activities & sports
News: Guest Posts
A Night With Friends
Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter enjoy a private screening of Hotel For Dogs.

“I don’t usually go to these kinds of movies,” Elaine Greene told us this morning, the day after a special screening of Hotel for Dogs in Dearborn, Mich. “I shed some tears but it really inspired me to break through roadblocks and get back to our important work.” As the executive director of Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter, Greene identified with the movie’s young protagonists, who defy challenges (lots of naysaying adults) to provide shelter to a lovable assortment of strays.

And Greene wasn’t alone. Dozens of Dearborn Animal Shelter friends, family, employees and animal welfare colleagues attended the screening at the Fairlane AMC in Dearborn Town Center. The shelter was chosen from among 78 organizations nominated by dedicated supporters around the country in a contest sponsored by Paramount Pictures and The Bark.


Attending the screening were a few special guests including Anne Enright, who takes some of the shelter’s needier doggie guests “into her five-star pooch bed and breakfast/charm school, otherwise known as the Enright family home, to give them the TLC and cultivation they need to successfully find their new home;” Sue Ringey, whe leads the shelter’s in-house training program, organizing and training volunteers “to socialize and teach manners to our doggie guests during their stay at our Hotel, which helps them find a permanent residence with their new family;” and Tracy, Kevin, Sara and Max Nosel, who demonstrated the most team spirit during Dearborn Shelter's recent Fourth Annual Mutt Strut.

The shelter is located in Dearborn, west of Detroit, the hometown of Henry Ford. Formerly city-run, the shelter has been stewarded by the private, nonprofit Friends since 1996. In little more than a decade, the shelter has instituted programs to find homes for 100 percent of adoptable animals and to vaccinate, spay/neuter and microchip every one. The shelter participates in dozens of community outreach programs every year including adoptions fairs, low-cost spay/neuter and a Recylc-a-Bullz program to help bully breed dogs.

While the shelter takes in far more cats than dogs, Greene says that since the downturn in the economy the numbers of dogs is increasing, with more puppies and small, purebred dogs showing up. “That’s a signal that people are struggling.” At the same time, there's reason for optimism, Greene reports that support for the shelter continues to grow.


We wish them all the best with their “hotel for dogs”--hoping all their guests check out soon and move into wonderful forever homes.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Putting Unused Airline Miles to Good Use
Donate frequent flyer miles to Guide Dogs of America.

I’m by no means a frequent flyer. As I mentioned previously, in a post about Pet Airways, I avoid traveling by plane since my dog would have to fly in cargo. Needless to say, I never rack up enough miles to qualify for a free flight.

Rather than let my miles expire, I recently discovered a way to put these points to good use. Northwest and United Airlines let you donate unused miles to the Guide Dogs of America. The contributions are used to transport dogs, trainers, and recipients to GDA’s training headquarters in Sylmar, Calif. Other airlines have programs that allow you to donate miles to charity, but Northwest and United Airlines are the only two I've found that benefit a dog-related organization. 

In a time when non-profit groups are facing decreased donations, this is a great way to help out a worthy cause without dipping into your bank account.  Visit the Guide Dogs of America web site for more information on how to donate your miles.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Celebrating My Dogs’ Special Day
Birthday party fun for pups and pet lovers alike.

This past weekend, I threw my dogs a birthday party attended by their canine and human friends. Apparently I’m not alone. According to the American Pet Association, 22 percent of dog owners celebrate their pet’s birthday.

Our party was rodeo-themed with the human guests wearing cowboy hats and the dogs sporting red bandanas with sheriff badges. Keeping in line with the festivities, I asked friends to send photos of their pups being bad and made personalized “Wanted” posters. Every year I try to send attendees home with a keepsake that serves both as a souvenir of the event and a memory of quality time spent with their pet over the years.

No birthday is complete without a cake. I baked the doggie version using the Peanut Butter Delight Dog Birthday Cake from the Dog Treat Recipe Exchange. I tripled the ingredients to fit PAWShop’s bone-shaped pan. Of course, the animals ate better than the humans, whose cake was made from a box mix!

There was much socializing done by all, but we did manage to squeeze in some games -- with a little training. We practiced sits by playing Musical Mats to country music and tested heeling in a Spoon Race with biscuits instead of eggs. I have to say, it was amazing how well everyone did with so many high-level distractions!

The dogs were generally well behaved, with the exception of a few trampled plants. Most of the pups were familiar with each other from training or trialing together, but it also helped to have responsible guests at the party. Everyone was good about leaving reactive or easily stressed pets at home.

By the time I was cleaning up after the party, my dogs were pooped from the day’s festivities. I’m sure they were wondering why every day doesn’t bring lots of visitors and cake!

How do you celebrate your pets’ birthday?

News: Guest Posts
Five Summertime Tips for You and Your Dog
Leap into the season on all fours.

The sun is out, the trees are blooming, the days are long. Suddenly, it’s a whole lot easier to get out and play. And while I’d like to believe you’ve been putting in long hours at the park, lake or on trails all winter long, based on my own example, I’m going to assume there is, well, room for improvement. So in the spirit of progress, here are a few suggestions for jump-starting a healthy, happy, active season—which we’ll hopefully continue during colder, darker months (but I don’t even want to think about that right now).

1. Be your pup’s personal trainer
We sometimes think of dogs as canine Lance Armstrongs who can leap off the couch after basically hibernating all winter to tackle the Tour de Whatever. But despite their can-do tail-wagging, out-of-shape quadrupeds get cramps, develop sore muscles and even become exhausted without proper conditioning. It’s important to build up strength and endurance with a variety of activities, i.e., cross-training. Add spice to walking with jogging, sprinting and trail hiking, retrieving games, hide-and-seek, pack-play with other dogs and organized workouts, such as Agility (in the living room on rainy days) and lure coursing (The Bark, October 2007). If you’re lucky enough to have a water dog, swimming is an excellent, low-impact workout.

Extra weight is the other big boondoggle here. Lots of dogs put on a few extra pounds watching you watch TV all winter, and that weight is tough on joints and conditioning. Talk with your veterinarian about strategies for helping your dog lose weight gradually—cutting back on treats and excess food is the obvious start.
2. Trim more than fat.
Keep your dog’s nails short. This is important year-round but in the summer, claws can become snagged, broken or painful on long walks or trail hikes. Also, some full-coated dogs cope better with the heat if their fur is clipped. However, you shouldn’t shave your dog completely, as this removes his sunburn protection.

On the subject of sunburn, remember that animals are vulnerable “on any area where fur is particularly thin or where there is no skin pigment, like dogs with pink noses,” says Dr. Mark Stickney, director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “I would recommend a sunscreen that is specifically for pets. These are formulated to be safe if the pet licks them off and are available at any pet store.”

3. Test your gear in advance.
Before you expect your dog to willingly drink from a squirt bottle, or trot along happily wearing a loaded pack, or cooperatively don booties in the backcountry, practice with your gear at home. Our dog unexpectedly hated our tent the first time we went backpacking. She barked if we left her outside but wouldn’t crawl into the weird cave with us. We all ended up sleeping out in the open with her. Good thing it wasn’t raining.

4. Learn about heat.
Heat is tough on dogs—who don’t perspire and cool down as efficiently we do. Learn to read the signs of overheating (hyperthermia), which can be fatal. Is your dog falling behind and dropping his head? Is he panting excessively, having difficulty breathing, weaving, or vomiting? Dogs who have overheated need to be cooled down—with a hose, in a cool stream—and immediately taken to a veterinarian. Be even more prepared for heat and other dangers by taking a pet first aid/CPR class.

As daytime temperatures climb, schedule outings for mornings and evenings. When the going gets real hot, leave your pal at home, especially for high-intensity activities, such as mountain biking and trail running. Also, it’s not just the air temperature you need to monitor. Remember, hot pavement, sand and stone can burn a pup’s pads.

5. Practice how to have fun out there.
A little training goes a long way for summer adventures. Train your trail pooch not to chase wildlife. Some hikers practice this in a yard or park with birds and squirrels. When a dog spies a bushy brown tail, a flickering feather, or the whiskers of a neighbor’s cat, tell her to sit or stay and provide rewards for proper restraint. There are plenty of moments on a trail—log bridges or narrow ledges—or even along a busy street, when a dog suddenly pulling on a leash can be treacherous.

Also, train your dog to wait, sit, or stay at water sources, especially when thirsty. This protects her from slurping tainted waiter.

Finally, stop giving your dog a pass on pulling and sniffing during walks. “You’re walking the dog, the dog isn’t walking you!” says Brendan Fahey, veteran dog walker/jogger and owner of Jogs with Dogs in Seattle. Notice how people often jerk their dogs away from fire hydrants, other dogs, cats and squirrels? Everyone seems frustrated and progress is slow. “Keep your dog next to you and the leash short (less than 12 inches from your hand to the collar), and you’ll both have a much more productive walk. The second you see or feel your dog’s body language change, give him a gentle light correction (eventually you can just give a sound). A week of walking with your dog next to you (instead of in front!) will change your walks forever, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable walking partner.”

What have I missed? How do you prepare for the dogs days of summer?

News: Guest Posts
AKC Announces Mixed-Breed Program
Mutt lovers question the new “separate but equal” designation.

After 125 years as an advocate for (select) purebred dogs, the American Kennel Club (AKC) announced its new mixed-breed program last week. For the past several years, rumors abounded that AKC was on the cusp of allowing mixed breeds to participate in activities, such as agility, obedience and rally. Some folks claimed AKC was growing enlightened, while others claimed it was simply trying to shore up its bottom line. (Obedience entries are down and other venues, such as USDAA and APDT, welcome mixed breeds in their agility and rally programs, respectively.)

Mixed breeds may be registered with AKC as of October 1, 2009, and be eligible for agility, obedience and rally competition on April 1, 2010. No doubt this is a step in the right direction, but I do have mixed feelings (no pun intended) about some conditions of the program. For example, mutts may participate in agility, obedience and rally competitions, however, they will be in a separate class and not allowed to compete head to head against purebred dogs. Are we mixed-breed lovers really expected to support a “separate but equal” class? Why this special designation?

Offering separate classes will create more work for the hosting club’s members and volunteers. Since the inclusion of a mixed-breed class is optional, clubs might simply choose not to offer it at their event. Another rule states that mixed breeds will not be allowed to participate if the agility, obedience or rally events are held in conjunction with a conformation show. So what good is a mixed-breed program and registering your mutt with the AKC if you can rarely participate in events?

What about people who have a rare purebred dog, such as a Catahoula Leopard Dog or McNab? They do not fit either class since they’re neither AKC-recognized breeds nor mixes. Not to mention, the mixed-breed program requires proof of spay/neuter and some rare purebred dogs might be part of a responsible breeding program with another registry, such as UKC.
In an old AKC PowerPoint presentation, “Why Explore Mixed Breed Dog Listing” (that until recently was posted on the AKC website), one rationale was: “Exposing mixed breed dog owners to AKC and encouraging them to make their next dog a purebred by showing that purebreds consistently outperform mixed breeds (Purebreds consistently score better than mixed breeds in head-to-head competition. The U.S. Dog Agility Association has given 63 lifetime achievement awards for outstanding performance, and only three of those have gone to mixed breed dogs.)”

Aside from the fact that the AKC misrepresented USDAA’s statistics in order to support the superiority of the purebred dog, I find it rather sad and disappointing that AKC even felt the need to reassure its members that their purebred dogs would remain top dog. Was this just a tactic in order to get all AKC members on board? Or will this attitude persist even after mixes are supposedly “welcomed” into the group?

Currently, I compete in AKC agility with two rescue Dalmatians and am training my youngest dog, a mixed breed, to compete in USDAA and NADAC agility. Despite its flaws, I think the AKC mixed-breed program is a step in the right direction and I will likely support it. But I am prepared to hear cries of protest from fellow mutt lovers who disagree with my decision.

This topic continues to be hotly debated between dog lovers both in person and in cyberspace. Some people think the program will only improve if mixed-breed owners support it right from the start and lend their voices to its evolution. Others find it insulting and want nothing to do it with it. What do you think about AKC’s new mixed-breed program? If you have a mutt, will you consider participating in AKC events? Why or why not?

News: Guest Posts
Two Dogs Down
After two dogs freeze to death, is it time to rethink the Iditarod?

A few days before cancer-survivor Lance Mackey became the third person to win the Iditarod three years in a row, two dogs belonging to rookie racer Lou Packer died from exposure to high-winds and 50-below-zero temperatures. The story of Grasshopper and Dizzy’s demise is as harrowing as it is provocative. Already the questions are tumbling down. Was Packer a rookie who took unnecessary risks or is he to be admired for helping a fellow competitor earlier in the race and falling behind? Should race officials checked on him sooner?

Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about dogsled racing, and I generally don’t follow the big events. I know neglect and cruelty are often a byproduct of competitions involving animals. But I’ve also driven small recreational teams before—in Minnesota and Alaska—and it seemed clear the dogs relished the run. But I wonder is it right to celebrate competitions and provide cash incentives for events that can exact this price?

News: Guest Posts
My Pack's Plans for 2009
I asked my dogs if they had any New Year's resolutions, and to my surprise, they did.

The thought of New Year's resolutions makes me want to eat ice cream ... preferably a pint of chocolate chocolate chip from Oberweis. There's just too much pressure and I have yet to reach any goal through resolution. So I asked my dogs if they had any plans for 2009 and, to my surprise, they did (see below). Have your dogs resolved to make some changes this year? I'd love to hear from them!

"Eat more peanut butter, herd more sheep, chomp more Kongs to bits, and continue teaching that sassy little whippersnapper Ginger Peach to respect her elders." - Desoto, 11 yrs., Catahoula

"Pass my Canine Good Citizen test, persuade more people to rub my belly and under my pits, and go lure coursing at least three times this summer. I also want to go on more summer skunk hunts, but Mama does not approve." - Shelby, 7 yrs., Pit Bull mix

"Earn an agility championship, bruise fewer shins with my whip tail, ignore those new freckles or 'age spots,' go running with Mom for conditioning, play ball more often with Dad, and remember to play nice with others." - Darby Lynn, 6 yrs., Dalmatian

"Seriously? Well, I resolve to be less shy around new people and in new situations, work hard to perfect those darn weave poles, and continue to be the best mouser in the house. Oh, and eat my weight in raw turkey necks." - Jolie, 5 yrs., Dalmatian

"Catch as many frisbees as possible, compete in more Disc Dog competitions with Daddy, practice agility with Mommy, be less of a nuisance to my elders, continue showing Bruiser Bear the cat that it's okay to play with dogs, learn to walk on a loose leash and not jump up on people, no matter how much I so badly really, really want to." - Ginger Peach, 18 mos., mixed breed

News: Guest Posts
Resolution Revolution
Bring back New Year’s aspirations ... for our dog’s sake

New Year’s resolutions have gone out of fashion. Not one of my friends or family has admitted to using the fresh slate of 2009 as an opportunity to commit to change. I guess we’re so convinced we’ll fail that we don’t take aim. Well, in the spirit of Mad Men, the stock market crash and other recent blasts from the past, I’m resurrecting the resolution with an eye toward nurturing my dogs' wellbeing and our bond.

Here are my three (as in strikes) resolutions. I’d love to hear yours.

Leave my iPod at home. No more tuning out on walks. I resolve to take advantage of these regular outings to engage more with my dogs and curb a few of the bad habits—lunging at cats—into which we’ve slipped to my soundtrack.

Channel Hermey (the dentistry-loving elf from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”). I admit to taking a free pass on dental care every time my vet says my dogs’ chompers look great. It’s nothing I’ve done, and I know the consequences of poor dental hygiene (bad breath, tooth loss, and gum disease, which can cause much more serious health problems). So, I promise to don my funny little finger toothbrushes ASAP.

Tackle a new skill together, in my case, skijoring. This is a holdover from last year, and I’m going to blame my lack of success in 2008 on global warming. But the mustachioed meteorologists in these parts are currently measuring snowfall in feet these days, so I have no excuse. Mush!

The great thing with these resolutions is I can’t really fail. My dogs won’t grade me. Even if I fall down in my best efforts, they’ll remain my loyal, true companions.


My friends over at the Seattle Humane Society offered up some worthwhile resolutions too. Check them out. My favorite: Make sure your pet is cared for in the event of your death. It's not something we like to think about, but it's something we owe our pals.

News: Guest Posts
Have A Very Doggy Holiday

What is it that happens to dogs in the snow? From most reports, they become maniacs in the white stuff. So despite all the hassles and dangers of our recent winter weather, I'm thrilled by the idea of dogs all over the country romping in muzzle-deep snow this holiday. As always, our pups are a reminder to get out and have fun, to smell the tree trunks or just careen around in snow. If you're one of the unlucky folk who live below the snow-belt, check out the video below to get your snow-dog fix. Have a fabulous, frolic-filled holiday with your buddies.

News: Guest Posts
As the Bowl Turns

Does the world need a doggie soap opera? In the abstract, the answer is probably, sure. Why the heck not? Could it be worse than the human-centered variety? Well, based on previews for PETelenovela (pups in cowboy hats, ties and boas doing not much to campy voice-overs), I'd say, I'm not willing to spend the $10.99 to find out for sure. Also, don't our furry housemates supply enough comedy and drama?