Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Never Give Up: a Lost Dog is Reunited

Girl Scout went missing on June 14, 2014 after jumping a five foot fence at a friend’s house in another town. An athletic 30 pound mixed breed, she was on the run in an unfamiliar area many miles from home. Her frantic owners immediately began the search and plastered missing posters on every surface for miles around. I saw the fliers every day as I went about my calls and I patrolled the area repeatedly hoping I would be able to find her and give her people the happy ending they were looking for. Girl Scout was microchipped and wearing a collar and tags (an animal control officer’s favorite), and occasionally there would be sightings, but she was too frightened to go to anyone.

Weeks and then months went by and the sightings grew fewer. I wondered about her often, as I still saw the faded and tattered fliers everywhere. Sometimes new fliers would pop up as a result of another sighting but Girl Scout was no closer to being caught. Even formerly friendly, outgoing dogs sometimes get where they don’t trust anyone and they just stay alive scrounging from trash cans and outdoor pet food bowls.

Three months after Girl Scout went missing, someone who had seen the fliers recognized her with a homeless man and was able to reunite her with her ecstatic family. A vet visit showed her to be thin, covered in tick bites and having broken her leg at some point. The leg had healed slightly crooked but overall, she is doing well.

 Girl Scout’s owners did a lot of things right to help her come home. They made reports to animal control, offered a reward and put up (and are taking down) more than 700 fliers, many of which were laminated, helping them last longer. They left their car, her crate, blankets etc at the areas she was seen. She had tags and a microchip, which would have helped in many situations although they weren’t the saving factor in this case. They posted on Facebook, took out ads and searched relentlessly, but most of all, they never gave up.

I would love to hear from readers who have recovered a lost a dog. Tell us what you did to find them and how you were reunited.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Walking for Shelter Pups
App donates ad revenue to shelters in all 50 states.
Wouldn't it be great to help shelter pets by simply taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood? Now you can do just that with the Walk for a Dog app developed by WoofTrax. The program uses money from sponsors, advertisers, and investors to benefit homeless animals around the country.

Once you download the program to your cell phone, you choose the shelter you'd like to walk for, and then hit "Start Walking" to record your outings. Over 800,000 miles have been logged to date, with over 4,000 shelters on board to receive donations.

To determine how much money goes to each organization, WoofTrax uses an algorithm that weighs the number of users per shelter, the number of walks, and the number of miles. They didn't want to assign a strict donation amount per mile in order to make the app accessible to people of all ages and fitness abilities. However, the first round of checks averaged a payout of about 25 cents per mile walked. People without pets can also use the app by choosing the "Walk for Cassie" option.

The idea for Walk for a Dog came from founders, Doug Hexter, Bill Helman, and Mark Wheeler. They wanted to come up with an app that would encourage people to be active, while helping a good cause. They also wanted to take advantage of the millions of people already walking their pets every day.

The app has also helped in other ways as well. One user, Donna, attributes Walk for a Dog with transforming her relationship with her rescue pup, Sugar. Ever since Donna adopted Sugar back in 2011, Sugar always hated being on a leash. When the Walk for a Dog app launched, Donna decided to commit to walking with Sugar so they could raise money for their local shelter. Donna figured even if they only make it to the end of the driveway, it was better than nothing. Now Donna and Sugar walk a mile every day and always gets compliments on Sugar's wonderful leash manners. Sugar also wakes Donna up each morning to make sure they go on their daily walk!

Visit the WoofTrax web site to learn more about the Walk for a Dog app, or how your local shelter can sign up to receive donations.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Adoption Without Whole Family Involvement
Have you done this?

I just saw a friend’s Facebook post with a photo of her two children and an adorable puppy. The post read, “Can I use this photo to break the news to my husband?” They had been to a shelter and found themselves unable to resist getting a puppy.  Her husband is out of town and she hasn’t told him yet. She is apparently waiting for the right moment, but she has some time because he’s not on Facebook.

I have no idea whether the idea of adopting a puppy had come up and it was a part of the family plan or whether this was a true impulse decision. Either way, I’m fascinated by the idea of such a big decision (a new family member!) happening without everyone’s participation, especially one of the adults.

The general response to the post has been “Aww, it will all work out when he meets the puppy. He’ll melt.” Perhaps that’s true, although the alternative is concerning. As one person commented, the adorable photo is a better choice for breaking the news to her husband than a photo of the dog pooping in his shoe. And therein lies the real issue: Puppies are adorable and wonderful and every other superlative adjective that exists, but they are also exhausting and frustrating and a lot of work.

Everyone with a puppy deals with emotional ups and downs, but it’s easier to take the struggles along with the joy if you’ve been part of the decision to adopt the puppy in the first place. If not, it’s all too commonplace to consider the tough jobs (cleaning up accidents, taking the puppy out in the middle of the night, puppy-proofing the house, etc.) the domain of the person who decided to adopt the puppy without your input.<

If someone is not involved in choosing the dog, the relationship between that person and the dog can be affected. We tend to stick by our decisions, loving a dog we have selected through good times and bad, and for some people that’s harder with a dog that comes into their life without their consent. Of course, there are also countless cases where a “surprise” pup turns into somebody’s best friend without speed bumps along the way, but it’s taking a risk to assume that’s how it will work out.

A unilateral decision can also cause strain between human family members. There’s something very powerful about going through the process that leads to agreement: “Yes! This is the dog we should welcome into our family!” It’s an altogether different experience to come home to unexpected news that a new puppy now lives with you.

Have you or another member of your family every adopted a dog without involving everyone in the decision?

News: Guest Posts
Inspired to Make Change
Smiling Dog Jack helps local shelters

We love getting your smiling dog submissions and your stories. We've heard some great stories from past Smiling Dogs like Jedi who has a passion for surf to Cayman who has amazing pen pals.

Lexie Harpold submitted her photo to our Smiling Dog contest and we were smitten with Jack as Batman. We selected the photo for use as a Weekly Smiler and just recently learned about Lexie’s trips to the Arizona Humane Society where Jack was adopted.

Lexie described the shelter saying, “There are many animals that do not have blankets or beds”. She visited the shelter recently noticing that many of the dogs were depressed, scared and anxious, so she decided to start a donation drive.

I love the idea and want to encourage everyone to get out there and do something. November is Adopt A Senior Pet Month, not everyone can adopt, but everyone can contribute.

Whether you help Lexie with her goal, donate to your local shelter/rescue, or volunteer to foster or walk, anything helps.

You can donate or get information about Jack & Lexie’s fundraiser My Favorite Breed is Rescued here.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Neighborhood Watch
Police train dog walkers to spot suspicious activity
When you walk your dogs each day, you become very familiar with the details of the neighborhood. I immediately know which dogs (or people) are new to the area, which houses are having work done, and even which cars seem to be gone for the weekend. I can also catch up on neighborhood gossip when I stop to talk to others out for a stroll. If you think about it, dog walkers always seem to know what's going on in the neighborhood. Not to mention that nothing deters us from going outside--rain, snow, even hurricanes.

The National Association of Town Watch (NATW) realized that dog walkers were an untapped resource, people already patrolling neighborhoods across the country--even if they were mostly looking for poop to scoop. This April, NATW launched Dog Walker Watch (DWW), a crime awareness program that encourages the millions of dog walkers nationwide to serve as "extra eyes and ears" for their communities.

Through the initiative, NATW provides information and materials for local law enforcement to conduct training classes on how to effectively observe and report criminal activity. The instruction is geared towards identifying possible residential burglary by noticing anything out of the ordinary (e.g., a person who doesn't appear to have a destination, an open gate that is usually closed).

So far about 1,000 communities have registered in the program, including the suburbs of major cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia. While the program targets dog walkers, anyone from the community can take part in the training.

NATW Executive Director, Matt Peskin, says while it's too early to determine the effectiveness of the program, there have been many additional benefits. The initiative has fostered new relationships between local police and residents, and has prompted some neighborhoods to organize more community activities, like pet Halloween parties. It's great to see that DWW is helping people come together for both fun and safety.

Check out the NATW web site for more information on DWW.


News: Editors
Jonny Justice: From Bad Newz Kennel to Dog of The Year

The yearly Humane Award Winners presented by the ASPCA® is a way to bring attention and notoriety to a handful of deserving individuals—outstanding people and animals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to animal welfare. These individuals act as role models and sources of inspiration for the humane community and the world at large. The 2014 awards were just announced, and include two heroes that we are well familiar with … Jonny Justice has been named ASPCA Dog of the Year, and Lori Weise, co-founder of Downtown Dog Rescue (Los Angeles) was awarded the prestigious ASPCA Henry Bergh Award. We’ve covered both Jonny and Lori in lengthy features in The Bark, and congratulate them on this special, well-deserved honor.


ASPCA Dog of the Year
Jonny Justice
San Francisco, Calif.

Jonny Justice was one of 49 dogs rescued from unimaginable cruelty as part of the 2007 Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting investigation, which resulted in the conviction of NFL quarterback Michael Vick and others. The ASPCA played a central role in the investigation, assisting with the recovery and analysis of forensic evidence from Vick’s property, and leading a team of certified applied animal behaviorists to evaluate the rescued dogs. A black and white pit bull, who had little or no positive interactions with people or other dogs, Jonny was given a second chance when he was adopted by his foster parents, Cris Cohen and Jennifer Long. As Jonny adjusted to life as a typical pet, it became clear that he loved interacting with children. In 2008 he found his true calling as a therapy dog, and these days spends much of his time offering love and support to terminally ill children receiving medical treatment (and their families). Jonny is also a champion for literacy, and has participated in programs, where children practice their language skills by reading aloud to him. The tale of Jonny’s inspirational comeback from the horrors of dog fighting to work as a therapy dog has traveled far and wide, even inspiring a line of plush toys that extend his ability to touch children across the country.
For our original story click here.

ASPCA® Henry Bergh Award
Lori Weise, Downtown Dog Rescue
Los Angeles, Calif.

During her daily commute eighteen years ago to a furniture factory on the edge of Skid Row in Los Angeles, Lori Weise routinely saw stray dogs suffering from terrible abuse and horrific neglect. Inspired to act, Lori and her coworkers created Downtown Dog Rescue in the back of her furniture factory to rescue animals from dangerous situations and care for them. For many animals, it was the first time they ever experienced compassion. Known as “The Pit Bull Lady,” Lori has evolved Downtown Dog Rescue into a large volunteer-based animal charity that rescues dogs and assists underserved communities in South East Los Angeles, Watts and Compton. Lori and Downtown Dog Rescue created the South L.A. Shelter Intervention Program in 2013, providing pet owners resources to keep their pets rather than relinquish them to the South L.A. Animal Shelter. Downtown Dog Rescue now has its own kennel with room for 35 dogs, and has provided free spay/neuter surgeries for more than 10,000 dogs in the Los Angeles area. Lori has also helped almost 13,000 dogs and cats stay in their homes and avoid being placed in shelters.  Lori’s selfless and nonjudgmental philosophy continues to break down obstacles and change the landscape for animal welfare in these Los Angeles communities.

For our original story click here.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Naps
They’re a beautiful thing

I’m not a jealous person by nature, but I felt such envy recently when a client told me that both of her (unrelated) young adolescent dogs take 2 to 3-hour naps each afternoon, and at the same time, no less. One of the dogs sleeps so soundly that you could vacuum right outside her crate and not wake her up, though the other is likely to awaken in response to loud noises.

Many dogs nap on and off during the day, seeming to relish a little extra rest, but I’m not used to dogs who reliably have a session of snoozing in addition to the nighttime one that last for hours and happens at the same time every day. Many dogs will nap on and off much of the day if left alone, but it’s different to have dogs who nap no matter what is going on in the household. Raising dogs like that sounds like heaven to me.

Dogs need a lot more sleep than people, and some napping is typical. It’s not unusual for adult dogs to sleep 14 hours a day. Puppies often sleep closer to 18 hours each day, although sometimes all this sleep happens in a lot of little sessions rather than a few bigger ones.

Some of the signs that a puppy needs a nap are obvious—yawning, lying down, struggling to keep their eyes open—but other signs may be more confusing. Sometimes a puppy is all wound up and acting crazy, and it seems that what they need is activity and stimulation. In fact, what they really need is a nap. Though it’s counterintuitive, those bursts of loopy behavior can be a sign of fatigue. Many puppies become very mouthy when they are tired, and though this looks like a puppy with extra energy, it’s often a puppy in desperate need of rest.

Though dogs sleep more than people, they are often more flexible about how that sleep is allocated through the day, and most don’t sleep as soundly as the average human. Like us, though, changes in sleep patterns or the need for excessive sleep may indicate health issues. Concerns can range from something manageable like requiring higher quality nutrition to as serious as life-threatening cancer.

How much do your dogs sleep each day, and are they good nappers?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Border Collie Fun and Games
Sneaking up on their buddies

The expressions on these dogs’ faces and their movements captivated me while I watched them sneak up on other dogs in the field.

Dogs often move so fast that it’s hard to see all the details of their body language, but these dogs are stalking so slowly that you can see the tiniest changes in expression or posture. It’s cool to see the muscles along the backs of the two dogs move as they creep forward. The lighter dog ever-so-slightly opens and closes his (her?) mouth during the stalking. Both dogs move their heads a little and their eyebrows a lot during their approach, and I love the way they periodically keep one paw elevated as they pause in their forward motion.

It’s interesting to ponder what makes them move at the same pace as each other and in the particular positions that they are relative to one another. There does not seem to be any conflict about how to approach or at what pace, but it’s not clear how they coordinate that. It could be as simple as one dog following the other’s lead, but perhaps more complex feedback and communication are involved.

It’s likely that these dogs entertain themselves with this sort of activity often, because none of them ever truly startle or look surprised. I wish I knew when the three dogs who were lying down became aware that there were two dogs sneaking up on them. I suspect it was long before they turned around to chase them, but it’s hard to say for sure. Two of the dogs are in a position to see the dogs coming, and the one who is not twitches an ear 41 seconds before turning around to give chase, and has his (her?) head turned towards them several seconds before chasing them. It’s impossible to say what the dog was attending to at either point, but I don’t think the presence of the two sneaking dogs or their actions came as a surprise.

Have you seen your dogs sneak up on each other?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Braving the Doorbell on Halloween
All Hallows' Eve strategies for barking pups.
In my house, and countless other canine homes, the doorbell is followed by a chorus of excited barking. Training this behavior away takes a lot of patience (more than I have!) and is particularly challenging since barking is so self-reinforcing. So I embrace my canine "back-up" doorbells and let the dogs freely voice their opinion about incoming guests. There's only one time of the year that I really think about all of the barking, and that's Halloween. The holiday brings about 40 costumed kids to our doorstep each year, translating to a few episodes of barking per hour... followed by confused pets wondering where the visitors are.

On Halloween night, my dogs go into their crates with holiday treats (usually new bones or antlers). This isn't for the barking, but for their own safety (keeping them away from potentially scary costumes and opportunities to bolt out of the door).

As an alternative, some of my dog friends opt to leave a basket of candy outside for trick-or-treaters (so the doorbell never gets rung) or skip Halloween all together by turning off the lights in the front of the house (universal sign that a house is not participating in trick-or-treating). These are particularly good ideas for a dog that may be anxious around so much unusual activity or noise. A friend of mine had the great idea of hosting a party at our local training club during trick-or-treating hours (we had a similar party on the Fourth of July to distract pups during peak fireworks time).

I find that trying to drown out doorbells with music or using Halloween as a training opportunity can just make things worse. The best Halloween strategy is to act like nothing out of the ordinarily is happening (to the extent possible), while making sure your dogs are comfortable and secure.

What's your canine influenced trick-or-treating strategy this year? Check out more Halloween safety tips here.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sweet Dreams Hector

I cried today, for a dog I only met once, years ago. I first met Hector at a Bad Rap (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls) event. Hector and another dog that had been rescued from Michael Vicks dog fighting ring were there. The two of them were as delightful as any dogs I’ve ever might. Hector was horribly scarred but all he wanted to do when he saw another dog was play. His eager whines, gently wagging tail and welcoming play bows were evident whenever he saw a potential new friend, human or canine. I fell in love with him on the spot.

As a long time shelter worker, I have an embarrassing confession. When I heard that Bad Rap was going to try and save some of Michael Vicks dogs, I disagreed with it. I love dogs. I love pit bulls. And I had seen far too many of them euthanized for lack of homes. My feeling at the time was that we couldn’t even find homes for all the pits that hadn’t been bred and trained for fighting so it didn’t make sense to save a group of dogs with such a terrible history. I felt that the kindest thing was to gently let them go. Hector taught me that every dog deserves to be judged on his own merits. As it turned out, most of Vicks dogs were just neglected, unsocialized animals in desperate need of a friend. With few exceptions, most of them even liked other dogs.

Thankfully for Hector and the rest of the Vick dogs, the amazing folks at Bad Rap believed the dogs deserved a chance. They evaluated them, found foster homes, waited through a lengthy trial and finally placed the dogs in homes or sanctuaries depending on their needs. Hector was placed in amazing home and soon had his own facebook page that topped 200,000 likes. He lived out the rest of his life as an adored and beloved companion until he passed away October 27th from cancer. Sweet dreams Hector. 

You were loved.