Lisa Wogan

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

News: Guest Posts
Animal Joy
Jonathan Balcombe studies the animal pleasure principle

In our house, we call it sun-dogging: When Lulu and Renzo stretch out on the hot slate of the porch or cool grass and heat up in the sun. Their black fur gets pretty hot to the touch, but still they soak it all in, moving to shade long after it seemed like a good idea. We love watching them sun-dog because they seem to be enjoying themselves so much.

Apparently, there is a scientific term for the habit, “behavioral thermoregulation.” But it just doesn’t capture the pleasure of the moment. “Oh, honey, look at Lulu behaviorially thermoregulating.”

Based on recent reviews and preview materials, I’m thinking animal behaviorist Jonathan Balcombe would understand “sun-dogging.” In his new book, The Exultant Ark, he doesn’t mince words about animals experiencing pleasure—the study of which he calls, hedonic ethology. Yum.

Of course, you can’t really get away with saying animals experience pleasure (a little too anthropomorphic), so in amongst the photos he makes his case for the biological imperative of pleasure, but I’m happy to let the photos do the work. I mean, look at that cover!

More about The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure.

Watch an interview with Jonathan Balcombe (in parts on YouTube):

News: Guest Posts
Driving While Distracted—Loose Dogs
New survey reveals the extent of the problem

Oh, this isn’t good. Nearly one in five respondents to AAA/Kurgo survey admitted to taking their hands off the wheel to keep dogs from climbing in the front seat. Fifty-two percent of those who travel with a dog admitted to taking their attention away from the road to pet their dog, and a scary one-quarter used their arms or hands to restrain a dog while applying the brakes.

What difference does it make? The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash. And, for an unrestrained dog, a crash can mean serious injury and even death.

This might not be such a big deal if dogs in cars were an infrequent occurrence, but a side effect of our great love affair is that our dogs are in our cars a lot. Fifty-six percent of the respondents to the survey conducted by the venerable Automobile Club of America and the manufacturer of pet travel products (including restraints) said their dogs had been in the car at least once in the past month.

Read more about the report including why people say they travel with unrestrained dogs and the benefits of pet restraints.

News: Guest Posts
Norman Rockwell’s Best Friends
New exhibition focuses on dogs’ role

It’s hard to imagine the world of Norman Rockwell (1894–1978) without the sweet, loyal presence of dogs. Sleeping peacefully, waiting patiently or eagerly joining in children’s adventures, dogs were an abiding presence in his Saturday Evening Post cover paintings, story illustrations, advertisements and family Christmas cards throughout his career. They were also constant companions in Rockwell’s life—from his own dogs to neighbors’ pups, borrowed as models.

The current installation, “It’s a Dog’s Life: Norman Rockwell Paints Man’s Best Friend” at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., explores the artist’s furry muses through original artworks, photographs and archival materials that offer insights into his artistic goals and working methods.

“His fondness for dogs comes through when you look through photos of him in his home and around his studio,” says Joyce K. Schiller, PhD, curator for the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies. “One of my favorite ones is Rockwell painting at his easel with his last dog, Pitter, asleep on the floor next to him.” This image is on display in “It’s a Dog’s Life,” which runs through Nov. 11, 2011.

Rockwell didn’t say much about his habit of including dogs in his work publicly or in his correspondence, Schiller explains. But he did include a little on the subject in an advanced illustration course written in the 1940s and included in Rockwell on Rockwell: How I Make A Picture (Watson-Guptill Publishers; Famous Artists School, 1979).

“Animals are often the center of interest in story telling pictures and at other times they can be included naturally in a picture. In such cases, they are very appealing and helpful,” he writes. But, he also adds, “I do not like to see an appealing animal put into a picture just to save the job.”

News: Guest Posts
More Dog Sense News
John Bradshaw’s Bill of Rights and video

I'm a big fan of Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet by John Bradshaw published earlier this year. In it, the director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol uses the latest research to shred the myth of dog as cute wolf in need of a dominant boss. Instead, he offers up a complex portrait of unique and dependent animals. Examining what is understood about dogs’ brainpower, emotional states, sensory capacities, he uses science to advocate for a better life for companion dogs.

Bradshaw has boiled down the concepts of what dogs’ deserve into 11 basic rights, which I’ve printed out and pasted to my fridge as a gentle reminder. More recently, Bradshaw released a video that introduces the concepts in the book and also gives a sense of the man. There’s something about Bradshaw’s approach that just makes me want to be a better parent to my pups. Check it out:

News: Guest Posts
Owney Will Travel with the Mail Again [UPDATED]
Railway Mail Service mascot gets his own stamp

A few years ago, during an East Coast vacation with my pre-teen nieces, we did the museum circuit in Washington, D.C., including a stop at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum. It was my sister’s idea, and I thought a likely snooze-fest. But I was wrong; the museum is a fascinating place with a particular jewel, Owney, the canine mascot of the Railway Mail Service. Still looking rather jaunty in all his taxidermic glory, Owney wears a little brown jacket decked with the various medals and tags he accumulated on his many journeys.

For those who don’t know of about Owney, he was the beloved by clerks on mail-sorting trains at the end of the nineteenth century and became an icon of American postal lore.

According to the National Postal Museum, the stray Terrier-mix appeared at the Post Office in Albany, N.Y., in the 1880s. Clerks took a liking to him and named him Owney.

Fond of riding in postal wagons, Owney followed mailbags onto trains and soon became a good-luck charm to Railway Mail Service employees, who made him their unofficial mascot. Working in the Railway Mail Service was highly dangerous; according to the National Postal Museum, more than 80 mail clerks were killed in train wrecks and more than 2,000 were injured between 1890 and 1900. However, it was said that no train ever met with trouble while Owney was aboard.

As Owney traveled the country, clerks affixed medals and tags to his collar to document his travels. In August 1895, Owney journeyed around the world, sailing out of Tacoma, Wash., on a steamer bound for Hong Kong. Upon his return during Christmas week, the Los Angeles Times reported that he had visited Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Another reporter claimed the Emperor of Japan had awarded the dog a medal bearing the Japanese coat of arms. Owney’s triumphant return to American shores was covered by newspapers nationwide.

After Owney died in Toledo, Ohio, on June 11, 1897, mail clerks raised funds to have his body preserved.

This month, Owney will follow the mail again. On July 27, the U.S. Postal Service (no stranger to putting pups on stamps) will issue a first-class 44-cent forever stamp in his honor. The stamp features a new, and quite handsome, illustration of Owney by artist Bill Bond of Arlington, Va.

► A dedication ceremony will take place at the National Postal Museum on Wednesday, July 27 at 11 am. It’s free and open to the public.

Dog's Life: Travel
Dog-Friendly Travel: Boston
Have Dog, Will Travel

Let your dog sniff the ages in the country’s oldest park, where cows once grazed. The Boston Common has a small zone where leash-less dogs are permitted in the early mornings and evenings. In addition, the city’s extensive Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks make for excellent, mostly leashed, walking, especially Jamaica Pond. Of Boston’s two official off-leash parks, the Peters Park Dog Run in the South End is nice, but the off-leash go-to is Fresh Pond, across the river in Cambridge.

With a staggering number of eggheadsper- square-mile, Boston has wonderful bookstores (remember those?) and quite a few permit canine browsers—including the Harvard Bookstore, Rodney’s Bookstore and Schoenhof’s Foreign Books in Cambridge. Stretch your legs during a leashed walk around Harvard Yard.

Rock the Cradle of Liberty during a self-guided revolutionary history tour along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail—from Boston Common to Bunker Hill. You can catch the T home; leashed, well-behaved dogs are allowed on the subway during off-peak hours.

Leashed dogs are welcome at the SoWa Open Market. The thriving Sunday market on the South End is a market mash-up of artisan and vintage wares and farmers’ market, plus, food trucks! Look for Polka Dog Bakery, named for a one-eyed former stray from Puerto Rico. Sundays, May to September, 10 am–4 pm.

Bring your pup shopping in the Back Bay neighborhood. They can join you at Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie, Lord & Taylor and Filene’s Basement, among others. Then chill with pups on the patio at the Globe Bar and Café (565 Boylston St.) or treat your buddy to Boston-made organic Yöghund Frozen Yogurt from Fish & Bone pet boutique (217 Newbury St.).

Doggie heaven is just a ferry ride (and a short drive) away from Rowes Wharf at Bare Cove Park, a former shipbuilding center and depot in Hingham, Mass. Dogs under voice control can meander wide, paved pathways through 400-plus acres of woods and meadows. While your four-legged buddy sleeps off the run, buzz around the seaside village, which is home to America’s oldest continuously worshipped-in church, the Old Ship.

News: Guest Posts
Hiking with a Dog in Oregon
Here’s a guide for you

I live in the Northwest, where we love to grouse about our rainy, gray weather. But as summer warms up (finally!), it’s satisfying to know it won’t heat up so much that I can’t take my dogs hiking—one of our favorite activities. There are only a few days a year along the coast of Oregon and Washington, when mornings and evenings, at least, aren’t cool enough for trekking.

Finding hikes that are good for dogs isn’t always as easy as it sounds so when I break into new terrain, I regularly rely on Mountaineers Books’ Best Hikes with Dogs. (Full disclosure: I’ve written two books for Mountaineers, so I may be a little biased. I’ve seen their dog-passion from the inside, which includes several pups flopping around their Seattle office).

That said, the books in this series do an excellent job of selecting from among many hikes, routes that are a particularly good match for dogs, and that’s what I’m after. What’s a good hike for a dog? It should have ample shade on the trail; streams, rivers or lakes for cooling off; no livestock, packhorses or off-road vehicles; minimal or no poison oak or ivy; trails that are easy on dog paws; few or no treacherous cliffs; few crowds; and, finally, where possible, no leash requirement. I’m happy there are dog-loving hikers who will face the disappointment of a hike gone awry to find trails that meet these criteria.

In the case of Mountaineers’ recent guide, Best Hikes with Dogs: Oregon, 2nd edition, Ellen Morris Bishop enlisted three canine trail testers to vet 76 hikes around the state. I’ve sampled a few in the book—Sandy River Delta, Forest Park Wildwood Trail, Wahclella Falls and Elk Meadows Trail on Mount Hood—and can attest that they deserve to be included. Bishop is concise and thorough with her directions and advice (there are maps and black and white photos as well) but I love how she manages to see the trail from the dog’s perspective, pointing out where a pup might be bewitched by scat or an ant nest and warning about zippy mountain bikes or children. I have dog-eared (what a perfect word) several pages for hikes we want to tackle next time we’re in the state. I can’t wait.

Dog's Life: Humane
Putting the Art in Heart
HeARTs Speak rallies artists to volunteer their talents to help animals

If you need proof of the power of a good photograph to get a shelter dog noticed, just take a look at our cover. Beau, Paisley, Portia and Bella were foster puppies (bouncing back from malnutrition and parvo) when we were seduced by their portraits, submitted for our Smiling Dog contest by Jenny Froh. A professional pet and portrait photographer in Flower Mound, Texas, Froh was fostering Paisley and Portia when she photographed the four littermates for Life Is Better Rescue in Colorado. (As we went to press, they had been adopted.)

While not every well-photographed dog in need is going to end up on the cover of a magazine, many of the people who do rescue work know that a really good portrait goes a long way toward fi nding homes for companion animals in need.

“Just taking a nice photo of a dog in the grass wasn’t enough,” says Caitlin Quinn, communications and grants manager for the Animal Farm Foundation in Dutchess County, N.Y. “Photos need to engage adopters looking for a new family member, so having that creative eye capture more of the dog’s spirit makes a big difference in terms of making adopters stop and take notice.”

That can be especially important in the case of the Animal Farm Foundation, which rescues Pit Bulls. “My photographs help present these dogs as the truly amazing beings they are: funny, adorable, forgiving, kind, sensitive,” says Lisa Prince Fishler, a photographer in Hudson Valley, N.Y. Her volunteer work for the foundation inspired her to launch HeARTs Speak in early 2010. This nonprofit alliance encourages photographers and artists to offer their critical skills to shelters and rescues pro bono.

In addition to providing advice and encouragement to its growing network of members, which includes both aspiring pet photographers and seasoned pros like Froh, HeARTs Speak aims to make it easy for members by building a library of templates (such as letters offering their services to rescue groups and shelters) and creating educational webinars that focus on everything from photographic techniques to animal behavior. In the future, the group may also be able to provide stipends for photographers.

News: Guest Posts
Reason #179 to Love Senior Dogs
They photograph fantastically, just ask Nancy LeVine

One of my dogs is getting on in years. She’s 13-plus, a little stiff in the hind end, her black fur is flecked with more white than in the past and her irises are cloudy. She’s getting The Look—a world-wise sweetness that melts my heart on a regular basis.

Nancy LeVine knows all about The Look. She’s photographed senior dogs around the country, capturing their nobility, grace and fragility. We featured LeVine’s work in Bark (March/April 2009), and now you can view Lens Culture's online gallery of some of these portraits. It’s absolutely worth a visit. (Oh, and she does commissions!)

News: Guest Posts
Papier-Mâché Dog Vases
Jessi Hull takes our idea and runs with it!

Like quite a few Bark readers, Jessi Hull of New Boston, N.H., was inspired by our article on how to make papier-mâché dog sculptures. (See a gallery of reader creations.) But, she took it further than most. She made 15 canine papier-mâché vases, which she used as centerpieces for her May 21, 2011 wedding. (About the time our story on dogs in weddings came out in Bark.) How’d she do it? Jessi breaks it down:

Big idea: Our wedding was in our backyard and was children- and dog-friendly. Dogs were specifically invited, and our dogs were our wedding party. When I told my fiancé and friends of my plans to make the vases into papier-mâché dogs—no one believed I could do it. So I made three examples by myself—at which point everyone came on board.

Papier-mâché party: My girlfriends threw a bridal shower party for me, during which we made all 15 dog vases and one cat vase by my now sister-in-law. The party was filled with laughter and very messy! Our hands were covered in papier-mâché, so we had to drink wine with straws! I painted them all myself and another friend helped put on the collars and wedding-sticker dog tags.

Wedding day: It was especially fun for those guests who helped shape the dogs to see the finished products at our wedding. The vases became the centerpieces on each picnic table. We filled them with lilacs, which another friend gathered for us. Everyone loved them! Now they are proudly displayed in our kitchen, atop our kitchen cabinets.

Technique: I used a mason jar as the body of the dog, built the shape out with newspaper, and used newspaper and toilet paper rolls to form the head, legs and tail. Then I covered all with masking tape, as your article suggested, papier-mâché and painted. I used our wedding sticker as the tag for the collars on all the dogs. Total hours to make—probably about 24 actual hours of work on five different days (needed time for drying at various stages), with a total of 10 people involved.

Inspiration: Jessi and her husband are vegans, and they regularly foster dogs for a rescue group called WOOFFUN (Waiting for Our Forever Homes Up North). But they also have four dogs of their own, who served as models for several of the vases (see photos). Their brown and white Chihuahua, Pidgewidgeon (like in Harry Potter), is 8-years-old and came from the Anderson County South Carolina shelter, where she was a backyard breeder discard once she was too old to have puppies. Diego is a three-year-old tricolor mutt from a private rescue person in Manchester, N.H. Cisco, black with a grey muzzle, is 12 years old. He is being treated for and in remission from Leukemia, Jessi found him as a stray wandering the back roads of upstate N.Y. Finally, her six-month-old Beagle mix, Jeter, is their our most recent foster from Georgia. "We fell in love and decided to adopt him as a wedding present to ourselves," Jessi says.