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News: Guest Posts
Adventure Pups: Life with an African Street Dog
Bringing Olive Home

Chauncy dog’s fox-red fur adds a touch of warmth to his owner’s New York apartment. In the winter he wears sweaters to keep him warm; African dogs aren’t used to New England winters.  On the other side of the world, Boon is exploring the sights and smells of Mumbai, his pointed ears and basenji-inspired form blends in well with the local Indian breeds.

Chauncy and Boon have travelled a long way from their native Burundi. Adopted by diplomats, aid workers and journalists, dogs from developing countries are finding their way around the world at the side of their human companions. 

Adopting an East African street dog is a labor of love. East African dogs are remarkably clever animals that do not train easily. Feeding a dog in a place that lacks a culture of animal care, means all meals are hand-cooked. Visiting vets from Uganda or Belgium come to town only occasionally to provide needed check ups, vaccinations and sterilization – though often these surgeries are performed in private homes. 

In 2013, I found myself in South Sudan working as a development anthropologist. Juba, the capital city, can be a lonely place full of guarded compounds and ever-running generators. When I saw Olive, a little mess of fur in the street, I knew she needed me as much as I needed her. Despite less-than-ideal living conditions, I brought the pup home. 

At eight weeks, Olive was showing signs of malnutrition and her ears were so full of ticks that it took 45 minutes to clean them out. Olive also had bot flies, some of which were so large they obstructed the movements of her joints.

Despite difficult beginnings, Olive grew into a lively and loving dog with lots of energy. She loved to watch over her shoulder as she left muddy paw prints on the tile floors and even learned how to open the front door by herself.

 Olive was living a comfortable life in Juba until the security situation changed dramatically. South Sudan seemed to be returning to war and shells and mortar rounds were going off less than a kilometer from our home. Expatriates had to be evacuated—no pets allowed.

Trying to remote-manage the export of a pet from a war zone is no easy feat and it took four, excruciatingly painful months to get Olive out of Juba. South Sudanese friends rallied their support and kept her fed and cared for, but she was lonely and often sat waiting by the gate as though hoping we would come home.  

After a herculean effort, Olive made the journey to Nairobi where she is being papered and prepped to fly to Europe to join me. As Chauncy and Boon can attest, there is a special bond between adventure dogs and their humans. It can be difficult to understand why a poorly-paid aid worker or graduate student would go to such lengths to bring their canine companion home, particularly when their lives are built around helping people, not pets. The reality is that Olive, Boon and Chauncey remind us of how connected we are on this planet and the many ways in which protecting the most vulnerable enriches the soul. Raising an East African dog means enlisting the help of everyone around you to ensure quality of life. It introduces the care of animals to those who may otherwise never have experienced the friendship only dogs can give. 

When Olive arrives in Paris she will tell a story. She will be a reminder that proves the value of even one little pup—and the impact unconditional love can have on the well being of people, even in the midst of incredible hardship.

In addition to raising funds to bring Olive home, Melyn is raising additional money for the Kenyan SPCA, working to improve the lives of animals across East Africa. Visit http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bring-adventure-pup-home to read more about her story and what you can do to help. 

 

News: Guest Posts
One Day, You Will Smell Like a Dead Chicken

Unfortunately, this is true. I’ll explain.

Dogs are trained to sniff out a lot of things, and some of those “things” are human remains. Human remains, except those in a cemetery, are usually not out in the open; someone doesn’t want them found or there has been an accident. But bring your own Scooby Doo to the case, and you might have a fighting chance.

But how do dogs get into detection mode? Training can take many different forms, but customarily, trainers present dogs with a target odor (the smell of interest) and control odors (that are not of interest). They are trained to alert to the target odor and ignore the controls. Sometimes trainers use a scent detection board, like the one below that the University of Pennsylvania’s Working Dog Center uses when training dogs to alert to ovarian cancer.

To train dogs to identify and ultimately find a particular scent, trainers need samples. For different types of cancer, these samples might come from the blood, urine or tissue of a person with the target cancer. But what do you use if you are training a dog in human remains detection (thankfully given the innocuous-sounding acronym HRD)? If you are a HRD handler, how do you train and practice with your dog? Where do you get your, um, samples? Is this Dexter’s side gig?

One solution is to use nonhuman remains, as long as they are a suitable proxy for humans. A recent study by Cablk et al. (2012) compared the chemical compositions of decomposing tissue from a pig, cow, chicken and human. The researchers were investigating the volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—the “smell particles”—released by animals and humans.

The important question in the HRD field is: which VOCs are produced when a human body decomposes? Are they similar to or different from VOCs of decomposing animal tissue? Identifying the specific compounds—and their ratios—could help when training dogs, or in creating synthetic training samples. You know, so you don’t need a fridge full of—well, you get the picture.

When comparing decomposing animal and human tissue, the results were clear:“Although there were compounds common to both animal and human remains, the VOC signatures of each of the animal remains differed from those of humans.” Thank goodness. You are not a pig. Nor are you a cow. But yes, you are kind of a chicken: “The VOC signatures from chicken and human samples were most similar, sharing the most compounds of the animals studied.”

By contrast, VOCs in pig remains were not so similar to VOCs found in human remains. “In addition to sharing only seven of 30 human-specific compounds, an additional nine unique VOCs were recorded from pig samples, which were not present in human samples.”

HRD trainers sometimes use pig remains to train dogs, but given their VOC differences, are pig remains the best best? Is it better to train on human, synthetic human or even chicken remains?*

We don’t usually confuse humans with chickens, but this similarity we just can’t shake. It seems Marty McFly was wrong. Maybe we are chickens.

—-
* Nowadays, training with pig remains is not the norm. I mention the use of pig remains in cadaver dog training because it was a major point in the Cablk research paper. And totally kidding about training on chicken remains. A subsequent post will expand on the issues raised here.

References
Acevedo et al. 2007. Volatile organic compounds produced by human skin cells. Biological Research, 40, 347–355.

Cablk et al. 2012. Characterization of the volatile organic compounds present in the headspace of decomposing animal remains, and compared with human remains. Forensic Science International, 220, 118–125.

Hoffman et al. 2009. Characterization of the volatile organic compounds present in the headspace of decomposing human remains. Forensic Science International, 186, 6–13.

 

This article first appeared on Dog Spies, Scientific American. Reprinted with permission

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Officer Plucks Pup From Calif. Freeway
Lucky Chihuahua is saved after being abandoned on the highway

A highway during rush hour is the last place any of us wants to be. But on Friday, that's exactly where a tiny Chihuahua found herself abandoned--on a I-680 freeway divider outside of San Francisco during commuting time. Fortunately, California Highway Patrol officer, Alex Edmon, spotted the terrified pup and coaxed her to safety using a protein bar. Freeway, as Alex named her, was still shaking when she got to the animal shelter, but has since come out of her shell.

The Highway Patrol shared a photo of her rescue and tweeted, "This little dog needed some help off I-680 freeway today. We're glad she's safe. We're big on saving lives."

They're now investigating how Freeway got in her position since she couldn't have gotten there by herself. California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer John Fransen says unfortunately it's not uncommon for unwanted animals to be discarded on highway dividers.  

As tales of Freeway's rescue made the internet rounds, Contra Costa Animal Services has already received several offers to adopt the Chihuahua. Even better, interest in adopting other animals at the same shelter has also spiked as a result of people sharing Freeway's photo. A win-win for all involved!

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Life With Dogs Is Not Glamorous
We all have stories to prove it

The chain of events that led to the dog peeing on me in the middle of the night began with my children’s homework. It was an interesting and worthwhile assignment, which offers me some consolation. I hate to be peed on for no good reason!

The kids were tasked with investigating leaks in our house and making some calculations about how much water was being wasted. They had to check the water meter, make sure no water would be used during the next few hours, and then check the meter again to see if any water was being lost. We thought that it would be easiest to do this overnight when nobody would accidently wash their hands (an unlikely occurrence that only Murphy’s Law could make happen during the crucial period or anytime) or use water in any other way.

Just before bedtime after everybody had filled a water bottle, brushed their teeth and gone to the bathroom, we deactivated the icemaker in our freezer and the kids checked the meter. All we needed to do was go to bed and wait until morning for them to take a second reading of the meter.

Tragically, I awoke at midnight really needing to use the bathroom. Though I could of course have just gone but not flushed, I lacked confidence in myself. I don’t know why, but it is ridiculously hard for me to do this, and the risk that I would go, then flush automatically was too high in my mind.

“I’m up anyway, so I might as well take the dog out to relieve himself, and I can go out there,” was my thought.

Marley and I went outside and he wandered over to his favorite potty spot, and I picked a place for myself by some bushes. Still occupied with my own mission, I failed to notice the dog come around behind me until it was too late. I only became aware of his presence when he had already lifted his leg and I felt the warm stream of dog urine hit me in the lower back.

Unable to shower because of the water leak investigation assignment, I dried my back with paper towels and then used about a pint of hand sanitizer on the area before going back to bed. Though I was a little disgusted, it’s really not that big a deal considering the amount of vomit, pee and poop all of us who spend time with dogs have probably cleaned up over the years.

Besides, I found it interesting that Marley seemed to be over marking my urine with his own. Many dogs pee over other dogs’ pee, and even over the urine of men, but some dogs ignore urine from women and from kids. Unfortunately for me, Marley is not one of them.

News: Editors
Domestic Violence: No Dogs Left Behind
Pet-friendly shelters can be lifesavers for victims

We caught an interesting story on the National Public Radio's Latino USA on Sunday … the report discussed the connection between domestic violence and pets. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NVADV) finds evidence that many women at risk of spousal abuse refuse to leave out of fear for their pets — studies show that between 18 and 48 percent of pet-owning women at domestic violence shelters had delayed their escape from their abusers because of their pets. Providing shelter and services to victims of domestic violence that include accommodations for their pets can be key in these life or death decisions. The numbers are still small, but some shelters like New York City's Urban Resource Institute are beginning to open their doors to pets—first cats, and now dogs. Listen to how the bond between survivors and their pets is an important part of the healing process.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Family Reunited with Hurricane Sandy Pup
A N.J. shelter unknowingly matches a family with their long lost dog.
Everyone loves a good reunion, but the story of how a New Jersey family was reunited with their Pit Bull mix, Reckless, is just begging for a Hallmark movie!

Back in October 2012, Reckless bolted from home during Hurricane Sandy, leaving the James family devastated. They searched for Reckless but assumed the worst when they saw the pup's collar stuck on a fence. Adding to the tragedy, the storm also displaced the family from their home. They're still living in a hotel while waiting for repairs.

Finally last month the James family was ready to adopt a new dog and went to the Monmouth County SPCA in New Jersey to celebrate their daughter, Ally's, birthday. They met with the adoption counselor and explained the kind of dog they wanted. Based on their answers, the first canine candidate was brought into the room, who... turned out to be Reckless himself! As soon as the pup saw them, he started jumping three feet into the air and tears of joy streamed down the family's faces.

They did check the SPCA during the months following the hurricane, but Reckless didn't come in until six months ago. The shelter thinks that someone took in the scared pup  after the storm, but Reckless eventually escaped and was picked up by the SPCA.

Now Reckless is back with his family and helping to make their hotel room feel a lot more like home. What an amazing story and a birthday that Ally James is sure to never forget!

News: Guest Posts
Giving Twenty Years Worth of Dog Portraits a New Life
Longtime Bark contributor Amanda Jones has launched a Kickstarter campaign for her new line of cards, from left to right clockwise: “Forever Young” Rudy as stationary and as a Bark cover dog; Melissa and Amanda; The Dog Studio’s exciting new card designs.

As a young photographer working in San Francisco in 1994, I discovered that I absolutely loved photographing dogs. Around the same time I also discovered a very creative couple in Berkeley were starting up a dog magazine called The Bark. I shared some of my photographs with Claudia and Cameron, the editor and the publisher of The Bark, and told them that if they ever needed imagery for their magazine that they should call me. I also told them that I was interested in advertising my dog photography services in their new magazine. That was twenty years ago and they have been using my images and I have been advertising in their magazine pages ever since! My framed cover photographs for The Bark are some of my most treasured possessions from my career as a dog photographer.  

Thousands of dogs and clients later, I have decided that I want to use my imagery in a new and unique way. In my mind the use of dog imagery on paper products is sorely lacking in creativity and beauty. My intention is to set a new standard for the quality of dog photography used on cards and gift items. I enlisted the help of my extremely talented sister, Melissa, who just happens to be a graphic designer, and using my vast database of twenty years of dog photography we have created The Dog Studio.  

We are preparing to launch our card line this month with 48 greeting cards and 48 Dog Packs, sets of notecards featuring specific breeds, at the National Stationery Show in New York City.

We are also running a Kickstarter campaign to help the business get off the ground, and with just four days left we are at 75% of our goal! We have some great rewards for those who back The Dog Studio: portrait sessions, signed books & posters and of course lots of greeting cards. Check it out, it’s a fun Kickstarter campaign!

Our website: www.thedogstudio.com will be launched later this month as an ecommerce site but for now you can visit it and get more information about what we are doing. Keep an eye out for our new Dog Studio ad in The Bark coming soon...

— Amanda Jones, Bark contributor

News: Guest Posts
What Should I Feed My Dog?
Book Review: Dog Food Logic

How wonderful if you could pose this question just once in your dog’s life and receive a perfect answer that would last a lifetime. Imagine if there were a ‘right’ formula, and once you know it, you could feed your dog forever and ever on the same exquisite diet. Your dog, in return, would be the happiest and healthiest doggie camper there ever was.

Unfortunately, “What should I feed my dog?” is not the question we should be asking. In fact, “What should I feed my dog” is akin to the infomercial that comes on at 3 AM informing you that if you just buy this Mega-Blast Belt (for three low monthly payments of $19.99), six-pack abs will follow. Both fall into a quick-fix category — the “right” product, the “right” answer — that unfortunately doesn’t exist.

Instead, the question that will last you a lifetime is, “How should I feed my dog?” This is where Linda Case, M.S. comes to the rescue. I don’t mean to be superhero-y about it, but Case’s new book, Dog Food Logic: Making Smart Decisions for Your Dog in an Age of Too Many Choices is a unique work designed to help readers make informed, science-based decisions on what and how to feed our beloved companion dogs. As one veterinarian offers, “Dog Food Logic cuts through the noise and chaos and provides pet owners with a rational, science-based approach to evaluating their pets’ dietary needs and their feeding choices” (The Skeptvet Blog).

Linda Case knows a thing or two about animal nutrition. She earned her B.S. in Animal Science at Cornell University and her M.S. in Canine/Feline Nutrition at the University of Illinois. She maintains the well-received blog, The Science Dog, and has written numerous books on companion animal nutrition, training and behavior. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Cats in Context conference at Canisius College in 2013 (Case spoke on cat nutrition, and I gave a talk on research into whether dogs and cats in the home can be friends — they can).

But back to dog food. If you are expecting a dry read on dog nutrition and diet, you’ve come to the wrong place. Dog Food Logic is a page turner, jam-packed with real-world examples that you can easily relate to. Case unpacks label claims, fad diets and the wonderfully persuasive field of pet food marketing. What does it mean when a food is ‘recommended by veterinarians or breeders?’ Who is Chef Michael, and should you trust him? And who’s keeping our dog food safe?

Throughout the book, Case discusses research into canine nutrition and diet in a way that is easy to digest, if you’ll pardon the pun. For example, studies have investigated:

  • Do large-breed puppies (say Great Danes or Newfoundlands) have different nutritional requirements than say, Chihuahuas? Should the big puppies eat the same type of food as the little ones? Or is it just a matter of quantity? Case provides the research.
  • Can diet influence cancer progression? While a particular dog food brand won’t cure cancer, nutritional science and canine cancer research find that particular dietary compositions can be beneficial to dogs with cancer.
  • What about age-related illnesses? Can they be prevented or delayed through nutrition?

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and since I can’t possibly summarize all the topics and findings covered in Case’s book, the above are intentional teasers. To find out more, read the book.

 

References

Case, L. 2014. Dog Food Logic: Making Smart Decisions for Your Dog in an Age of Too Many Choices. Dogwise Publishing.

Case, L. The Science Dog blog.

Hecht, J. 2013. Dogs and Cats in the Home: Happiness for All? Dog Spies and Do You Believe in Dog?

McKenzie, B. The SkeptVet blog.

This article first appeard on Dog Spies, Scientific American. Used with permission.

News: Guest Posts
Adorable Adoptable Dogs
Volunteer photographer shares dogs in need of a forever home
 Adoptable Dogs from Coshocton county shelter

These are some totally wonderful, eminently adoptable dogs available now at the Coshocton county shelter in Coshocton, Ohio. Phil Samuell, a retiree extraordinaire who generously volunteers his talents to take these great photos, tells us that they only have a 3-day “hold” period there, so gotta act quickly. It’s too heartbreaking to think of what might happen to these lovely dogs!

News: Editors
Farley Mowat Dies

"I believe in God the way my dog does" —Farley Mowat

Author Farley Mowat, chronicler of humanity’s relationship with nature, ardent environmental activist and dog lover, died at the age of 92. Mowat’s prolific writing ranged from the trailblazing Never Cry Wolf to People of the Deer and numerous children’s book. In Never Cry Wolf he recounts his experience studying Arctic wolves in 1946, living in a den close to them in the Keewatin Barren Lands in northern Manitoba. As The New York Times noted in their obituary:

He portrayed wolves as patient and gentle with their own, sometimes even fond of practical jokes. They adopted orphan puppies and babysat for other wolves’ pups. They never killed more than they could eat. In one passage he described the father of the wolf family, whom he named George: “His dignity was unassailable, yet he was by no means aloof. Conscientious to a fault, thoughtful of others, and affectionate within reasonable bounds, he was the kind of father whose idealized image appears in many wistful books of human family reminiscences.”

George, he added, was “the kind of father every son longs to acknowledge as his own.”

 

One of my favorite books of all times was his totally enjoyable, hilarious The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be a story of his boyhood on the Canadian prairies with a pair of owls for pets and a dog named Mutt who was an irrepressible playmate and fellow adventurer who could climb trees and road in the back seat of the family’s roadster wearing goggles. This is an unforgettable glimpse of country life in the 30’s where boys and their dogs roamed free. Many reviewers note that this is the most entertaining book they have ever read, I couldn’t agree with them more. Both of his classics, this book and Never Cry Wolf, are must reads for every dog lover. Even as recently as July, 2009, Nicholas D. Kristof, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, listed Mowat's The Dog who Wouldn't Be (first published in 1957) as one of the best children's books of all time.

Farley Mowat died only days away from his 93rd birthday, and was working on another book at the time of his death.

 

See a story in Bark about a young family's adventure to travel across Canada to meet with Farley Mowat.

 

 

 

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