He died a day ago. There is a sand-fire up North. White flakes of ash fall from the sky like snow. And yet, this is not what alarms me. I stare at our yard. For almost 12 years, Bowie would appear, from the brush, often with a fully blackened snout from digging in fresh fluffy soil, from fitting his favorite stuffed animals for their graves or burying bones that were just too good to be enjoyed all at once.
The next day, at 10am on the dot, I open his doggy door, as that was usually when he was due for a pee. I look out at our yard again. He is still not there, of course. It is windy now, the leaves are starting to fall, and pine needles are raining down like daggers. He would hate this. He used to bark at everything, even the wind. We thought it was something he would outgrow. He never did.
In his absence, the squirrels have become bolder. They dig in the grass, they eat the apples from the apple tree. They get way too close to our house, practically touching our back french doors. I will sprinkle the dog’s ashes all over the yard in hopes the squirrels will smell him and show some damn respect. One day, I bark at them, emulating Bowie’s howling beagle arooo. The squirrels just look at me, confused. So I run at them while howling. It works. For a moment, I am proud. I’m continuing to fight the good fight.
“I’ve been barking at squirrels,” I confess to my husband a few nights later. I feel someone needs to know this information, as I am starting to worry about myself. (Though I’m equal parts terrified he will have me committed.)
“I get it,” my husband says, surprising me. “I still open a can of dog food every morning. Habit, I guess.” Then he starts to cry, resting his head on the pillow between us that the dog claimed over a decade ago in his Oedipal battle for my love.
I don’t tell him that I also sit perched on Bo’s downstairs dog bed waiting for the takeout guy to show up with food. Or that I stalked a raccoon near our garbage cans yesterday. And I chased the mailwoman (because she forgot to pick up my letters for mailing).
Is it possible that in all of my grief, I am becoming a dog? Or have I always been one, deep down? Trans-Species: is that a thing?
I took our daughters to a combination pumpkin patch/ petting zoo yesterday. As they fed chickens, I knelt down and pressed my nose against a goat’s nose and pet the blaze of fur between its eyes, the way I used to with Bo. If I had closed my eyes, it would have felt just like him. But I didn’t, as I quickly became aware of how this looked, a woman paying no attention to her human children running around, instead sitting forehead to forehead with a goat. Eventually my kids came over and pet the goat. Before leaving the parking lot, I texted my husband: “our next dog might be a goat.”
Bo’s favorite delivery man came today, with a package for us and two crunchy bones that he always gave to Bo. I explained to him that our dog was gone, had died, and then I watched as this big burly man’s face crumpled into tears. “It’s okay,” I said feebly, while looking away. He still handed me the bones.
Time heals all wounds, the other humans in my life have been saying. I hope that’s true. For now, I’ll bury his bones in the yard and keep barking at squirrels.
Dog's Life: Events
Maid of honor makes sure her sister's dog makes it down the aisle.
Our pets are our family, so it's only natural to want to include them in all of our important life events. When veterinarians Kelly O'Connell and James Garvin were planning their wedding in Denver, Colorado, they knew all of their dogs had to be a part of the ceremony, including their sick Labrador Retriever Charlie Bear.
At 15 years old, Charlie had been battling a brain tumor since April. On the wedding day earlier this fall, Charlie was weak but started walking down the aisle with Kelly's sister and maid of honor, Katie Lloyd. But even the aisle proved to be too far for Charlie. So without hesitation, Katie picked up the 80-pound pup and carried him to the alter to be with Kelly. It was an emotional day for the couple and all of the guests.
“Both of us just dropped to our knees and started crying,” said Kelly. “To see him be carried a few feet, it kind of solidified for me that it’s not the Charlie he liked to be. He was aging, and it hit me knowing that he lost a lot.”
Kelly's friend and photographer, Jen Dziuvenis, was there taking photographs. She was in tears but knew it was important to capture Charlie at Kelly and James' special day.
“When your beloved dog who is at the end of his life can’t make it back up the aisle and your sister scoops him up and carries him... THAT is love,” Jen wrote on Facebook. “There isn’t enough mascara in the world for these moments. Dog people are the best people.”
The wedding turned out to be one of Charlie's last days. Later that week, he passed away.
I'm sure that Kelly and James couldn't imagine their wedding without Charlie, so I'm glad that they were able to create one last memory together.
News: Guest Posts
Airline staff said the dog was too big
During the recent Thanksgiving weekend, one family’s travel headaches were made even more unpleasant because of American Airline’s treatment of a service dog and the people with him. The family was forced to get off the plane when a manager came on board and told them the dog was too big.
Chug is a 110-pound Labradoodle and a service dog who goes everywhere with twelve-year old Bryant. The dog’s job is to detect an oncoming seizure and to assist the child during the seizure. The family had no issues on the other three flights with Chug during their travels and had completed all the paperwork required in order for him to fly with them. Before being forced to deplane, a flight attendant had told them that the dog had to be under the seat, and the family complied with that request.
Because they were kicked off the plane, they had to stay overnight in a hotel on Thanksgiving, and were booked for a flight the next day that went to St. Louis, Missouri, which is three hours from their home, instead of to Evansville, Illinois where they live. They rented a car, drove three hours, and had to return the car to the airport as well.
American Airlines is looking into the incident, which occurred on a flight operated by a regional carrier. They have apologized to the family, who has been contacted by customer relations. Even taking into account the low standards most people have of airline’s customer service, the way this family was treated fell far short of expectations.
News: Guest Posts
A new study shows dogs display episodic memory supporting what many already knew
Dogs are "in." Hardly a week goes by that a research paper and numerous popular accounts don't appear in the news. This week is no different. First, on the "down" side, we've learned that researchers in some laboratories in the United States often secretively do whatever they want to dogs "in the name of science" in "wasteful, bizarre and deadly experiments" with little to no transparency. Basically, they get away with murder, using taxpayer's money, and no one does anything about it.
On the "up" side of things, I was so pleased to learn about a study by Claudia Fugazza, Ákos Pogány, and Ádám Miklósi, who work in the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, that was just published in Current Biology. This new and very significant essay is titled, "Recall of Others’ Actions after Incidental Encoding Reveals Episodic-like Memory in Dogs." Needless to say, this study received broad global coverage in mass media. People really do want to know what dogs know. And, here is a video of how the research was conducted.
Their summary of the important research essay that's available online reads:
The existence of episodic memory in non-human animals is a debated topic that has been investigated using different methodologies that reflect diverse theoretical approaches to its definition. A fundamental feature of episodic memory is recalling after incidental encoding, which can be assessed if the recall test is unexpected . We used a modified version of the “Do as I Do” method , relying on dogs’ ability to imitate human actions, to test whether dogs can rely on episodic memory when recalling others’ actions from the past. Dogs were first trained to imitate human actions on command. Next, they were trained to perform a simple training exercise (lying down), irrespective of the previously demonstrated action. This way, we substituted their expectation to be required to imitate with the expectation to be required to lie down. We then tested whether dogs recalled the demonstrated actions by unexpectedly giving them the command to imitate, instead of lying down. Dogs were tested with a short (1 min) and a long (1 hr) retention interval. They were able to recall the demonstrated actions after both intervals; however, their performance declined more with time compared to conditions in which imitation was expected. These findings show that dogs recall past events as complex as human actions even if they do not expect the memory test, providing evidence for episodic-like memory. Dogs offer an ideal model to study episodic memory in non-human species, and this methodological approach allows investigating memory of complex, context-rich events.
Didn't we already know dogs had great memories?: A brief interview with Dr. Ádám Miklósi
Many animals spend a lot of time resting, often peering around at their surroundings and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. Dogs surely do this. I often smiled as I watched the dogs with whom I shared my home just hanging out and looking around at their dog and human friends and their environs. When I've done field work on a number of different animals, I also noted that they spent a lot of time just hanging out and looking around as they rested. I was convinced that they were picking up a lot of information from just looking around, and that what they learned they could use in their social encounters with others.
In response to this new study I received a number of emails asking something like, "Didn't we already know that dogs had great memories?" Yes, we did, and a good deal of "citizen science" shows this to be so. But, I wanted to know more, so I sent dog expert Dr. Ádám Miklósi, founder of the Family dog Project who was involved in the study, two questions to which he responded immediately. They were, "Why did you do this study?" and "How does it extend what we know from (i) other formal studies and (ii) what people know from watching their dog at home or at a dog park?"
Dr. Miklósi answered the first question quite easily: "Claudia [lead author of the study, Claudia Fugazza] went to a conference on memory, and then she suggested that maybe the 'Do as I Do' method offers a way to provide some evidence for this."
Dr. Miklósi's answer to the second question, "How does it extend what we know from (i) other formal studies and (ii) what people know from watching their dog at home or at a dog park?" was: "As usual this is something that dog people may have assumed the dog is capable of doing. But most of them did not think about the possibility that dogs remember specific events happening around them. This study shows now that dogs (and probably many other animals) are able to do this. So they not only remember (spontaneously) what they have done (there are studies on chimps, rats, dolphins along this lines), but also what their owner did. For example, they may watch the owner cut the roses in the garden one day, and then when they see those flowers again, this memory could pop up in their mind. This could happen without showing any change in behavior, because this is just a spontaneous 'thought,' although in some other cases such thoughts may actually become causes of (spontaneous) behaviour."
In one interview I did about this study, I noted, "Dogs have great memories of a lot of events and this study shows that we’re still learning just how good their memory really is ... Dogs need to be able to learn and remember what their human wants them to do, and there won’t always be an immediate association of the events in time ... So, it is not surprising to me that dogs can remember the ‘Do it’ request after a period of time even if they weren’t expecting to be asked to do something.”
A few of the dogs with whom I lived acted like "know-it-alls": Dogs remember yesterday and much more
This new research reminded me that many of the dogs with whom I lived acted like "know-it-alls." They seemed to have a sense of knowing what I was going to do or what I wanted them to do, although I'd never explicitly taught them to make these associations. I felt the same about some of the wild coyotes I studied for years. They just seemed to know what others were thinking, feeling, and wanted them to do. I'm sure the dogs and coyotes (and many other animals) had some sort of "theory of mind." (See "Theory of Mind and Play: Ape Exceptionalism Is Too Narrow.")
As I read through this new research paper I remembered an essay I wrote last year called "Dogs Don't Remember Yesterday, Claims Psychologist," about the seemingly ludicrous claim that "dogs don't remember what happened yesterday and don't plan for tomorrow." The author claimed that dogs are stuck in an "eternal present."
In my essay I wrote, "There are many examples of dogs and other animals 'remembering yesterday.' Think of dogs and other animals who have been severely abused and who suffer from severe fear or depression for years on end, and also, for example, think of dogs who remember where they and others peed and pooped, dogs who remember where their friends and foes live, dogs who change their behavior based on what they learned in various sorts of learning experiments, and dogs who remember where they're fed and where they've cached food and other objects. The list goes on and on."
I also wrote, "From an evolutionary point of view it would be somewhat odd and exceptional if mammals such as dogs and many other animals didn't remember yesterday and plan accordingly." Along these lines, the authors of the present study write, "This is the first evidence of episodic-like memory of others’ actions in a non-human species, and it is the first report of this type of memory in dogs. We suggest that dogs might provide a new non-human animal model to study the complexity of incidental encoding of context-rich events, especially because of their evolutionary and developmental advantage to live in human social groups."
This is a very exciting time for the comparative study of animal minds
I'm very pleased to share the results of the present study with you. Yes, many of us already "knew" from "citizen science" that dogs often know more than we give them credit for, but it's also nice to know that science backs us up. I've learned an incredible amount from people writing to me and talking with me about their dogs, and I've often noted that when the serious science is done, results rarely conflict with what many others already knew.
This is a very exciting time for the comparative study of animal minds, a branch of science called cognitive ethology. Please stay tuned for more on the fascinating and "surprising" cognitive lives of dogs and other animals.
Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in early 2017.
This story was originally published by psychologytoday.com. Reprinted with permission.
News: Guest Posts
It’s a full house each night
The Hott Spott in Mytilene, Lesbos in Greece does more than serve the people of the area. The café also gives stray dogs a warm place to sleep. Every night after the place closes, the owner lets dogs in so they can spend the night out of the cold.
When this photo was posted on Facebook, the photographer (Eustratios Papanis), included a request to join the page to help animal protection efforts. The laws in Greece are generally supportive of good care for animals, but the sinking economy has led to a much larger stray dog population than before. Many people are abandoning pets who they cannot care for properly, and there are still issues with neglect and indifference.
With refugees flooding the area, resources are stretched thin, yet according to Papanis, compassion towards people as well as animals has created a solidarity of kindness among many residents. One café that takes in a few dogs each night is just a sign of the love towards animals so prevalent in this country.
The comments to the original post are in many languages and from many countries, showing that this photo has truly touched hearts around the world.
Dog's Life: Humane
Virgin America launches their Tiny Dogs Tiny Fares promotion.
For better or worse it's become an American ritual to race to the stores on Black Friday and hunt for online deals on Cyber Monday. To try and counteract the spending frenzy, a new movement started a few years ago, naming the Tuesday after Thanksgiving 'Giving Tuesday,' reminding people to give back to their favorite charity. But this year you didn't have to wait until Tuesday to get a good deal and help out homeless pets.
This past weekend, Virgin America launched one of their biggest sales of the year, coupled with a #TinyDogsTinyFares Cyber Monday promotion of up to 30 percent off flights plus a $10 donation from every booking to its animal shelter partners: The San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SF ACC), The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and Animal Haven.
In conjunction with the deal, Virgin America also organized its seventh 'Operation Chihuahua' airlift this week, flying Chihuahuas from San Francisco to New York where they are more adoptable. California's Chihuahua overpopulation problem forces West Coast animal shelters to look to the East Coast where the demand for smaller dogs exceeds the supply. Virgin America has relocated 100 Chihuahuas since the collaboration with the SF ACC began in 2010. These homeless Chihuahuas get the VIP treatment, receiving a red carpet send-off and a flight with plenty of treats and toys.
“This is always a fun day for our Teammates, who volunteer to fly over a 24-hour period as traveling companions in order to get these pups to their forever homes on the East Coast," said Virgin America Brand Marketing and Communications Vice President Abby Lunardini. "Many of our Teammates, including myself, as well as our flyers, are passionate animal lovers, and it is heartwarming to see so many come together to support the important and under-funded work the SF ACC is doing. We’re proud to be a small part of that.”
It's nice to see companies giving back and bringing attention to a great cause, especially on a weekend where it's easy to get caught up in the shopping craze.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
No outfit is safe anymore
The neighbors at the end of our block recently adopted a fourth dog, which no doubt has made for many changes in the household and a lot of adjustments for everyone. All the dogs get along, and the transition seems to have been smooth. I’ve only heard one comment about the new challenges, which is “Now no color is safe to wear!”
That’s because once the fourth dog joined their family, the household contained dogs of every color, meaning that no matter what anybody wears, at least one dog’s fur will show up on it. Enzo is a reddish Golden Retriever, Sake is a black Shiba Inu and Luna is a Pointer and Blue Tick Coonhound mix with black and white mottled fur. The best guess about Candy, who is white with reddish markings, is that her lineage includes Border Collie, Australian Shepherd and Jack Russell Terrier.
Not only is fur of every color always present, the guardians of this handsome crew swear that the dogs know what they are wearing and choose to give extra love each morning to whoever is wearing a contrasting color. It does seem as though fur is drawn to outfits that will show it to best advantage, and it’s not much of a stretch to think that the dogs are in on the strategy of making their fur visible.
Fur color is a big deal when it comes to planning one’s wardrobe. Naturally, I am never far from a lint brush, but my best defense against the look of unfashionable dog hair on my outfits is to wear colors that match the current dogs in my life. I have always worn black a lot, and my black dog Bugsy could shed on me without it ever showing. I once traded dogs for the afternoon with a co-worker who had an American Eskimo and within hours, I was streaked with white. My co-worker fared little better, and after a few hours with Bugsy, her crisp khakis and white shirt looked less professional than when she began the day.
Do you have an abundance of colors of dog fur in your life?
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Doggy triathlons are becoming more popular as people seek activities to do with their pets.
Six years ago, when my Sheltie, Nemo, and I ran the Iams Doggy Dash, held in conjunction with the New York City Triathlon, there weren't that many races made for dogs. It was definitely much more fun training for a race with Nemo by my side. As race organizers realized that people wanted more activities to do with their pets, more dog oriented races have popped up--even at the highest levels of competition.
An Austrian company started the annual Iron Dog competition seven years ago and was a trailblazer for tailoring endurance events for pets. Now similar races have been created in Germany, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom, which is hosting its first dog triathlon, the Tridog, next year.
The courses are often shortened from the equivalent human-only races to prevent dogs from overheating, which was something I was concerned about when I ran with Nemo. I took a lot of precautions to ensure that he was happy and healthy the entire time. Our dogs will follow us anywhere and it's important we look out for their best interests. Not all pups are meant to run triathlons and it's our job to know what is over our pet's limits.
Unlike their human counterparts, many of these races have organized training meetups to help ensure participants are properly conditioning their dogs. While running is something that canines do naturally, endurance running, distance swimming, and trotting alongside a bike are skills that need to be gradually introduced and built up over time.
Human races have exploded in popularity over the last few years, and the increased numbers have been accompanied by a surge in injuries. Many of these are thought to be attributed to a lack of training and conditioning. I hope that's not something we see with the rise in canine races. These events have the potential to inspire people to be more active with their dogs, as long as they do it safely and thoughtfully.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
An east coast search and rescue dog is honored in Los Angeles.
One of the qualities I admire most about working dogs is how they approach each day with such enthusiasm. Whether it's the service dog who helps their handler live more independently or the explosives detection dog that saves the lives of everyone in harm's way, these pups give us their all, often without any thanks.
The American Humane Hero Dog Awards wanted to change that by recognizing the heroes on both ends of the leash. Each year they solicit nominations for pups in eight categories--Law Enforcement, Service, Therapy, Military, Guide/Hearing, Search and Rescue, Arson, and Emerging Hero. A combination between online voting and a panel of judges determines the winner in each category. Those eight finalists are flown to Hollywood for an awards gala that honors each dog and announces the grand prize winner.
To help cultivate the next generation of hero dogs, the American Humane Association donates $2,500 to each of the eight finalists' charity partners and an additional $5,000 for the grand prize winner's charity partner.
This year the grand prize winner was a search and rescue dog named Kobuk. The 7-year old German Shepherd and his handler, Elizabeth Fossett, have been volunteering with Maine Search and Rescue Dogs (MESARD) for the last four years. While they may make it look easy, search and rescue requires a lot of work. It took two years to find Kobuk since not all dogs are cut out for this kind of job. The searches often require for them to work eight hours at a time for multiple days. And when not deployed, Elizabeth spends 30 hours a month training and keeping Kobuk's skills fresh. But seeing the difference they've made makes it totally worth it. Elizabeth remembers early in their search and rescue career, Kobuk located 77-year old Ruth Brennan who had diabetes and dementia. Ruth had been missing for three days until Kobuk tracked 2/10 of a mile to find her."Kobuk came up over the hill and gave me his trained bark alert that he had found her and located her," remembers Elizabeth. It was a thrilling and life changing moment. Nonetheless, Elizabeth never thought she and Kobuk would be flying to Los Angeles to be honored for their work.
"Pinch me," said Elizabeth. "Because how did we go from running around the woods of Maine to walking around the red carpet of Hollywood?" The award couldn't have gone to a more humble and deserving team. I love that the American Humane Association highlights these amazing teams who work behind the scenes.
To learn more about Kobuk and Elizabeth, head over to the American Humane Hero Dog Awards web site to see their tribute video. If you were inspired, consider making a donation to Maine Search and Rescue Dogs to support their all-volunteer team.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
To avoid an unwanted trip to the vet, be aware of these holiday-related hazards for dogs
If you’re a pet owner, you’re probably aware of the things you need to do to keep your pets safe around your home. But as the holidays approach, you may have to step up your game a bit to make sure your celebrations aren’t interrupted by a pet-related crisis. A big problem is pets eating something they shouldn’t. Another concern is that in the confusion of guests and celebrating, pets can easily get out and get lost. Candles and holiday decorations can be dangerous temptations for a pet too. So while you’re celebrating, watch out for the following to ensure that your good times are also good for your dogs and cats.
Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season for most people in the United States. For pet owners it marks the start of the season when extra vigilance is required, especially when it comes to dogs and food.
Houzzers have stories galore about dogs eating the turkey (bones and all), the foil and string it was wrapped in, and even the oil it was fried in. Side dishes and desserts are equally tempting. The happy confusion of a holiday meal with family and friends creates plentiful opportunities for a dog or cat to snag some human food. So keeping pets and food separated is always a good idea.
Even if your pets are normally well behaved, the noise and confusion of the holiday may be difficult them, and they could seek to escape if given an opportunity. Finding a quiet and secure place for pets away from festivities is a good idea.
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Christmas comes with a long list of possible problems. Ornaments can get broken, creating a danger of cuts, or can be swallowed. The hooks they hang on can also cause problems if swallowed, as can tinsel. Bubbling lights and fire salts may contain toxic chemicals, while the spun glass that constitutes angel hair can irritate skin and eyes and is dangerous if eaten.
Other dangers are typical holiday plants, such as mistletoe, lilies, holly and Christmas rose, which can cause gastrointestinal distress at the very least. Candles and open fireplaces can harm pets if they get too close to the flames and ashes or, in the case of candles, overturn them. Even the tree water, which can be stagnant or contain preservatives, can cause upset stomachs and worse. And you shouldn’t use a ribbon as a collar; pets can easily get them caught on something and choke.
Photo by Rikki Snyder - Discover traditional family room design inspiration
Of course, this means your holiday decorating may need some adjustments, such as placing the tree and cherished family heirlooms out of reach.
My family has done just that. For the past three Christmases, we’ve encircled our Christmas tree with a dog fence, keeping the tree, ornaments and wrapped presents safe until the holiday. Since it looks like this may be a continuing issue, I’m already exploring ideas for tastefully and safely decorating the fencing next December.
Photo by Rita from Design Megillah - Browse transitional dining room photos
When it comes to Hanukkah, keep an eye on any small gift objects or toys and the chocolate coins, which can tempt pets and create problems for them.
Ringing out the old year and ringing in the new is a happy tradition for many on New Year’s Eve, but a skittish cat or dog may be overwhelmed by the noise and confusion. And while balloons and confetti add to the festivities, they can cause internal problems if your dog or cat eats them.
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The same general rules apply to other holidays and other celebrations, especially birthday parties.
Chocolate and xylitol-sweetened gum are harmful or toxic to pets, and other candies aren’t good for them. Candles can be a problem, as pets can knock them over or can be burned by them, while dangling decorations and balloons can be tempting to play with or try to eat. Small trinkets, fake grass and many popular plants given as gifts, including tulips, daffodils and lilies, should also be kept out of your pet’s reach.
Fireworks can be a major problem for pets on the Fourth of July. Some animals do fine; others are freaked out by the noise. If your pets are nervous, ask your vet for antianxiety medications designed for animals. You may need to start some ahead of time.
Remember that pets can become overexcited and act out or run away when things are chaotic, such as during a party or on the Fourth of July or Halloween. You might want to find them a safe and quiet spot indoors and away from the activities, even if they normally live or spend time outside.
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