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News: Guest Posts
Barking Buddha
Stretch and connect with your dog through yoga.

Last week, I attended a book signing for Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and Dogi. I was thrilled to pick up my own copy of the hot-of-the-presses guidebook by home-town yogini and massage therapist Brenda Bryan (with photos by my friend Bev Sparks). I swear this was before I learned the book includes a little profile shot of my dog Lulu in one of Bryan’s classes. Just look for the black dog who exudes not an iota of the serene grace of the Afghan Hound on the neighboring mat. That’s Lulu. The photo is not a case of bad timing but a true reflection of our experience in the class—we were both of us woefully over-stimulated. But that was our problem.

I was impressed and inspired by Bryan with her dogis—Honey and Gus—and the other novices in the class. All around me dog-human pairs practicing “Floating Dog” and “Woofing Warrior” in a Seattle dog daycare, with lots of barking and romping only yards away, and yet calm pervaded the room. I think Bryan’s addition of massage to the regular regime of breathing, stretching and poses, encourages the dogs into the right frame of mind, at the same time it nurtures connection. The class helped me to appreciate that Doga, as it is sometimes called, provides a very real opportunity for enhancing your dog’s health, your understanding of how his or her body feels and moves, and, maybe most importantly, your bond with each other.

While a class with Bryan or a dog-centric yogi near you is probably the best introduction, Barking Buddha provides a smart, straightforward primer for home practice. If you don't believe me, watch the seriously blissed-out pups in Bryan’s video pitch for the book, below.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bedbug-Detecting Dogs
Sniffing out the source leads to less pesticide use

Trained dogs detect land mines, drugs, explosives, missing persons, cancer, and just about anything else that they are physically capable of smelling. Julia Kamysz Lane recently blogged about how dogs can even sniff out peanuts and cash-carrying criminals. JoAnna Lou clued us in to their use in locating illegal DVDs. Now, add bedbugs to the list. There are dogs trained specifically to detect the scent of bedbugs.

The advantages of using dogs for this purpose are many. Dogs can find the bedbugs faster than people can. With proper training, they can distinguish between dead bedbugs, which may not require chemical treatment, and live bedbugs, which do. Dogs can pinpoint the source of the problem so that smaller areas require fumigation. For example, perhaps not all rooms in a hotel are infested, so dogs can make it cheaper to solve the problem, and result in fewer nasty chemicals being released into the environment.

This is another example of how dogs literally make our world a better place!

News: Guest Posts
Safe Havens for Dogs and Cats
New shelter helps furry victims of domestic violence.

The statistics are daunting. In their lifetimes, approximately one in three women will be victims of domestic violence. And in those afflicted households with companion animals, pets often share in the violence and abuse. In fact, in a study of intentional animal abuse cases, 13 percent involved incidents of domestic violence.

Up to 85 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that a partner had threatened, injured or killed the family pet, according to a national study done in 1997.  And here’s the thing: A lot of women don’t get to the door of a shelter precisely because they worry about the fate of a beloved animal. Faced with no place to house a pet safely, some victims chose to stay in the bad situation—subjecting themselves, sometimes their children, and their animals to further violence.

In early 2008, the American Humane Society launched a national initiative to promote the on-site housing of pets at shelters. Simple and brilliant: Not only does this provide a safe haven for the animal but helps keep a comforting friend nearby in a crisis.

The recent opening of Doorways for Women and Families’ safe shelter for pets marks the ninth such refuge for pets in the country and the first in Northern Virginia. Doorways is Arlington’s leading provider and advocate for victims of homelessness, violence and abuse. I can only hope the recognition of the human–companion animal bond, as well as the practical, holistic problem-solving of this idea continues to spread.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
World’s Oldest Dog Turns 21
Shelter pup is presented with a world record title and a party in her honor.

Last week, Chanel, a Dachshund from Long Island, N.Y., celebrated her 21st birthday at the New York Dog Spa and Hotel in Manhattan. Guinness World Records was on hand to present Chanel with a certificate for holding the title of world’s oldest living dog, a designation that she’s held since a 28-year old Beagle from Virginia passed away last spring.  

While Chanel spends most of her time these days relaxing at home eating carefully prepared meals, the short-legged dog used to run three miles a day in her youth with her owner, Denice Shaughnessy. Chanel also now sports a full coat of white fur and goggles to protect her cataracts. 

Chanel is a living testament to how a loving environment, ample exercise and a good diet can promote longevity. The Dachshund has lived in her current home since Shaughnessy adopted Chanel as a puppy from a Virginia animal shelter. 

As I plan my dogs’ birthday party this week (Western-themed celebration on Saturday!), I’m hoping that I’ll be lucky enough to share 17 more birthdays with my pups.

Check out this video to see Chanel at her party:

 

News: Guest Posts
Dogs in Cars
Arizona cops test heat protection device for police dogs.

The other day, I left my dogs in the car. We’d just returned from a visit to my off-leash area. The dogs were quiet. I was distracted. I walked inside, put my coat and keys away, checked for new phone and email messages, and suddenly realized my glue-dog was not using my legs as weave poles. As always, they took it in stride.

So when I read the story today about the new warning system at the Peoria Police Department in Arizona, I instantly appreciated the conceit. When the dog is in the car, his weight on a mat keeps the engine and air-conditioning running even after the driver removes the keys from the ignition. If the A/C fails, the mat triggers an alarm. A few weeks earlier, I might have thought this was overkill but I know different. And I’m not a cop with urgent, life-and-death business on my mind.

It’s a smart response. Protecting the K-9s, who protect us, is a fitting tribute to Chandler, a police dog who died from exposure in 2007 after his handler forgot he was in the car. The rest of us need to rely on our faulty brains, and remember the serious risk posed by heat to dogs in cars.

News: Guest Posts
Strong Medicine
An articulate case for dog's healing properties.

Every Tuesday, New York Times editor Dana Jennings writes with honesty, grace and humor about living with advanced prostate cancer for his newspaper’s health blog. I recommend reading his most recent post, Life Lessons from the Family Dog, which is centered around the failing health of a poodle named Bijou de Minuit. Jennings offers simple, clear insights into the gift of dogs in difficult times and draws an interesting parallel between sick people and pups.

I want to quote the final image—inspired by Bijou lapping from a dish—but, like so much in life, it’s better if you read the entire piece (it's short) and arrive there yourself.

News: Guest Posts
Speaking for Spot
Nancy Kay, DVM, on some of the hardest decisions we’ll ever make.

You don’t often hear canine talk on Fresh Air—apparently Terry Gross has a cat—but NPR’s distinguished interviewer gave most of the hour yesterday to a conversation with veterinarian and Bark contributor Nancy Kay, DVM. If you missed it, it’s worth an online listen.

Exploring issues from Kay’s new book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life, the interview was wide-ranging covering guardian guilt, the latest veterinary therapies (such as stem-cell treatments for arthritis) and treating pain in animals who can’t say how bad it hurts, but the topic of euthanasia was the centerpiece.

Kay offers practical, compassionate wisdom for tackling the question: when? Does your dog still respond with enthusiasm to the things that used to excite her? Do good days outnumber bad days? Kay advises: Get nose-to-nose, eye-to-eye, and look for that old spark. Everyone wants to make the decision at exactly the right time, Kays tells Gross, but in her experience the guardians who struggle the most are those who feel they waited too long.

It’s wonderful to hear Kay. She’s articulate and measured and her voice trembles with emotion when she describes an animal’s final moments. It makes you want to move to Marin County, California, where she practices. It's also easy to understand why she will receive the 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award at the annual conference of the American Animal Hospital Association next week.

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Peanut Butter Recall
Stop the spread of salmonella by taking stock of your pantry.

Now is the time to check the ingredients list of your dog's food and treats as the peanut butter recall has spread, so to speak. If you want to look up a particular item, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has created an exhaustive database. Click on the "Pet Food" category for specific brands. If you're like me and treat your dogs to a dollop of peanut butter from time to time, it's worth looking through the list for any other brands that might be on your shelves.

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PetSmart Recalls Treats
Salmonella outbreak traced to a small peanut manufacturing plant could now affect dogs

Time to check your pantry again! The recent salmonella outbreak traced to a small peanut manufacturing plant could now affect dogs and their owners. PetsMart is recalling Grreat Choice dog biscuits because of a link to Peanut Corp. of America in Blakely, Ga. Animals are at less risk than people, especially kids, who handle the treats. However, if your dog acts lethargic or has bloody diarrhea, seek immediate veterinary care. For more info, read "Pet Treats Recalled in Salmonella Outbreak."

News: Guest Posts
Updated Pet Food Warnings
Peanut butter treats and chicken jerky on the list

Citing concerns over a salmonella outbreak associated with peanut butter, PetSmart has removed seven types of Grreat Choice Dog Biscuits from its shelves. According the company, there have been no reports of illness from the biscuits, and the recall is a voluntary precaution. This appears to be the only pet product affected by the recall so far. Read the Food & Drug Administration's most recent information--with a list of affected products.

 

The Washington Post reports that the FDA has issued repeated warnings over chicken jerky products imported from China. There has been no recall. Symptoms from ingesting the unidentified poison include "decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood) and increased water consumption and urination." 

 

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