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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
Are You Afraid of Coyotes?
Humane fence roller keeps pets in, wild animals out

Having lived in New Orleans for most of my adult life, it was a shock to see my first coyote in our semi-rural neighborhood in northern Illinois a few years back. One look at their confident gait and hard yellow eyes and there is no mistaking them for a dog. Some of my friends told me horror stories about coyotes snatching pets, but I still found them to be exotic, a curiosity.

This summer, new road and bridge construction about a mile away from our house is pushing hungry, homeless wildlife into our area, including a coyote pack. While walking three of my dogs one afternoon, I saw a coyote hunting mice in a neighbor's pasture. He looked up and saw us, but didn't budge. My Catahoula started baying, eager to chase him, which set off the other two dogs. I managed to hold onto their leashes and turn around to go back the way we came. Even though my dogs were not afraid, I was surprised to find my heart thumping out of my chest and feeling fearful.

With five large dogs and the removal of a tempting chicken coop, I don’t expect to see coyotes leaping our six-foot wooden privacy fence anytime soon. But that incident along with concerns over our occasionally outdoor cats climbing the fence and becoming a coyote meal lead me to check out the Coyote Roller.

This new product is installed atop any fencing, chain link, wooden or iron. The roller prevents an animal – even large birds like crows – from getting traction. There is no electrical shock; the animal simply rolls off. Seems like a win-win situation to me, assuming you can afford it. (See video demo below.)

Personally, I can do without the scaremongering of the company’s “Top 10 Reasons Why You Need the Coyote Roller.” As suburban sprawl aggressively swallows wide, open spaces, it’s important to remember that we’re the invading species, not coyotes, raccoons, skunks or other animals that are conveniently labeled as pests.

Do you live among coyotes? If so, how do you keep your dogs safe? What would you do if you saw a coyote in your neighborhood?
 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Parks: Love ’Em or Hate ’Em?
Forget the dog fights, it’s the people to watch out for

I love the idea of dog parks in theory. Who wouldn't want to see their dogs bounding across fields of grass with new canine buddies? Years ago, when we lived in New Orleans, we took our dogs to a model airplane field that was surrounded by woods and required something akin to a secret password to find. Consequently, very few people went there and we all became a tight-knit group. Everyone looked out for each other's dogs and made sure their dogs played nicely with others. It was wonderful and I looked forward to it nearly every night after work.

Fast forward a few years and our relocation to the Chicago suburbs. The closest dog park I could find required a $150 annual permit since we lived out of the county. It cost $25 for each additional dog after that. Down South, our dog park romps were free! But the shock of the sticker price was nothing compared to the behavior I witnessed on behalf of both dogs and their owners.

Early on, I was warned to keep an eye out for the woman who had two Belgian Sheepdogs who had a tendency to nip at the heels of other dogs, and that had caused some dog fights when the nippees didn’t appreciate being herded. I asked why she was still allowed to bring her dogs to the park and all I got were shrugs and a description of her vehicle make and color so I knew not to enter the park if she was there.

Another time, I took my 10-year-old Catahoula to that same dog park and he was having a great time trotting along the trails with a pack of other dogs. At one point, a large mixed breed started chest bumping him in an attempt to play. Desoto wasn’t in the mood, so I asked the mix’s owner to call her dog away from him. She was so busy blabbering to other people that I had to ask four times before she actually heard me. Her response? “Oh, he’s only playing!” Yeah, and my dog doesn’t want to play! So when does a solicitation to play become bullying? I finally left the park in a huff because the lady didn’t seem to care about the other dogs there, only her own.

The last straw was when one of my Dalmatians, Jolie, was standing--not running, not chasing, not moving--in a field when a big Chow raced up to her and bit her on the leg. As the Chow ran away and my poor girl yipped and ran to me, the Chow’s owners merely said, “Huh, that’s weird. They’ve been fine together before.” No apology, no inquiry as to whether she was okay, and certainly no offer to pay for her trip to the vet to get stitches and meds. Plus, I had to scratch her from two agility shows, losing nearly $150 in entry fees. The worst part of it was her behavior when she saw other dogs running toward her. She barked loudly and growled. Jolie had always been friendly with all dogs; now this bite incident had traumatized her and I would have to work hard to build up her trust in other dogs again.
 
Professional dog trainers, such as Eric Goebelbecker in his recent blog post, often warn their clients about dog parks. There were times when I just wanted to scream at people to keep a closer eye on their dogs or recognize that their dog was not appropriate for the park environment.  For some folks, they were more interested in socializing with the people than supervising their dog’s interactions. That left the more responsible dog owners policing all the dogs and being put in the awkward position of disciplining dogs who were not their own, which led to more people fights than dog fights.

In talking with other dog training professionals, I am not alone in my concern over dog park safety. But I dislike telling my clients not to take their dogs to them period.

What are your thoughts on dog parks? Do you and your dog enjoy going to them? Why or why not?

News: Guest Posts
I’ve Had It!
If I hear “but he’s friendly” one more time, I’m going to lose it

I’m bruised and beat up, and not sure what to do. This morning, I took my three large dogs for a walk. We were 50 yards from our driveway when a loose black Labrador retriever came into the street to greet us.

I know this dog; I've found him wandering before and brought him back home several times. He's a friendly boy. That said, my three dogs do not appreciate having a strange dog run up to them and get in their face.

I told the Lab, "No, go home!" in the sternest voice I could muster. It didn't deter him. Nor did three large barking, snarling dogs. And that's when I saw him - the dog's owner. He was standing right there on the front lawn.

By then, it was too late. As I envisioned this dog getting bitten by one of my dogs or worse, I lost my balance and fell backwards onto the asphalt. Incredibly, I didn't hit my head or break an arm. Just some ugly, searing scrapes on my knees, elbows and knuckles. Somehow, I managed to grip the leashes tight and not let my dogs go free. And thankfully, a car didn't come zooming around the corner like they sometimes do. What if we had all been hit?

My neighbor came out and got my dogs’ attention, helping calm all of us down while the Lab’s owner put his dog inside. The Lab owner then started to cross the street to approach me, politely asking, “Are you alright?”

Adrenaline still pumping and before I could think clearly, I screamed, “Please don’t come talk to me! I can’t talk to you right now! Why do you let your dog be loose? I’ve seen him go up to other people and their dogs while walking. Why do you let him do that?”

The Lab owner looked at me like I was nuts – it certainly wasn’t my best moment – turned on his heel and went inside his house to hang out with his no doubt equally bewildered Lab.

Now I feel like a jerk. And my neighbor, who is wonderful and loves my dogs and kept my heart from jumping out of my chest, says, “But you know he’s friendly, right?”
 

News: Guest Posts
Lady and the Tramp Mentality
Washington Post article reinforces purebred vs. mix debate

When Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse contacted me about my AKC/mixed breed blog post, I was flattered and eager to share my thoughts on this controversial decision. Unfortunately, Hesse was on a tight deadline and we never connected for a formal interview. After reading the piece, I was surprised at its "Lady and the Tramp" mentality. From the first sentence, she paints lovely images worthy of any literary novel, yet they reinforce an ignorant stereotype that purebred dogs are superior over mixed breeds. For example, while attending a dog show where both purebreds and mutts, ahem, mix, she compares the "sly Border Collies, whose owners plaster their cars with bumper stickers reading, 'My Border Collie is smarter than your honor student,' to mixed breed Otis, who "might lick his rear end." Talk about a cheap shot! I've got news for Hesse and the general public--purebreds lick their rear ends. And they probably drink out of the toilet, too. It is my fervent hope that the mingling of purebreds and mixes at AKC events will remind us that they are all dogs, regardless of pedigree.

News: Guest Posts
John Travolta’s Dogs Killed
Tragic accident under investigation

It's been a little over a year since actors John Travolta and Kelly Preston lost their 16-year-old son, Jett. Last week, the family's plane landed at Bangor International Airport in Maine. Someone who was not a family member was leash walking the couple's two small dogs when an airport service truck hit and killed the celebrity canines. The airport is investigating the accident. Although the Travoltas have not publicly commented on the loss of their pets, they did announce today that 47-year-old Preston is pregnant with their third child.  

News: Guest Posts
Ever Lost a Pet?
Technology and the media improve chances of being found

When I opened today’s paper, the front page featured the ecstatic reunion between Denise Shepard and her Boston Terrier Frankie. He had been missing for three months. During that time, the little guy somehow managed to travel 200 miles from his home in Battle Creek, Michigan, to a suburb of Chicago. A tiny microchip in Frankie’s neck allowed this story to have a happy ending.

Of course, I’m thrilled to see pet-owner reunions--we had one with our naughty black cat last summer--but when I read this morning’s headline, I thought, “Really, another one?” It seems like everywhere I look--newspapers, magazines, blogs, TV, Facebook--someone is reuniting with their lost pet. Are there more reunions due to microchips, pet detectives via the Internet, or is it simply more media coverage?

My cynical self knows that human interest stories involving pets sell papers, but is it possible that the mainstream media is recognizing how important our pets are to us? That they are worthy of making the front page because they are beloved family members and not “just” a dog?

Have you ever been reunited with a lost pet? If so, did you use Facebook or the Internet to help with the search? Did the media cover your reunion?
 

News: Guest Posts
Leave No Pet Behind
As hurricane season approaches, make plans for pets now

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it was painfully clear that people would do anything - even risk their own lives - to save their pets. At the Chatham County Hurricane Conference recently held in Georgia, participants discussed the importance of helping people plan for their pets' care in the event of a disaster. In Chatham County, crated dogs and cats will now be allowed on evacuation buses, emergency pet shelters will be set up adjacent to Red Cross shelters, and a mobile, emergency pet shelter will hold up to 50 dogs and 50 cats. As the tragic flooding in Nashville demonstrates, you don't have to live in a hurricane prone area to experience a natural disaster. Make plans for your pet now, before an emergency happens. For help organizing, grab a copy of Jenny Pavlovic's excellent Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book.

News: Guest Posts
$500K Name Change!
An Australian couple paid $300 for their puppy and $500,000 to save his life.

If you have dogs, people always ask "What kind of dogs do you have?" I often take this question as an invitation to blabber uncontrollably about my variety pack. "Oh, I have two Dalmatians who compete in agility, a Catahoula - are you familiar with that breed? They’re bred for herding and hunting. I also have a Pit Bull mix - she's super sweet - and a true Heinz 57. She looks like a hyena. Seriously, one of my neighbors asked me if she was one. She competes in Frisbee. Yeah, so I have five dogs. They range in age from 3 to 13 ... ."

Unfortunately for my audience, I can go on and on, but I'm usually interrupted the moment I  mention my Pit Bull mix. Some people are surprised that I have one of those “vicious” dogs. If possible, I invite them to meet my belly-rub-lovin’ Shelby so they can cast off those horrible stereotypes.

It would never occur to me to lie about Shelby’s breed. Hiding what she is only adds to the ignorance. And yet, if I lived in Queensland, Australia, I would rethink being so open about her bully breed background. Gold Coast couple Kylie Chivers and John Mokomoko paid $300 for their American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) puppy Tango. They soon learned that APBTs are deemed dangerous dogs in Queensland and subsequently banned. Their only choice was to move to a different state or allow him to be euthanized.  

Mokomoko’s job made it difficult for the entire family to move, so they opted to board Tango at a kennel out of state in New South Wales. They also initiated legal proceedings to change his breed from APBT to American Staffordshire Terrier (AST), which is not considered a dangerous dog in their region even though it can be argued that APBTs and ASTs are practically interchangeable. Take this quiz and see if you can find the Pit Bull. How did you do? (I thought I would ace it but was far from perfect!)

The couple have faithfully visited Tango for the past five years as they took their battle all the way to the Supreme Court. They spent $500,000 on this battle on behalf of Tango and other people determined to keep their dogs, regardless of what they’re called. You can read about the court’s findings here.  

Do you agree with the ruling? Why or why not?

News: Guest Posts
He Said, She Said, Dog Loses
There are two victims here

To read the original story, it seems pretty cut and dried. A jogger in Mercer County, Kentucky, passed by a dog on a tie out. The dog got loose and attacked her, requiring plastic surgery. Animal control takes the dog away to be quarantined then euthanized.

But if you read the comments, you'll find several different perspectives. For example, the mother-in-law of the dog's owner claims the dog has a sweet temperament (her name is Angel, after all), she is only occasionally tied out in the yard, the jogger was on private property, and lastly, the supposed "attack" was actually a few scratches to the woman's face. No bites. Nothing requiring plastic surgery.

The jogger's grandmother also comments, reiterating that her granddaughter does indeed require extensive surgery. The reporter of the story even jumps in, responding to criticism that he didn't get his facts straight. He says his source was the sheriff's department, based on its police reports and witness statements.

Some readers claim the newspaper is just trying to sell more papers by sensationalizing a “dog-bites-(wo)man” story. Others blame the jogger for being greedy and “sue happy.”

Regardless of the truth and any of the parties’ ulterior motives, Angel the dog dies through no fault of her own. How is that justice?
 

News: Guest Posts
Dead Dogs Found in Breeder’s Freezer
Think before you buy that cute puppy

Here are 45 reasons why you should never buy a puppy from a pet shop or backyard breeder: Alabama puppy miller Nannie Johnson was charged with 43 counts of cruelty to animals after police discovered 43 dead dogs on her property, 42 of whom were in her freezer. That's right, in her freezer. Authorities confiscated 28 emaciated dogs, but sadly, two dogs died after being rescued.

That makes for a total of 45 dead dogs. Think about that for a minute. This is just one woman running a puppy mill. How many more backyard breeders are out there abusing and using dogs just to make a quick buck? And clearly, Johnson needs counseling and/or psychiatric care. More than one person knew about her operation. Why didn't they come forward sooner, or try to get her some help?

There are responsible breeders out there, but it requires research and patience on the part of the potential puppy buyer. Too many people just impulsively fall for that cute puppy in the window without taking the time to think about where he came from. We live in a world of instant gratification; at what cost?

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