sample.


I’m shocked and upset. My husband and I take excellent care of our dogs. How could this have happened? Apparently, despite living in the Chicago area, we needed to give her heartworm preventative through the winter, not just the warmer months. When we lived in New Orleans’ subtropical climate, it was a given that the dogs received heartworm preventative year round.


What seems particularly unfair is that Jolie has already been through a lot. We adopted her through a Dalmatian rescue when she was 10 months old. She had been abandoned by her family, left in a backyard without food, water or shelter. She was emaciated, infested with fleas, and hung her head, too sad to lift her eyes to meet ours. She didn’t know how to play. Our older Dalmatian, Darby, helped her come out of her shell.  We helped her get well.


Last August,  she underwent back surgery for a bulging disc. The surgery alone cost $4,000.  Post surgical rehab, chiropractic and supplements have added up to another $2,000.  Although that was a financial strain, it was much harder keeping her quiet and pain free during her months long recovery.  But we did it. We helped her get well.


To think that for less than $50, we could’ve given her a few more doses of Heartgard, and kept her free of heartworms and the risky, expensive  treatment required to kill them. On top of that, she has a grade 4 heart murmur, so we need to do a heart ultrasound to ensure she can tolerate the treatment. It all makes me sick to my stomach.  My poor girl has been through enough, and now this.


Despite the growing trend to keep toxins to a minimum in our dogs (and for good reason), please give your dog monthly heartworm preventative  year round.  The risk is not worth it.

Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Bond with Your Dog Over Agility Training
Challenge your best friend physically and mentally and you’ll both reap the rewards

The covered dirt arena is teeming with dogs of all shapes, sizes and colors. In the bleachers, you see small gatherings of friends, family and curious onlookers. You close your eyes, take a deep breath and visualize your strategy as you and your dog wait for your turn in the ring.

The constant buzz of dogs yipping, handlers yapping and spectators oohing and aahing fades away as you open your eyes and refocus on your teammate. Her eyes gleam with excitement and she does a little play-bow at your feet. The gate steward gestures for you to enter the course as the team ahead of you races toward the finish.

You walk to the start line, ask your dog to sit and stay, then remove her leash. The judge signals that he is ready. You walk out past the first two bar jumps and turn and look back at your dog, who is quivering with anticipation. Your eyes meet and calmly, you say, “Okay.” She bounds over the jumps to you and together you dance among tunnels, weave poles, the towering A-frame, the teeter, the raised dog walk and many jumps in between. In 60 seconds or less, you experience the climactic thrill of agility: being one with your dog.

Navigating the Course
The sport at its most basic requires you and your dog to successfully navigate a course of 16 to 20 obstacles under the SCT (standard course time), which is determined by the yardage of the course and the jump height of the dog. Beginner levels, such as “Novice” in North American Dog Agility Council, or “Starters” in United States Dog Agility Association, present fewer obstacles and a simple flow around the course.

As you progress from one level to the next, you will face more obstacles, tougher SCTs and complex courses that require more handling strategy on your part. You will be timed either manually or electronically. Each competitive venue has a different method of scoring based on “faults,” such as knocking a bar on a jump, missing contact zone or going over time.

If you and your dog run the course cleanly, without a single mistake, you earn a “Q” or qualifying run. (At beginner levels, you are mercifully allowed a few faults). These “Qs” add up to titles, whose value are determined by the team that earned them. For top competitors, top performances and titles can lead to a berth in an invitation-only national or international event. For average participants, titles are concrete proof of the time and effort you and your dog put into becoming a team. For people with rescue dogs who had to overcome issues to play the game, titles are a badge of courage.

Sport Shifts Perceptions
Introducing my rescue Dalmatian, Darby, to agility changed our lives. As a puppy and adolescent, Darby seemed to me to be a bossy, destructive diva who worshipped my husband and ignored me. In agility class, her intelligence and athleticism came to the fore, and for the first time, I realized how little I understood her. She had been a difficult dog to raise, always pushing the limits and constantly on the move. Though it wasn’t her fault, a chronic bladder problem that no vet could solve only added to my frustration. Climbing contact obstacles and jumping helped strengthen her muscles and Darby no longer has mishaps.

Most importantly, agility gave us a relationship where none existed before. The dog who used to shrug off my touch and run in the opposite direction when I called now cuddles with me on the couch. The spark in her eye when she looks at me at class or on the start line at a trial makes me insanely happy. We are a team.

“Doing agility is a relationship-builder,” says instructor Barb Scalise, who owns Canine Care, Inc., in Bartlett, Illinois. “The journey as you both learn is just amazing.” She has trained in agility a variety of breeds, most of whom were adopted from rescue organizations. Years ago, she started with her first dog, a Dalmatian, followed by a Greyhound. Currently, she competes with a Pointer, a Vizsla and two Labs. Her oldest Lab, Mocha, is a 12-year-old rescue who twice earned the American Kennel Club’s top agility title, MACH (Master Agility Champion), and continues to actively compete.

In the Beginning
The sport originated in England nearly 30 years ago as half-time entertainment at the prestigious Crufts Dog Show. John Varley, a member of the show committee, approached veteran dog trainer Peter Meanwell about creating a dog jumping competition, loosely based on horse show jumping. The demonstration proved so popular that Crufts asked the participants back, and agility was born. Agility aficionados can now be found around the world, from Argentina to Yugoslavia.

In 1985, Ken Tatsch was a CPA in private practice when he went to Crufts and saw agility for the first time. The following year, he founded the United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. (USDAA). Today, it is an international organization and boasts more than 25,000 registered competitors and more than 200 different breeds of dogs, including mixed breeds.

About the time Tatsch was organizing USDAA, fellow agility pioneer Charles “Bud” Kramer founded the National Club of Dog Agility, which was later adopted by the United Kennel Club (UKC). New venues soon followed suit, including the North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC), which promotes safety, and Canine Performance Events (CPE), for the more casual agility competitor. The Teacup Dogs Agility Association (TDAA) features scaled-down agility equipment for dogs measuring 16.5 inches and under at the withers. TDAA founder Bud Houston of Ostrander, Ohio, also created Just For Fun (JFF), which offers team play over the course of eight weeks, much like bowling leagues.

A Venue for Every Dog
Truly, there is a venue for every dog, no matter the breed, size or age. If your dog is social, physically fit and likes to learn, he will most likely enjoy agility, whether you choose to play at a trial or just in your backyard. Older dogs or certain breeds that might normally be characterized as couch potatoes come to life when given extra attention and mental and physical stimulation. However, if your dog is aggressive toward people or dogs, learning the sport will cause more stress for you and your dog and lead to problems later on. The safety of other people and their dogs is paramount. (Which is not to say that the dog can’t eventually overcome them and one day enjoy agility. Just find a good dog behaviorist and work through those issues before signing up for an agility class.)

Monica Percival, owner of Clean Run Productions LLC, and managing editor of Clean Run, a magazine devoted to agility, encourages prospective students to check out classes first before signing up. “Unfortunately, there aren’t enough quality trainers,” says Percival. “A lot of trainers just hang out their shingle because they saw it on TV or have an obedience school and agility pulls in a lot more money for training schools, so it’s very popular. I have seen some horrific things, like equipment that’s not safe.” Clean Run maintains an agility instructor/school directory on its website, www.cleanrun.com, which is a good starting point. (For more guidance on choosing a class, see “How to Choose an Agility Class.”)

Elise Paffrath of Vermont, founded her magazine, Dog & Handler, to emphasize that mixed breeds and shelter adoptees can excel in dog sports, too, if given the chance. As part of that mission, she only covers sports that are open to all dogs. Her own dogs—mixed-breed Scout and rescue Border Collie Spryte—are highly accomplished in agility. Inspired by her first agility dog, a mixed-breed named Breeze, Paffrath opened a full-time agility training business, Breeze Through Agility, and serves as a USDAA judge.

Staying the Course
The obstacles on the course vary depending on the organization in which you compete. The UKC features some unusual obstacles, such as the sway-back bridge, which is a small slatted bridge suspended between two support walls; ramps at either end allow the dog to enter and exit. Most venues require the same basic equipment, however: contact obstacles, jumps, tunnels and weave poles. “Contact obstacles” are any piece of equipment that has contact zones, which are painted yellow. The dog must touch the contact zone with at least one paw; depending on the class level and venue, if no contact is made, the team’s performance could be faulted or disqualified.

A course that includes all of these obstacles is considered a “standard” or “regular” course. AKC offers a JWW (Jumpers with Weaves) class that only features jumps, tunnels and weaves, so it is very fast. NADAC’s “Jumpers” class is only jumps. USDAA offers fun strategy games like “Gamblers” and “Snooker” and pair relays. All courses are designed by a judge, and no matter how many trials you attend, you will never see the same course twice, even if you show under the same judge.

The judge’s role goes beyond course design. “Once the judge gets to the show, she must make sure that the course is set up correctly, and then she judges any faults incurred during the run,” says Elise Paffrath. “The judge is an observer, which is exhausting. In addition to travel [to the show site by car or plane], you’re on your feet all day, you have to keep things moving and there can be conflicts.”

Before your run, you have two ways to prepare your handling strategy. First, you can look at the course map, which shows you the location of each obstacle and how they are numbered. Second, you get a “walk-though” in which you and your fellow competitors walk the course. Sometimes it will differ slightly from what you read on the course map, so this is the time to review and/or rethink your strategy and memorize the course. Rather than try to remember it by number, it’s best to think of it in terms of obstacle sequences, such as “jump-jump-A-frame” to “tire-table-seesaw” and so on. (For more details about competition and the differences between venues, invest in a copy of Clean Run Production’s Competing in Agility: Entering Trials and What To Do When You Get There, by Cindy Buckholt. You can also check out the websites of each organization for rules, registration questions and more; see “Resources.”).

Old Dogs, New Tricks
Teaching a dog to do the obstacles is relatively easy and fun, though it should always be done under supervision. With expert instruction, positive training methods and patience, any healthy dog can learn how to do obstacles in three to four months.

Some pieces of equipment require more time and effort than others. For example, teaching the teeter-totter is a step-by-step process. First, encourage your dog to get used to movement under his feet by walking on a square wobble board on top of a small ball. Second, teach your dog rear-end awareness by walking him through the rungs of a horizontal mini-ladder on the ground—most dogs do not need to think about the position of their back legs, as they normally just follow the front legs. Third, slowly lead your dog across a long, narrow board flat on the ground so that all four paws walk the plank. You can raise the height of this board gradually as the dog’s confidence grows.

While your dog is learning the obstacles, your job is to learn handling skills so you can guide her from one obstacle to another. When you’re learning a new handling maneuver, it’s best to practice running without your dog and imagine her moving with you. That way, you can make many mistakes without punishing your dog with constant repetition.

“There is an art to handling,” says Bud Houston, who is a retired AKC judge and currently judges for USDAA and the Teacup Dogs Agility Association when not teaching with his wife at Dogwood Training Center in Ohio. “The [team aspect] is one of the overlooked elements of our game. Some people consider the dog to be 95 percent of the team. When you bring a young dog into the house, within months, the dog understands how you move. The same ‘laws of motion’ are applicable to agility. You must interpret how your dog interprets your movement. A lot of dogs do what I call ‘compensatory learning.’ Even though you might err in your movement, the dog is clever enough to figure out what you want of him.”

In general, our body language overrules verbal commands, so if you say, “A-frame” but your shoulders and outstretched hand face the direction of a tunnel, guess where your dog will go? (Editor’s note: See Patricia McConnell’s column for more on this subject.) The more seasoned the dog, the more weight he will give to verbal commands as your body moves ahead or laterally to prepare for the next obstacle.

Awareness of your own body cues and how to best communicate with your dog keep you thinking on your feet. Some people run their hands in their pockets to be more aware of their shoulders. Other people run “silently,” that is, without uttering a word, so as to pay more attention to their body. Often, they are amazed at how well their dog performs by reading just their body language. Patricia McConnell’s invaluable book, The Other End of the Leash, gives more insight into how we can better communicate with our dogs, both at home and on the agility field.

Donna Rock of Lacombe, Louisiana, was born without arms, and competes at the highest levels of agility with her Dobermans Annie and Quincy, using her shoulders and verbal commands to guide them. The sport appealed to her because anybody can do it. “I’m handicapped and yet I can still compete,” says Rock. “Young, old, fat, thin, abled, disabled—it doesn’t matter. It’s all about being the best you can be and doing it in a way that works for you and your dog.”

Wheelchair competitors also find success at agility classes or trials. Judy Guillot of Arizona was a stabbing victim at age 11, and in recent years, lost the use of her legs. When she saw agility on television, it didn’t even occur to her to question whether or not she could participate. “I would not be the person I am today if [the accident] had not happened,” says Guillot. “I have learned to adapt. That’s how I get that can-do attitude.” Now 58 years old, she and husband Dave play agility with five of their six toy fox terriers, stay active with their training club, and enjoy practicing and competing whenever they can.

Training Leads to Insights
While competition is the ultimate goal for many agility newcomers, some participants try the sport for different reasons. Beth Borchardt of Florida hoped agility would bring her fearful mixed-breed, Cheyenne, out of her shell. What she didn’t expect was how it would help her own shyness. “I had never shown an animal in anything and I was scared to death at my first show,” says Borchardt. “Chey did so well that she helped me get over my nerves. I was very introverted and shy and going to trials has gotten me over a lot of that. I’ll talk to strangers at shows and that has carried over to other aspects of my life.” Borchardt now participates with a white Shepherd, and has a puppy in training.

Spending extra time training your dog will teach you a lot about her personality as well as strengthen the bond between you. What motivates her most: toys, praise, food or a combination? If it’s toys, does she prefer tennis balls, squeaky stuffed animals or fleece tugs? If it’s food, does she favor dehydrated liver pieces or bits of string cheese? Is she so eager to please that an enthusiastic “Good dog!” will do? Getting to know your dog, which includes observing her physical structure and how she moves, is essential.

Lynn Sykes of North Carolina and her 14-year-old daughter, Bonnie, both do agility, which has strengthened their mother–daughter bond as well as their relationships with their respective dogs.

“Bonnie’s Sheltie is a rescue and very high strung,” says Sykes. “She’s come a long way … Agility has given my daughter a lot of confidence and taught her to finally trust her dog and to be happy with the effort of the dog. I’m proud she’s stuck it out with a difficult first dog that many people had written off. Agility has helped them both. We do other dog [activities] as well, and I’m hoping that dog sports keep her from the drugs and other horrors that waylay kids.”

The physical activity certainly promotes a healthier lifestyle. Dr. Heidi Loganbill, a neurologist in private practice in Oregon, was working extremely long hours when she and her husband decided to get a Standard Poodle puppy, Pogo. “I couldn’t make myself leave work for myself but I could for my dog,” says Loganbill. “We started doing agility and I couldn’t stand to have lots of people watch me run my dog when I was fat. I was 5’ 2” and weighed 215 pounds.” Over the next several years, she lost more than 80 pounds. She and her husband now have two more Standard Poodles, Winnie and 6-monthold Gabriel, who her keep fit.

Staying active with his rescue Australian Shepherd, Mystic, literally saved the life of Alan Silvey of Florida. In 2004, he had a heart attack toward the end of a run at a trial. “The doctor said if I hadn’t been training and running [Mystic], I wouldn’t have been alive,” says Silvey. “My main heart valve was mostly closed up, but agility kept it all flowing.” Having saved Mystic from a shelter, Silvey says it’s only fitting that Mystic saved his life in return. He says the experience taught him that while titles are nice, just being able to run with his dog and walk off the course on his own two feet are what matter most.

No matter what your motivation, agility is a dynamic sport worth trying. The benefits for both you and your dog are endless, and you might be surprised at the sheer joy of the journey.

If you live near a major city, you’ll have a variety of agility classes from which to choose. Veteran agility instructor Barb Scalise, who owns Canine Care, Inc., of Bartlett, Ill., says finding a class that meets your and your dog’s unique needs is most important. She shares her three main considerations for choosing the best match:

The environment. When you enter the training facility—whether it’s a snazzy indoor training school or a fenced-off grassy field—take a look around. Is the equipment in good shape? What kind of flooring is used? Barb remembers the early days when she was first learning the sport and everyone trained their dogs on a cement floor covered with mats, which can take a toll on a dog’s joints. Today, artificial turf or thick rubber matting made especially for performance sports help ensure that you and your dog will be able to participate for years to come.

The instructor. Even if you know nothing about agility, you will have a gut reaction to what you see. If the instructor yells or students look stressed or frustrated, obviously no one is having fun. Look for an instructor who communicates well with the students and gives equal attention to each dog/handler team.

The dogs. How many dogs are in the class? Is there a lot of down time? How many often does each dog get a turn? Is safety stressed by the instructor? You don’t want a beginning or “green” dog to jump full height or go over obstacles like the A-frame or dog walk at full height. Also, only one dog should be off-leash at a time, even at the most advanced levels.

The A-frame is a tall, wooden or aluminum structure whose apex is typically set at 5' 6"or can go as high as 6' 3" at the championship level in USDAA. (Contact zones are painted on the upside and downside of the A-frame, although not every organization judges the upside contact.)

The dog walk is a raised, narrow plank that the dog must cross as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety or missing the contact zone on the exit ramp.

The pause table—a raised square table upon which the dog must do a sit-stay or a down-stay while the judge counts to five—looks deceptively easy. It is. The difficulty lies in the dog being still after racing around the course. Handlers sometimes anticipate the judge’s count and release their dog from the table too soon. The dog must then assume the sit or down position again and the judge restarts the count.

The teeter-totter or seesaw is difficult to master because the dog must walk across a moving narrow plank, tip it and hit the contact zone at the end before leaving the obstacle. The strange movement and the noise of the teeter banging on the ground can scare a dog, so it’s extremely important to be patient and follow your trainer’s instructions.
Jumps are self-explanatory, though there are quite a variety of them. They range from the simple bar jump (imagine a hurdle jump) and the wide boards on the ground that comprise the broad jump to the winged jump, which is a bar jump with plastic lattice “wings” on either end. The latter is a challenge to the dog as he cannot easily see the handler. Plus, there is more distance between the dog and handler, which is difficult for a dog new to the sport.

There are two different kinds of tunnels. The open tunnel is a tube through which the dog runs as fast as possible. The closed tunnel, or chute, looks like a giant wind sock. The dog must run through it in order to push up the material and exit. The “sock” of the chute should be straightened after every use to ensure the next dog that goes through doesn’t get wrapped up in the fabric.

The weave poles are challenging for dogs to learn because the weaving motion is unnatural to them. Twelve upright poles, each attached to a heavy steel base, are set out in a row. The dog must enter between the first pole and second pole from the right side, then fluidly step or hop between each pole to the end. Clean Run sanctions the “Ultimate Weave Pole Challenge,” in which the dog completes 60 weave poles.

News: Guest Posts
Amazing Puppy Tricks
Four-month-old Hero became youngest Trick Dog Champion

Only 17 years old, Sara Carson of North Bay, Ontario, is the youngest Certified Trick Dog Instructor through stunt dog trainer Kyra Sundance's Do More With Your Dog program. Sara's Border Collie puppy, Hero, became the youngest Trick Dog Champion, at only four months of age! Together, they have performed and entertained audiences of all ages at two large events, the Purina National Dog Show and the All About Pets Show, both in Mississauge, Ontario. Watch the video to see this brilliant puppy show off 51 fun tricks. To learn more about trick training or earning trick titles with your dog, go to Do More With Your Dog.

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Dogs @ Work
Office dogs never complain about the size of their cubicles or staying late

Ever wonder what it would be like to have your dog with you at work, nestled under your desk? If you needed a break from paperwork or phone calls, you could go outside for a relaxing walk or a game of fetch. Minor irritants would melt away when you looked into those adoring doggie eyes or heard that solid tail thump.

A surprising number and variety of businesses now recognize the added value of allowing dogs in the workplace, and not just on the annual “Take Your Dog to Work” day. Increasingly, what started out as occasional canine visits have grown into standard practice in offices around the country. Likewise, official pet policies are now part of many employee handbooks; the rules not only address proper pooch-related etiquette and behavior, they also provide non-dog people with assurance that their needs are taken into consideration.

But a document weighed down in legalese doesn’t explain the amazing transformation that can happen to a company and its people when dogs are welcomed. People who perhaps would never have met or spoken to one another are drawn to the dog in the cubicle or out in the parking lot. A shy person feels free to greet the dog and kneel down beside her for a friendly lick. A fearful person bravely reaches out a hand for the dog to smell, and delights in her cold nose.

And of course, those with dogs never tire of hearing compliments about their pups or seeing colleagues enjoy their company. Even more gratifying is the chance to field questions from curious non-dog people and to help them begin to understand why dogs matter. All of these encounters provide co-workers with opportunities to engage in face-to-face conversation, something that is increasingly rare in this technology-driven world.

We took a look at some of the companies that welcome dogs, and—once we recovered from our surprise at the number—decided to dig a bit deeper into a representative selection. Here are four stand-out examples of corporate American dog culture.

Drew Herdener’s long-time office mate is a beautiful blonde with a friendly personality. Sure, she spends more time socializing than she does working, but Herdener, Amazon’s senior public relations manager, still considers her to be an invaluable part of the team. He couldn’t imagine working without Dulce, his yellow Lab/Golden Retriever mix. Apparently, his colleagues feel the same way.

“Every day, she gets petted and praised by others,” says Herdener. “She has half a dozen or so very good friends who see her once a day. It’s really a community of dog lovers. There are probably three dozen people I know only because of my dog. Dulce is more social than I am, so she’s a nice ice-breaker.”

Approximately 24 to 36 dogs come to work at Amazon’s corporate headquarters, a 12-story former VA hospital in Seattle, Wash. Herdener says it’s not surprising that dogs would be allowed in this old Art Deco building, which dates from the 1920s. However, when they move to a brand-new downtown facility in a couple of years, he says it’s a foregone conclusion that the dogs will still be welcome.

In order to bring a dog, the employee must first register him/her and agree to certain rules and regulations. For example, all dogs are required to be up-to-date on vaccinations, housebroken and on-leash except when they’re in an office with the door closed or behind a baby gate.

Considering the number of dogs, there are surprisingly few skirmishes or co-worker complaints. “It comes down to common sense and common courtesy,” says Herdener. “Even people who don’t love dogs appreciate the policy because it makes it a more casual environment. When you go through the hiring process, it becomes clear what our corporate culture is. People make a choice—either they subscribe to it or they don’t.”

Besides helping forge new relationships, allowing dogs in the workplace also gives employees peace of mind. “We work long hours,” says Herdener. “If the dog was at home, you would run home quicker. The fact that you can bring her adds to productivity. As hard as you work, you do have time to pet or play with a dog. I love my job and I love this company, and I have to say that one of the reasons why is the fact that I get to have my dog by my desk.”

Ben & Jerry’s
It all started with Rita. The lovable mutt belonged to former employee and graphic designer Sarah Lee Terrat, who often worked late. The office’s large windows allowed anyone to look in and see that she was alone, so she started bringing Rita for safety. Employees became used to Rita being there at night and soon, other dogs popped in here and there. Public relations spokesman Sean Greenwood says that today, there are 110 human employees and approximately 15 to 20 dogs at the company’s corporate headquarters in South Burlington, Vt.

Visitors and job applicants quickly learn that dogs are part of the Ben & Jerry’s team. “If they sit in the lobby for a few minutes, they’re more than likely to see a dog going outside. I’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re a dog-friendly place,’” says Greenwood. “It’s part of the tour. ‘This is the design department—Momo is there; Jack is in R&D, Allison’s in retail, Scout is brand new…’ They’re just like your co-workers.”

Momo is a 10-year-old Pomeranian-Terrier mix who comes to work with designer Lisa Wernhoff every day. “I live an hour away, and I don’t have a job where I can rush home to let her out,” says Wernhoff. “But because of the pet policy, I can bring her here.”

In 2000, Wernhoff and a volunteer group—folks with and without dogs—created the official pet policy in a proactive, team effort. “It spelled out the need to respect people who are scared of dogs or are allergic,” says Wernhoff. “No dogs in any conference room, lunch room, or bathrooms; no dogs hanging outside your little cubicle, in the aisles, or public spaces. It spelled out where dogs could go potty. We didn’t want people complaining, and tried to head off any problems.”

Obviously, dogs benefit from the attention, treats and petting they receive throughout the day. But the employees also enjoy the physical and mental breaks that come with having their dogs at work.

“For me, the biggest benefit has been taking a physical break from my computer,” says Wernhoff. “I’ve had lots of issues with ‘frozen shoulders’ and doctors constantly told me to take more breaks. Having my dog here, I have to go out at mid-morning, noon and mid-afternoon, minimum, which forces me to take those breaks.”

Another employee, who had been bitten as a child, never liked dogs, but after spending time around the well-behaved Ben & Jerry’s pack, she got over her fear. Eventually, she acquired two Golden Retrievers, who now accompany her to work; she takes them out for a half-hour in the middle of the day for a walk or to chase sticks.

Tara Lineberry jokes that she would likely have a dog by now if it weren’t for the pack that surrounds her at work every day at Healthwise of Boise, Idaho. The communications project manager/writer gets her daily doggie fix from her co-workers’ pups.

“It’s a stress reliever,” says Lineberry. “There have been tons of studies showing that having dogs around calms your nerves and is good for overall health. If I’m working really hard on a project and I need a break, I’ll walk to my neighbor’s office and scrub her dogs a little bit and give them some treats.”

The nonprofit health information provider began as a three-person company in 1975. Today, there are more than 200 employees. Dogs have played a part in its culture from the first day, thanks to Healthwise’s dog-loving CEO, Don Kemper, who currently shares his office with a Bulldog mix named Tuba.

As the company grew, it became clear that a formal dog policy was needed. The company’s culture is based on “teamwork, respect and do the right thing.” The first sentence espouses that philosophy: “At Healthwise, people come first. It is the policy of Healthwise to provide a safe, nonthreatening and healthy work environment for all employees.” It goes on to say that, with the exception of service dogs, “having dogs in the workplace is a conditional privilege, not a right.”

There are situations in which a dog might not be welcome, for example, if a co-worker had allergies. An employee must request permission before bringing his/her dog into the office. If the dog interferes with another employee’s ability to work, the dog must stay at home. There is a “three-strikes” rule for dogs who demonstrate aggressive behavior, such as growling, barking or lunging. If three formal complaints are lodged against the dog, he is no longer welcome in the workplace. Of course, biting is never tolerated.

If a problem arises, the Healthwise Hounds—a group made up of both dog- and non-dog people—encourages the person to talk directly to the dog owner. If the person isn’t comfortable with that, an anonymous email may be submitted and the Healthwise Hounds will follow up.

There are a few people on the Healthwise staff who are afraid of dogs, so dog owners know to keep their pooches away. Many dog owners will thoughtfully post a sign on their office door. “A girl on my team has a little sign—Hi, my name is Miko. I’m here today and I’m a friendly dog,” says Lineberry.

The Healthwise offices are located in Boise’s beautiful foothills, and employees and their dogs take full advantage of the many walking trails that surround their workplace. The company encourages everyone to respect the trail system by cleaning up after their dogs, and has thoughtfully installed disposal-bag containers in the parking lot to make it easy for them to do so.

Replacements, Ltd.
More than a decade ago, Replacements, Ltd., founder and owner Bob Page noticed how happy his Dachshund was to see him when he came home from work. Touched, Page started bringing his dog to work, and invited employees to do the same. Today, even customers may bring well-behaved dogs into the 12,000-square-foot showroom in Greensboro, N.C.

It’s hard to imagine curious noses and wagging tails among fragile items like the crystal, china and other collectibles for which Replacements is known, but Vice-President of Human Resources Jeanine Falcon says that it’s allowed speaks to Page’s generous philosophy. (His 11-year-old Miniature Dachshunds, Toby Lee and Trudy Mae, are very popular around the office.)

Falcon has three dogs, but only two of them are comfortable in a busy office environment. Her dogs—10-year-old Bear, a Border Collie mix, and Zola, a 14-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog—attract plenty of visitors, which she feels helps her do her job better.

“People stop by just to see the dogs all the time,” says Falcon. “I don’t know if they’d come by just to see me, though I’d like to think so! It demystifies the HR department and the executive offices, makes them comfortable and homey.”

Replacements’ formal pet policy requires each dog to be current on vaccinations, on a six-foot leash at all times, and polite to people and other dogs. “We emphasize that your pet’s behavior is your responsibility,” says Falcon. “If they chew a computer cord or growl at somebody, you may get some feedback on that. If that happens, we have a conversation with the employee: Do some training, try again in three months. We don’t fire many dogs.”

Falcon recalls that the company’s dog-friendly policy was particularly comforting when her oldest Bernese Mountain Dog, Bella, passed away. “It’s nice to know that your colleagues understand. At other places, you could call and say, ‘I’m not coming in today because my dog died,’ and they’d probably say, ‘Yeah, right.’ Here, they know the dog. They’re not pets, they’re family members, and I think that understanding really helps.”


Truth be told, we expected to hear tales of the challenges that came with having canines as part of the workforce. After all, people can be emotional about their dogs, and that can easily lead to misunderstandings. Surely there were people who would complain about shedding, barking or allergic reactions. But in all cases, it seems that these companies’ dog cultures are a natural extension of a healthy working environment, one in which employees are treated with respect and encouraged to proactively voice concerns before they turn into potential problems.

However, none of these companies, or the hundreds of others who welcome canines to the workplace, would have dogs if it weren’t for concerted grassroots efforts by empowered employees (who are occasionally aided and abetted by a dog-loving CEO). According to Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, “The dot-com revolution of the ’90s converted so many people to working at home or in a cubicle all day that interpersonal contact started on a down slope, and people started looking more and more to their animals for companionship.” By allowing dogs to come to work, companies help their employees connect on a more human level, and a sense of community that goes well beyond retreat-induced teambuilding is born.


News: Guest Posts
Canine Cancer Study Seeks Dogs
Free supplements and discounted vet visits provided
pink paw canine cancer

The National Canine Cancer Foundation needs dogs for participation in a two-year observational study on the effects of natural supplements in combating cancer. The target start date is May 2012.

The study is funded by Elimay supplements, and will take place in Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and San Diego. Each dog will be required to go to the vet every three months. All supplements will be provided by Elimay. In many cases, vet visits will be paid for or discounted.

Three groups of dogs are needed:

Group 1
Healthy dogs ages 2 to 6 years are eligible. Each dog will take Elimay Longevity, Elimay Omegas and Elimay Immunity. (Dosage to be determined.)

Group 2
Dogs ages 4 to 9 years with history of cancer in their lines and/or breed are eligible. Each dog will take Elimay Longevity, Elimay Omegas,  and Elimay Immunity. (Dosage to be determined.)

Group 3
Dogs of any age with a verifiable diagnosis of cancer are eligible. Each dog will take an Elimay supplement(s) to be determined by doctors at Elimay. (Dosage to be determined.)

For more information or to participate in this study, contact NCCF co-founder Sara Nice at snice@wearethecure.org.

Please include your location, age and breed of your dog, which group the dog would fit into and why you would like to participate.

News: Guest Posts
Where to Bury a Good Dog
An 86-year-old poem that rings true today
cherry tree blossom

A friend sent this poem to me, knowing how much I miss my beloved Desoto and Shelby. I had been holding onto their ashes, unsure of where to bury my good dogs. Shall I scatter them into the Louisiana swamps that Desoto loved to explore? Would Shelby be happiest under the big tree, watching for squirrels? This poem tells me they're already in the right place. —Julia Kamysz Lane



Where To Bury A Dog
By Ben Hur Lampman

There are various places within which a dog may be buried. We are thinking now of a setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought. This setter is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam, and at its proper season the cherry strews petals on the green lawn of his grave. Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub of the garden, is an excellent place to bury a good dog. Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavorous bone, or lifted head to challenge some strange intruder. These are good places, in life or in death. Yet it is a small matter, and it touches sentiment more than anything else.

For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long and at last. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land, where most exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained, and nothing lost—if memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog. One place that is best of all.

If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, he will come to you when you call—come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they should not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he is yours and he belongs there.

People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them then, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.

The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.

News: Guest Posts
Blind Dog Video Gone Viral
Rescue is more powerful thanks to social media

Rescue has changed a lot since I pulled my first shelter dog a decade ago. There was no Facebook or YouTube to spread the word. I plastered posters at the local coffee shops, preached to fellow obedience club members (tough crowd, that one), and emailed photos to as many friends, family and Yahoo groups as possible.

I remember the birth of Petfinder; the idea that you could search for a shelter dog based on age, gender, size and personality, all from the convenience of your computer was exciting. That was the extent of social media.

Today, more than a million people have viewed "Fiona's Amazing Story" in less than a week. The video documents the discovery of a blind, dirty dog cowering in a trash pile and her dramatic, tail-wagging transformation. Combining the rescue footage with Avril Lavigne's emotionally wrought single, "I'm With You," was brilliant.

While critics might say it's just a commercial for the rescue, Hope for Paws, to get donations, I say, yes, it is. What's wrong with that? They also need people to care about strays and do something about it, like foster parent. Until rescues are put out of business because every dog has a home, there's nothing wrong with showing the public what they do and why help is so desperately needed and appreciated.