[What We Are Reading]
There was a very interesting piece in a recent Washington Post advice column by Carolyn Hax. With a headline of “My girlfriend is crazy (maybe literally?) about her dog”, you can probably guess where this one is headed. A 32-year-old guy writes about the girlfriend he loves and hopes to marry but is complaining about the attention she is paying to her beloved 10-year-old dog who has an incurable kidney disease. But instead of having her dog put down, she is, as he writes:
“… spending insane amounts of money every month on “supportive care” (specialty vets – yes there is such a thing, meds, supplies, etc.) and plans to keep him alive as long as his “quality of life” is good.” She is even “she has to give him fluids under the skin every day, cook him special food and so on.”
And according to him, he thinks her level of care is misapplied, because, as he believes, he can’t help “but think of all of the worthwhile things she could be doing with that money rather than throwing it away on her dog, who as I said, is going to die anyway.”
And he then asks the advice columnist if girlfriend Amy has her priorities “screwed up” or if he is being insensitive.
Carolyn’s response was spot-on, leading off with “You’re going to die anyway. Should anyone cook you special food? Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.”
She then explains that the same argument for putting this level of care into a dog can also apply to discussions surrounding human health care. Why have palliative treatments or hospice care, if in fact someone is about to die? These are ethical questions that can apply to both species. She then explains that the compassionate relationship many people have with their dogs is based on the responsibility to provide care for them, in all phases of their lives. Some people, like Amy, take that responsibility and commitment very seriously.
And she explains that Amy “has her priorities, you have yours. A crucial area of compatibility is in respect for each other’s priorities where they differ. If you can’t, then you and Amy can’t.”
She wisely continues in analyzing his rather binary position—he had suggested that perhaps Amy was loving the dog more than she loves him:
“Instead of looking at it as a place to be right or wrong, try looking at the possibilities for acceptance. Is there room in your relationship for both of you to be right in your own ways?"
Love certainly is not a zero-sum game, in fact, many experts believe that opening your heart to loving animals can make us more accepting to loving and being loved by others. We don’t have a limited supply of “love” and expressing compassion and care just expands our ability to love and to be empathic. I do hope that Amy’s boyfriend took this wonderful advice to heart.
What advice would you have added? Have you experienced something similar yourself where a friend, lover or family member thought you were too over-the-moon for your dog?
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Examining genomes uncovered interesting findings.
A study published last month details one of the most diverse canine genome maps produced to date tracing the relationship between breeds. In examining the genomes of over 1,000 dogs, the map provided insight into two interesting findings.
The first showed that canines bred to perform similar functions, such as dogs from the herding or working groups, don’t necessarily share the same origins.
Herding breeds are my favorite, holding beloved traits like intelligence and agility. So it’s surprising that these dogs may be more different than they seem.
The reason behind this convergence may also be why geneticists had difficulty mapping out herding dog lineages in the past. Study author Elaine Ostranger believes this happened because herding dogs emerged through selective breeding at multiple times in many different places.
“In retrospect, that makes sense,” says Elaine. “What qualities you’d want in a dog that herds bison are different from mountain goats, which are different from sheep, and so on.”
The second finding shed light on an ancient type of dog that may have come to the Americas thousands of years before Christopher Columbus. Researchers have looked for the genetic legacy of these dogs in the DNA of modern American breeds, but have found little evidence until now.
Most of the breeds studied originated in Europe and Asia. But domestic dogs first came to the Americas thousands of years ago, when people crossed the Bering land bridge linking Alaska and Siberia. These “New World dogs” later disappeared when European and Asian dogs arrived in the Americas.
But the way two South American breeds, the Peruvian hairless dog and the xoloitzcuintli, are clustered together on the map suggest they could share genes not found in any of the others. This means those genes could have come from dogs that were present in the Americas pre-Columbus.
“I think our view of the formation of modern dog breeds has historically been one-dimensional,” says Bob Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California. “We didn’t consider that the process has a deep historical legacy.”
Researchers now think that dog breeds underwent two major periods of diversification. Thousands of years ago, dogs were selected for their skills. This changed a few hundred years ago, when animals were bred for physical traits instead.
Bob says that, when it comes to genetics, studying dogs is a unique opportunity since no other animal has had the same level of intense deliberate breeding.
While it’s interesting to learn more about our dogs and where they came from, the scientists had practical reasons for creating this genetic database. They hope that this information can help future studies of canine and human diseases.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Does this song describe your life?
This song captures elements of the experience of dog guardianship, and is striking a cord with women who identify as Dog Moms. The chorus of this new anthem goes like this:
If you’re a dog mom, put your hands up, this song’s for all the ladies who provide for their pup
When you’re a dog mom, it’s just what you do, ‘Cuz they say you’re not my baby, but I know it ain’t true
It’s hard to choose the best lines, but here are my top contenders:
Never leave the house without a lint roller, Hell yeah I got a geriatric pug in this stroller
Fall asleep to the sound of you licking your parts, But you wake us both up ‘cuz you’re scared of your farts
His Instagram is poppin’, I don’t mean maybe, He gets more likes than my sister’s baby
Not everyone is comfortable with the term “Dog Mom” but a lot of women wear it with pride. They consider this video hilarious and hilariously accurate. Do you?
News: Guest Posts
The importance of evaluating the responses
Kids are taught to ask permission before petting a dog with some variation of “May I please meet your dog?” This simple question has the potential to avoid unpleasant interactions, but only if kids are taught how to interpret the possible answers, especially those that are nuanced. The answer might be a simple, “Yes.” It could also be a straightforward “No” for any number of reasons: it’s not safe to pet the dog, the dog will feel uncomfortable if the child attempts to interact, or even that someone is on a tight schedule and doesn’t have time for a meet-and-greet. The person may also seem hesitant but not actually say no, or give an answer that conveys serious concern.
The clear “Yes” answers are easy to figure out. It’s common for people to reply to a request to meet a dog with some variant of “Sure, she loves people!” “He would love that!” or “Absolutely, thanks for asking!” In that case, there is a good chance that the person expects a positive interaction between a child and a dog. They might be wrong, but there’s no sense of worry or concern being expressed, which is encouraging, and it makes sense for kids to approach the dog.
Similarly, a definite “No” from the person is also clear. If a person declines the request, kids should respect that and not approach the dog. Common ways that people prevent an interaction are by saying, “I’m sorry, but she doesn’t like kids,” “She’s too shy, it will upset her,” or “I think not because everything scares her.” They might even say, “No, because she’ll try to bite you.” People who answer in this general way know that the dog can’t handle it and that it would be a mistake to let a child meet the dog.
Unfortunately, there are two general categories of answers that can be ambiguous, and too few children have been taught to understand them. The first set of such answers is generally positive with mild reservations. These usually indicate that the people are not concerned about their dog being aggressive, but they feel embarrassed about some aspect of their dog. These replies are along the lines of, “Okay, but she’s very excitable,” or “Yes, but she may jump on you.” Sometimes people just offer a warning that is not behavioral, such as “If you don’t mind getting a lot of fur on you!” In most cases, these responses are not deal breakers for a meeting, but it does depend on the size of the child as well as the size and enthusiasm level of the dog. If the person expresses that their dog is unruly or shedding, it’s okay to answer, “I don’t mind dog hair,” or “I don’t think jumping up will put a dark blot on her character!” as long as the dog is not so powerful or out of control that someone could get knocked over. This requires a judgment call, and the most conservative approach is for kids not to meet dogs after such replies. At the very least, kids should proceed with caution.
Another set of answers can be more worrisome, and kids need to learn that they should not pet a dog if the people say things along the lines of, “That would probably be okay,” or “Well, she’s shy, but we can see how she does,” or “If she’ll let you. I’m not sure because sometimes she can’t handle it.” All of these replies show that a person is in the hope-and-fear zone. (“I hope it will be okay, but I fear that it will not be.”) There is a great risk that the interaction could be troubling for the child or the dog. Kids should be taught that the correct action upon hearing such remarks is not to approach the dog. A simple, “Oh, that’s okay. I wouldn’t want to upset her, but thanks anyway,” is a good phrase to teach kids for such situations.
There are endless possible answers when a child asks, “May I please meet your dog?” The “Yes” and the “No” replies are easy to understand. The former tells you it’s likely to be a positive interaction and the latter lets you know that the person knows the dog can’t handle it and has clearly said so. It’s those intermediate answers that require more careful interpretation. I’m always in favor of avoiding risks and erring on the side of caution when it comes to meeting dogs whose people seem hesitant about having anyone—especially a child—approach. If the answer gives any hint that it might not go well or might distress the dog, it’s best to decline.
Of course, all of this general advice assumes that people have the right read on their dog, and that is not always the case. They may think the dog loves all people, even when the dog’s body language reveals that the dog is terrified and wants a child to go away. That’s why it’s still important for kids to learn how to tell that a dog is behaving in a fearful and/or threatening way. The people’s responses to a request to meet a dog are only one stream of information we can use to decide whether to approach a dog. Still, there’s often a lot of truth in what they say, which is why children should be taught to evaluate those responses and act accordingly.
News: Guest Posts
Dog's name and age: Mojo, 7 years Adoption Story: Mojo was found in New Orleans in the Faubourg Marigny area of town. A Dogs of the 9th Ward rescuer found him cut up and afraid and thankfully took him in. She nursed him back to health and when I saw his before and after shots, I cried. My husband after looking at the photos thought he had a lot of mojo (charisma) and the rest is history. He is the best snuggling dog ever. More Mojo: Mojo loves to catch sticks at his favorite beach and sun on the porch. He is so loyal and affectionate. He really lets you know how much he loves you with a slurpy kiss, lying on top of you while watching TV and just by always being by your side.
Premiers on ABC, Wednesday, May 17 2017, 9:30 pm
Downward Dog will be the newest entry into must-view TV when it premiers on ABC next Wednesday, May 17. The unconventional comedy centers around Martin, a soulful mutt, whose person, a millennial named Nan, struggles to find her way in relationships, work and life in the modern age. Through it all, they have each other—their day-to-day trials commented on philosophically by Martin. You see, Martin talks … to the camera, as a device to share his inner thoughts. And before you cringe at the memory of Mr. Ed (the talking horse), this show ensues broad comedy aiming instead for a satisfying mix of smart and sweet. It succeeds due to the clever writing (Samm Hodges, who is also the voice of Martin) and fine performances from Allison Tolman (recently seen in Fargo) as Nan and Ned, an endearing rescue dog, as Martin. We caught up with Hodges and Tolman after a recent screening.
Bark: Congratulations on a wonderful show—are you longtime animal lovers?
Hodges: I was always around dogs growing up, my mom was always bringing home mutts who had ran away—we had a menagerie of dogs around the house. Currently, I don’t have a dog but look forward to getting into a routine and adding one to our family.
Tolman: I have a cat and it’s really hard for me to be away from her. I take my cat with me when I am filming whenever possible. I grew up with dogs and a houseful of animals, my mom has always been very into animal rescue, so we had lots of rescue dogs and cats at home — she couldn’t be more pleased with my involvement with this project!
Bark: Can you talk about the concept of the show, and Ned’s communication to viewers.
Hodges: Martin is not actually a talking dog. In our rules, it’s more a conceit to give us access into the thoughts of the character. So much humor associated with animals is goofy and detached from reality — this was a way to keep the world real and treat the canine character with some seriousness and gravitas. It’s hard to do that when you have a dog talking because then he’s no longer a dog. So all the time that Martin is not talking to the camera, he’s acting 100% like a normal dog, it allows us to honor the reality of what dogs are.
What we have in common with dogs is that as people we don’t make logical decisions, we react to environments, and later justify our actions, so in that way, I think Martin is very human in that sense. He’s an animal who is completely controlled by his instincts and later has to deal with the consequences.
Allison: The first episode reflects the lead character’s dilemma of the push-pull of her personal and professional life and the effect it has on her dog. It was important to tie those two things together in the first episode, and say these things are inextricably linked. The writers did a great job constructing the episodes so that big things happen in Nan’s life that mirror the small things that happen in Martin’s life that he thinks are huge.
Hodges: We all struggle with self-love, it’s something that Nan’s character wrestles with. There is something genuine about how a dog just accepts you as you are. The personal growth of Nan’s character throughout the season is learning how to accept who we are and in the process make us more loving of others.
Tolman: That is the very best part of loving an animal — having this other creature who thinks you are the moon and the stars, it’s so powerful.
Bark: Tell us about Ned, the dog who plays Martin.
Hodges: Ned is a rescue from Paws Chicago, he had been at the shelter for a long time. He’s the kind of dog that people often don’t adopt. He wasn’t a puppy, he wasn’t a pure breed. We found his photograph and thought his eyes were so emotive, I just immediately wanted to write for him. We rescued him and the trainers had about six weeks to evaluate and work with him. They are amazing and it’s been remarkable to watch Ned heal from a fairly traumatic life over the past year. It’s been an amazing transformation.
Tolman: From my experience with my mother working in animal rescue — what made him less adoptable for many people, made him perfect for us and this role. Ned is kind of a somber and a serious dog, not excitable, not a tail wagger. He’s not motivated by praise, he’s very much his own man. When you go to the shelter to find your dog, you want the one who is effusive in his love for you. And Ned’s not really like that, you really have to earn it.
Hodges: This impacts the writing as well … you’d write a script where the dog is supposed to look scared, and you film it and the dog doesn’t look scared at all — so you go and rewrite the plot around whatever the dog’s face is doing that day.
Tolman: The character who Martin is has been shaped by the kind of dog Ned is and that is charming. This is who Ned is. I hope that this will really speak to pet owners, because most people don’t have the kind of dog who appear in dog food commercials in their home — they have dogs who are temperamental or a little bratty or pout, and that’s who this dog is.
Hodges: The whole show thematically is about a mutt in the back yard in a regular neighborhood of Pittsburg who is asking if he matters. When you look at a dog in a shelter that nobody wants and say that this dog matters—we are turning our lens on a relationship which up until now has been thought of as too small or too incidental to focus on. This relationship between this woman and this dog does actually matter, and suggest how we all matter.
Bark: That’s a very existential storyline.
Tolman: That’s right, It’s palatable because it comes from this dog, and never seems preachy or too heady, it makes you think about these things and also makes you smile. It’s a very sweet, sweet show.
Hodges: Plus, there are poop jokes!
Downward Dog premiers on ABC, Wednesday, May 17, 9:30 pm, then moves to Tuesday nights 8–8:30 pm beginning May 23.
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Study looks at how household rivalry affects the way dogs think.
The dynamics in multi-dog households is different in every home, but rarely studied. Most research tests dogs in a laboratory and looks at interactions between animals who don’t know each other. But Canisius College professors Christy Hoffman and Malini Suchak decided to take a different approach in their study on competitiveness and decision making. They visited 37 multi-dog households as part of their latest research.
"We really wanted to look at the impact of the relationship between the dogs on their behavior,” explained Malini. “Doing that in a setting natural to the dogs, with dogs they already know, is really important.”
To get a measure of how competitive dogs were within each household, their owners were asked to fill out a survey called the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ). Low or high rivalry is determined by the frequency of aggressive behavior displayed towards the other dogs, particularly around desired resources like food.
The next part of the study looked at the dogs’ decision making around eating food or following one of their housemates. At each house, a research assistant placed two plates of food in front of two dogs. One pup was allowed to approach the plates and eat the food from one before being walked out of the room. Then the second dog was then allowed to make a choice. If the pup followed the first dog, he arrived at an empty plate. If he didn’t follow, he went straight to the remaining plate with the food.
The researchers found that the less competitive dogs were more likely to follow their housemate out of the room, but only when they had to make an immediate decision. Extra time changed the outcome.
"Low and high rivalry dogs only differed in the choices they made when there was no delay," Christy says. "When they had to wait five seconds before making their choice, all dogs tended to go directly to the full plate.”
The professors think that less competitive dogs have a knee jerk reaction to follow their housemates, but when forced to wait, took time to think about the situation and ultimately went for the food.
Christy and Malini also did a variation of the experiment where the first dog was replaced by a person. The results were similar, with less competitive dogs following the human demonstrator over the food when they had to make an immediate choice.
They believe this has to do with the personality of less competitive pups since the characteristic extended beyond their relationship with other dogs. It seems that competitive pups are more likely to think for themselves and less likely to blindly follow, but they hope to do more research to further explore the findings.
How do you think this plays out with your pups?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Diesel the Chihuahua steals everything
To say that Diesel is one of those dogs who is toy motivated is an understatement, as is saying that he is interested in all sorts of objects around the house. Since he was a puppy, this Chihuahua has been taking things from the other members of the household and stashing them where they can’t find or reach them. His guardians call him a hoarder, and that is one way to describe his behavior, which involves taking toys, soda bottles, holiday decorations, socks and underwear, bills, credit cards, flip flops, towels, plastic bowls and gardening shears.
I’m more fascinated by the people in this video than the dog. Yes, this dog is at the high end of the spectrum for dogs who steal and stash “treasures”, but I’ve met quite a few dogs over the years who are similar in that way, and some of those were also quite aggressive over their possessions. In all cases, the people were exhausted by the endless hassles of living with a dog who constantly took everybody’s stuff and were desperate to change the dog’s behavior.
Neither of Diesel’s guardians believe that anyone could change Diesel, and they are fine with that. His mischievous ways amuse them, and they appreciate the excitement he adds to their lives. Though they both recognize that his stealing is bad behavior, they consider him a wonderful dog. He makes them laugh and they enjoy him. They love Diesel for who he is, and don’t want to change him. That’s pretty remarkable because living with a dog like Diesel can be a real headache.
Besides the general irritation of having your stuff regularly go missing (including your towel when you need it after a shower!), there is the concern that Diesel will take something that could harm him. Anything sharp, breakable or toxic could cause serious trouble, and it’s a real worry with dogs who constantly pilfer items that are not theirs. Another cause for worry is the quality of life of the other two dogs in the house. They are mugged by Diesel with such regularity that I imagine they are rarely able to enjoy a toy or something to chew on for more than a few moments.
If you’ve ever lived with a dog who regularly helped himself to whatever he wanted, how accepting of the situation were you compared to Diesel’s family?
Dog's Life: Humane
Mumbai photographers promote homeless pets with creative pictures.
There are a lot of potential pet owners in the world, but some need a little inspiration to choose adoption. To give them a little nudge, photographer Amol Jadhav and art director Pranav Bhide teamed up to create a powerful campaign. They wanted to to spread awareness about adoption and promote a local Mumbai rescue group’s adoption event. Not only did they create beautiful works of art, their efforts were effective!
Using clever lighting and framing techniques, the creative duo made a series of optical illusion portraits that contain two images in one. The artists arranged their portrait subjects to create an animal shape in the negative space between the two figures. Everything came together when they turned on a super bright backlight and placed gentle fill light in the front. The photos were tagged with the campaign’s motto, “There’s always room for more. Adopt.”
Amol and Pranav’s message was heard loud and clear. This year’s event attendance was up by 150% and led to 42 adoptions.
News: Guest Posts
Dog related posts account for the most posts
Our neighborhood uses a social networking service, like NextDoor, that anyone in the community can join to facilitate information sharing. The most common topic is pets, and the majority of pet posts are about dogs. As you might expect, there are messages about summer rentals, firewood for sale, free furniture, garage sales, wildfires, plans for block parties and many other issues, but dogs are the number one topic in our neighborhood.
Unfortunately, there are far more postings of pets who wander away or go visiting friends in the neighborhood than any other issue, but on the bright side, reunions are common and typically swift. Lost dog posts and found dog posts are about equally common, but they rarely concern the same dog. (Generally, dogs are reunited with their families within hours of a post, and private messages rather than matching posts are usually involved.)
Even some of the posts that are not aimed at bringing people and their dogs back together relate to canines. For example, there are offers of free dog crates, or people trying to sell bags of dog food that are not the right kind after all. There have been posts to share that the coyotes are howling so that people make sure to have their pets safely inside and posts asking if any kids want to earn money cleaning up dog poop from yards. (Not many takers on that one!)
My world and my communications—personal and professional, face-to-face and on social media—so often involve dogs. I’ve never assumed that this is true for most people, so it was eye-opening when I joined the neighborhood group to see how many of the messages are about dogs.
Have others of you found a similar pervasiveness of dog-related messages even in groups that are not specifically set up to connect dog lovers?
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