Lisa Wogan

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.

News: Guest Posts
Expanding Rescue’s Reach through Soccer

Writing for The Bark, I’m always hearing ideas for making the lives of dogs richer, safer and healthier. From ways to increase spay/neuter and more engaging toys to surprising activities and rescue initiatives. Not every idea takes off but it’s the energy and creativity I find so inspiring. I wish there was an equivalent in the dog world to venture capital competitions for tech startups—a gathering for dog-interested companies, foundations and individuals to learn about and support for-profit and not-for-profit pitches. Like Mark Lukas’s soccer dogs idea.

Lukas owns the Florida-based Soccer Collies, which features his two fired-up soccer-playing Border Collies, Ms. Z and Bek, who have performed at various events including L.A. Galaxy games, SoccerNation Expo, festivals, private parties and much more. The dogs shoot and score on their two-footed goaltenders. Participants love the soccer dogs and often say they want one of their own, which fits beautifully with Lukas’s larger vision.

He wants to introduce a simple soccer program into shelters across the country. Essentially, shelter staff would identify ball-motivated dogs and promote them for rescue on a soccer dog website. There might even be a video component. In the end, you draw soccer families into rescue and the dogs end up in active, playful families where they are likely to have plenty of exercise and stimulation. Lukas has been developing the idea with the Humane Society of Marion County, Fla.

I like that the idea could reach into an active, organized community that might otherwise be a little outside the everyday rescue conversation—expanding the pool of adopters.

Dog's Life: Travel
Have Dog, Will Travel: Southern Comfort

Country music is the big draw in Nashville—home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, honky-tonks, and pickin’ parties. But there’s more. Think southern hospitality with a hip vibe and a pup-loving beat. AAA ranked Nashville among the top ten cities to visit with a dog, and one reason is the Hermitage Hotel, where pups merrily pad in the footsteps of six presidents, Bette Davis and even Gene Autry’s equine co-star Champion. The whole scene is deluxe—from the Beaux-Arts lobby with its sienna marble, stained-glass ceiling and overstuffed furniture (perfect for afternoon tea) to down-right indulgence with luxurious pet beds, dog walking and a room service pet menu prepared in the Capitol Grille kitchen. (These same five-star chefs cook up delicious farm-to-table meals for folks on the other end of the leash, featuring produce from a landmark organic garden.) The carefully restored, 100-year-old inn is an Historic Hotel of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the hotel is located in East Nashville among lovely, old antebellum homes that can best be appreciated during languid dog strolls. There are no breed or size restrictions, but there is a $50 fee per pet, per night.

The Hermitage Hotel, 231 Sixth Avenue North, Nashville, TN, 37219
thehermitagehotel.com, 888.888.9414


HIKE Trek in the footsteps of Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians along the Old Natchez Trace trail—a prehistoric footpath that connects Nashville to Natchez, Miss. nps.gov/natt

WANDER Window-shop eclectic boutiques in 12South, an up-and-coming neighborhood, where smart, young locals hang with their co-pilots. 12south.org

EAT & DRINK Dog-friendly patios abound in the 12South neighborhood, including 12 South Taproom and Grille and Rumours Wine Bar. A patch of sidewalk in front of tiny Las Paletas is the place to savor Mexican popsicles made from old family recipes, such as hibiscus or avocado.

PARTY Lawn chairs, blankets and laid-back pups are part of the scene at Full Moon Pickin’ Parties (May–Oct.). These informal bluegrass evenings raise funds for flood mitigation in the parks and programs for inner city kids. friendsofwarnerparks.com

GROOVE In late summer, Live on the Green, a free, six-week concert series at Public Square Park, highlights Music City musicians and eco-awareness, and welcomes leashed dogs. liveonthegreen.net

PLAY Nashville has three off-leash parks, including Centennial Dog Park on the West End near Vanderbilt University and Shelby Dog Park closer to the Hermitage Hotel. Take note: Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes are, unfortunately, not permitted in city dog parks. nashville.gov/parks

News: Guest Posts
A Different Sort of War Dog [Video]
Scenes from the life of a therapy dog deployed in Afghanistan

Prepare for a double take in these videos from the Army’s 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment filmed in mid-April. A three-year-old Boston Terrier relaxes inside an armored vehicle defended by at least one visible gunner stationed in a hatch. He walks down dusty war-ravaged roads. Plays fetch and relaxes in sandbagged shelters.

How did this spunky, little pup end up here? His “therapy dog” vest is the key. Hank is a service dog deployed to Kunar Province, Afghanistan with Army psychologist Captain Katie Kopp as part of a new combat stress initiative. Hank is there to comfort the soldiers and help make Capt. Kopp more approachable.

I have mixed feelings watching Hank in a war zone. He looks so vulnerable in this context. But when I see and hear how the soldiers react to Hank and witness the nuts and bolts of his life (the b-roll)—plenty of stimulation, activities, interaction and play—I think his is a more engaged and meaningful existence than many dogs have here at home.

B-roll scenes from Hank’s deployment:

Interview with Capt. Katie Kopp, Brigade Psychologist, Co. C, 704 BSB, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and Sgt. Nahum Campos, Infantry Soldier, HHC 2-12 Infantry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division:

News: Guest Posts
Dog Saves Movie, Once Again
Hallmark channels the pet adoption message

Cut from the same pastel fabric as most Hallmark movies, Duke is a classic tearjerker-with-a-happy ending—made a whole lot better by a dog. Marine Sergeant Terry Pulaski (Steven Weber of “Wings” and “Brothers & Sisters”) plays an Afghan war veteran with serious physical and emotional injuries that drive him to leave his wife and young daughter. The bulk of the story focuses on his life ten years later, which finds him living in a trailer with Duke, a bright-eyed and endearing former stray, played by a talented, especially when pretending to be sick, 10-month-old Border Collie named Zeke. (Duke premieres Saturday, April 28, 8 p.m. ET/PT, 7 p.m. CT on Hallmark Movie Channel).

There is a lot that is predictable in this story, which is “inspired by true events,” but that didn’t stop me from sniveling my way through several tissues. I especially liked the scenes of Duke comforting Pulaski through severe bouts of PTSD, and I was moved by the attempt to portray Pulaski’s grief over Duke’s death (the rumors of which are greatly exaggerated) as deep, nuanced and lasting. In the end, I was a little embarrassed by how Pulaski seemed more enthusiastic to reunite with his canine family than with his human family—but even that had a ring of truth.

The film is part of Hallmark Channel’s Pet Project, launched in early April “to celebrate the joy and enrichment pets bring to our lives, while shining a spotlight on this country’s epidemic of pet homelessness and encouraging the public to adopt.” PetSmart Charities and American Humane Association are partners in this initiative. In addition to original movies, the Pet Project features pet-centric programming, including the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards; a microsite featuring videos, photos, pet care tips and pet-finder resources; and public service announcements voiced by Hallmark talent encouraging people to find their next pet through adoption—which is a feel-good message I can totally get behind.

Check out what Zeke’s fellow actors have to say in the video below.

News: Guest Posts
What Do You Do for Earth Day?
One suggestion, follow your dog’s lead

Earth Day—the giant environmental teach-in that became a four-decades-strong spark for eco-activism around the world—is spinning, like Earth, back around.

In the past at The Bark, we’ve focused on promoting green living choices to reduce our environmental footprints and paw prints—and these are still major priorities. But this year, we’re marking Earth Day by emphasizing something a little more fundamental: nature.

Last summer, editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska reported on Richard Louv’s ground-breaking work on nature-deficit disorder. Simply, that in this digital age, we are getting out in nature less frequently with negative physical and mental health consequences, including everything from obesity and anxiety to depression.

But those of us with dogs in our lives have a distinct advantage. Our pups need to get out—and the greener, the leafier, the wilder the setting the better. So on this Earth Day, we’re celebrating and appreciating their contribution to our lives. With their wagging tails and eager grins, our dogs insist we get our daily dose of "vitamin N."

How does you dog help you get closer to nature?

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Prison Pups
Pioneering program gives both women and dogs a second chance

Connie lathers a small brown Terrier in a waist-high tub. She wears a T-shirt and waterproof apron, and wields the gallon jug of shampoo as though it were much lighter. Her face is pink and shines from the heat of dog dryers and exertion.

“She’s a little mad about this whole ordeal,” Connie says, referring to the bather, Bella, as she massages soap down the dog’s legs and paws, rinses, and scrubs her muzzle with no-tears shampoo. She works quickly with the confident, gentle touch of a seasoned pro.

She is a pro. Mawyer has been working with dogs since 1995, and, if all goes well, she’ll continue until her release date, which is currently set for 2017. An inmate at the Washington Corrections Center for Women near Gig Harbor, about an hour south of Seattle, she is one of 13 women working in the Prison Pet Partnership Program (PPPP). Only a select few of the total inmate population of more than 800 learn kennel management and grooming skills and provide these services to the public.

On the face of it, PPPP is a simple voc/ed program, preparing women to work in the pet-care industry after they are released. But unlike toiling in the kitchen or the laundry, or participating in horticulture, construction or welding workshops, women in this program work with warm, furry, affectionate creatures. In prison, that makes all the difference.

“Because most of the programs deal with inanimate objects, you don’t continue to grow emotionally,” says Mawyer, who was 21 when she began serving her time. “This program has allowed me to mature. I think I would have shut down. You can’t do that with dogs. You have to leave your emotions open, therefore you’re emotionally learning and growing.”

In addition to her grooming duties, Mawyer is training a pair of rescue dogs, Alaska and Stella, to become service, seizure or therapy dogs, or to live as pets. Most program participants eventually train rescue and shelter dogs.

“It seems like no matter what dogs have gone through,” Mawyer says, “they still come out being very loving, helpful and ready to do something for you. That’s the miracle of working with dogs.” It’s tough to reconcile Mawyer’s crime with her compassion and insight, except to imagine that she illustrates the rehabilitation ideal.

The Power to Change
The Prison Pet Partnership Program was the inspiration of Sister Pauline Quinn, who is generally credited with being the first person to create a dog-training program for prisoners in this country. Her own early days were as fraught as any felon’s. As a child, Sister Pauline suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse; ran away from home; was homeless off and on, and in and out of institutions; gave up a child conceived though rape; and even resorted to self-mutilation. Eventually, she became a Catholic and a Dominican nun. But she credits the companionship of a German Shepherd named Joni with setting her on the road to mental health.

“It is important to feel and be loved, and a dog can do that for you,” Sister Pauline said in an interview with Lifetime Television, which made a film about her, Within These Walls, in 2001. “This is the first step in healing; then you can continue on and grow to even greater things.”

It is this simple idea that persuaded Dr. Leo Bustad, a veterinarian studying the human-animal bond at Washington State University, and a pioneer in animal-assisted therapy, to advocate for Sister Pauline’s dog-training program, which she launched at the Gig Harbor prison in 1981.

By 1991, the private nonprofit organization, working under contract to the Department of Corrections, expanded its mission to include kennel and grooming services. Inmate trainers have helped place more than 700 dogs in working partnerships or in homes as “paroled pets.” And the program has been emulated, at least in part, at prisons all around the country and internationally.

Tangible Results
The Washington program is unusual in that inmates participate in training all the way through and including facilitating the dogs’ transitions to their new lives. In the majority of these types of programs, inmates raise puppies who are finished and placed by trainers offsite. “Here, they see the whole spectrum of what they are working for,” says training coordinator Grace VanDyke. “They get to see their impact on the clients’ lives.”

That’s what inspires Jesyka. Her first dog in the program was a brindle-furred Greyhound mix named Leif. “He was really, really skinny and sick. He had ticks all over him,” says Jesyka, who overcame a serious bug phobia to clean him up. Jesyka, who has long carrot-blonde hair and talks a mile a minute, is more than halfway through a 15-year sentence. She sits at a picnic table in the center of the dog annex. Next to her are Leif and his person, Ashlee Eddy, and Ashlee’s mother, Carol Blakely. It’s been a long while since dog, client and trainer have seen each other.

Eddy struggles with serious learning disabilities and suffers as many as 30 petit mal seizures a day. Leif’s job is to nudge her hand to bring her out of a seizure or to stand guard and bark a warning if she freezes or collapses in a public place. Until Leif came into her life three years ago, the 22-year-old had to be kept under constant surveillance. Now, with Leif at her side, she doesn’t need so much monitoring. She can bathe alone, hang out with friends, walk outside by herself. She talks about working for a veterinarian someday.

“We went to prison to find freedom,” Blakely says. “I knew that a dog would help Ashlee. I didn’t think that it would impact all of our lives like it did.” For the first time in decades, Blakely is able to sleep through the night.

During the training, Jesyka and Eddy became friends, and the inmate-trainer basks in her young client’s obvious success. “In here, time stands still,” Jesyka says. “Your friends have had their jobs for 10, 15 years. Have their cars paid off. Part of their house is paid off. Kids. A husband. And what do I have? I have Ashlee. If it ever came down to that, if I ever had to say, you know, like when you go to heaven, What have you done? I’d say, ‘Ashlee.’”

Benefits Ripple Out
Like the motion caused by a rock in water, the benefits of Prison Pet Partnership Program ripple out. The inmates bond with “their” dogs and gain marketable skills, and come away with the confidence they have learned from their ability to transform neglected or unsocialized dogs into healthy and well-adjusted pets. They also avoid getting into trouble; inmates must be major-infraction-free for a full year and minor-infraction-free for 90 days—and stay that way—to qualify for the program.

They also appear to have better success on the outside. Of the 140 participants for whom program director Elizabeth Rivard has records, only four have re-offended (a little less than 3 percent, far below the state average recidivism rate for women of 35 percent).

Those with disabilities and limited means benefit too. They receive the life-expanding assistance and companionship of a service dogs for free. Assistance Dogs International estimates the average cost of training a service dog to be $10,000. Dogs also get a second chance.

“We would have a much higher success rate if we bred dogs for this purpose,” says Rivard. Only one in 15 to 20 dogs make it as service animals; the others become pets. “But the mission of this program is a second opportunity.” Rivard says it’s the “power of change” that has kept her at the prison for almost 10 years.

Christa knows all about dogs and second chances. She was an inmate working in the office at PPPP when a batch of year-old Poodle and Labradoodle puppies came in. Rescued after nine months in a hoarder’s basement, they were encrusted with feces. “You’d touch their skin and it would just crawl,” Christa says. Among them was a black Standard Poodle named Ramone. For six months, Christa dedicated every free moment to him. “You’re not supposed to sleep with your dogs in the program,” Christa says about the dog who shared her pillow. “I was like, yeah, that’s not going to happen.”

Ramone came a long way under her care, but after two months with an adoptive family, he failed to bond with them, and was returned to the prison shortly before Christa was to be released. She had served a little less than half of a 14-year sentence, and is serving the balance of her sentence on community placement. She was permitted to take Ramone home with her.

“It was really scary, because they’d never let anybody take a dog home before. It was like, ‘Oh great, she’s just getting out on the streets, so let’s give her a dog,’” Christa remembers. “It was just crazy. But I love this dog and I couldn’t imagine being without him and he couldn’t imagine being without me.”

She moved to Bellingham, north of Seattle, where she now lives with two of her three teenage daughters and Ramone. Soon after her release, she landed a job in customer service at the Whatcom Humane Society, where she worked for more than two years. On the day we talked, she’d just received a glowing review after six months working the front desk for a veterinarian—a stellar comment not only on her job performance, but also on her own efforts and the program that helped her land on her feet.

Groom and Board
Live near Gig Harbor, Wash., and need to board your dog or have him groomed? Check out services available through the Prison Pet Partnership Program. With 28 indoor dog kennel runs and full-service grooming, the facility operated by PPPP has a lot to offer. (They also care for cats.) All kennel workers are Pet Care Technicians certified through the American Boarding Kennel Association. For details, visit the website, phone 253.858.4240 or email.

News: Guest Posts
Advances in Veterinary Care Come at a Cost
How do you put a price on love?

In his recent story for The New York Times, William Grimes provides an interesting look at recent advances in veterinary care, especially in the treatment of cancer (including bone marrow transplants), urinary-tract disorders, and even dementia. Thanks to improved technology, drugs, surgical techniques and holistic care—there are many more options for keeping our dogs and cats healthier longer. All of which comes as a comfort to those of us with pets.

But as with human medical care, these interventions come at a price, often a high price, for animals who are only very rarely covered by insurance. Bills can easily run into the thousands of dollars, even the tens of thousands, making for a difficult cost/benefit calculation. Grimes suggests it comes down to the question: “Precisely how much do I love my dog?”

I’m not sure that’s really the question. Sometimes loving your dog might mean forgoing expensive treatment. Extending a dog’ life by a few months with painful surgery, frustrating crate-rest and a long, slow recovery—regardless of the cost—may not be the most loving gesture.

If you read the story, be sure to check out the comments. The story sparked an interesting conversation about how we value our dogs, with many personal, heartfelt stories. I’d love to hear how Bark readers have navigated these difficult questions.

News: Guest Posts
Grant Opportunity for Shelters and Rescues
Pedigree Foundation seeks to fund creative efforts to increase dog adoptions

Yesterday, the Pedigree Foundation announced the opening of the application process for its 2012 Innovation Grants. Ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 each, grants are awarded to qualifying organizations based on demonstrated use of creative programs aimed at increasing dog adoptions.

Last year, the Foundation awarded $150,000 in the form of seven Innovation Grants (out of nearly 200 applications). Among the recipients were the SPCA of Monterey County, Calif., for its “Take the Lead” program, which pairs shelter dogs in need of training and socialization with at-risk youth in need of opportunities for success and positive reinforcement. Oklahoma Humane Society of Oklahoma City received funding for a transport program. And Paw Prints Humane Society of Sedona, Ariz., received funding to purchase a mobile adoption vehicle to increase adoptions, community education and awareness, and to serve as an emergency evacuation vehicle for at-risk animals in the northern Arizona area.

I love these grant competitions because not only do they provide much-needed funding, they help stir the pot of innovation and spread the word about effective strategies for tackling what feels like the intractable problem of animal overpopulation.

For a list of past grant recipients and complete set of guidelines, visit pedigreefoundation.org. Applications will be accepted through June 29, 2012, 4 p.m. CST.

News: Guest Posts
Dog is My Co-Pilot Song [Video]
Does The Bark have a soundtrack?

You have the magazine, the t-shirt, the bumpersticker—what about the song? Song? Who knew there was a song? Not us, at least not until Bark reader Sara Wagner pinged us that Ben Hassenger had written a tune that could have come out of the Berkeley offices of The Bark.

In “Dog Is My Co-Pilot,” Hassenger celebrates all the ways that a dog is a pal on the highway of life. One of my favorite lines, “…when the traction slips, he will be my rumble strips.”

But Bark magazine’s slogan was not Hassenger’s inspiration. “I wrote this song about my dog Jake, who looked sort of like a big Jack Russell,” the Okemos, Michigan-based singer-songwriter explained in an email. “I adopted him at a flea market (he didn’t have any on him, thank goodness) in Royal Oak, Mich., in 1993. The song is probably the most popular one I have ever written and has been a hit in performances from Michigan to Vietnam and China. It seems to strike a chord with dog lovers everywhere.”

An English as a Second Language teacher, Hassenger uses music in his work. “It helps with pronunciation, vocabulary and culture and it’s more fun than the standard approaches to language learning,” he says.

Hassenger performs as a solo artist and with various duos and combos and plays the guitar and ukulele. He even started a ukulele orchestra at his school. He has also traveled to Vietnam, China and South Korea, using music to teach English and American culture.

Jake died in August 2009 at the age of 15 years and 8 months, and for now, Hassenger rides without a co-pilot. But he says he’s not lacking for animal companionship because he spends lots of time with his girlfriend’s Aussie/Blue Heeler mix and her Calico cat and he dog-sits for friends. “I’m sure I will get my own dogs and cats again in the future,” he says. “It’s just not the right time at this moment.”

You can experience a little more of the magic of Jake in another original Hassenger tune, “Jake,” with a slideshow.

News: Guest Posts
Free Eye Exams for Service Dogs
Plus, five simple eye-care tips for all pups

One of my favorite types of dog stories to read or write are those that feature working dogs. From guide and assistance dogs to search-and-rescue and arson-detection dogs, I am always inspired by their ability and willingness to do what we ask and in the process transform our lives. So I was thrilled to hear about the 5th Annual ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event.

Channeling the spirit of service, more than 200 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., as well as Canada and Puerto Rico, provide free eye exams to thousands of service dogs. Last year, a record 4,000 service animals received exams.

During the complete ocular exam, the veterinary specialists look for problems including redness, squinting, cloudy corneas, retinal disease, early cataracts and other serious abnormalities. Early detection and treatment are vital. Just think about how critical good vision is to these dogs with jobs and all of those who depend on them.

To qualify, dogs must be active “working animals” that were certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in a formal training program. Additional registration details can be found at www.ACVOeyeexam.org.

Owners/agents for the dog(s) must first register the animal online from April 1–30, 2012. Once registered online, the owner/agent will receive a registration number and can then contact a participating veterinary ophthalmologist directly to schedule an appointment, during the month of May. Appointment dates and times are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Eye care basics
Meanwhile, good eye care is important for all dogs, and the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists has provided these five simple steps for protecting all our dogs’ precious vision.

  • Clean ocular discharge with a warm, wet washcloth.
  • Do not use eye medications prescribed for a previous eye problem for a new eye problem.
  • When buying a pure bred dog ask if the parents have had their eyes certified by an ophthalmologist.
  • If you suspect vision loss or eye discharge persists for more than a day, see your veterinarian.
  • Don’t let your dog hang his or her head out of the window when you are driving.
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