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Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Stress Busting Benefits of Airport Therapy Dogs
These working dogs calm harried travelers.
Glenda Woolf’s Barney, sporting a “Pet Me” vest, greets a traveler at CLT.

Traffic on the way to the airport makes you late. Rushing, fearing you’ll miss your flight, you anxiously stand in endless check-in and security lines, annoyed at the delay. Your stress level increases with every passing minute. Finally clearing security, sitting to put your shoes back on, you notice something unusual across the room: an enormous harlequin Great Dane wearing a vest that says, “Pet me!” A smile breaks across your face and your blood pressure immediately drops. You say a quick hello to the dog and rub his soft ears, and the tension of the past hours melts away.

We’re used to seeing security dogs at airports, but those dogs are working— no petting allowed. The “pet me” dogs are a different story altogether, reflecting the industry’s growing understanding that helping passengers destress, especially during busy holiday flying seasons, has value. These dogs are all about being touched!

So far, some 30 airports across the country have therapy dogs on duty, and luckily for travelers, the number is steadily growing. The idea started at California’s Mineta San Jose International Airport shortly after 9/11 as a way to ease traveler jitters. Videos of those dogs at work convinced other airports give it a go.

The distinctively outfitted dogs and their handlers position themselves throughout the airport, from checkin to boarding—wherever passengers can use some calming canine love. Recognizing that not everyone loves dogs, the teams typically remain stationary in an open area so those who wish to greet the dogs can do so while anyone not so fond of dogs can easily avoid them.

One of the most recent converts to the service, North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport, began deploying professionally certified therapy dogs in March 2015. Currently, there are 15 dog/handler teams providing coverage daily between 10 am and 4 pm. Lauri Golden, the airport’s manager of customer engagement, supervises the all-volunteer CLT Canine Crew. “We wanted a way to create a sense of place,” she says. “Our airport is a hub for American Airlines; 70 percent of traffic is connections, so the passengers just see the facility, not the city.”

Initially, Golden worried about finding enough volunteer teams. However, the pilot program created to iron out the logistics was an instant success. “We expected that kids would like the dogs, but even more, it’s the adults benefiting from them,” she says. “They pull out photos of their own dogs; talk about ones recently lost; take selfies; ask the name, age and breed of the dog … lots of questions. The dogs create a gathering, an audience, which creates its own community as people talk to each other, sharing dog stories. They are our superstars.” The demand for teams is high, and Golden is constantly recruiting.

Max the Great Dane and his handler Fred McCraven make up one of the Charlotte teams. “When I asked Fred why he wanted to join, he was so honest: ‘I just want to show off my dog.’ Max is a complete sweetheart!” says Golden.

Fred thoroughly enjoys taking Max to the airport. “Some tourists just light up when they see Max, and take photos,” he says. “Some look at him funny, like, ‘Please don’t bring that big dog near me.’ I try to gauge peoples’ reactions. Even those who don’t come up to touch Max are smiling. I once met a woman who was traveling to her brother’s funeral. Her brother had a Great Dane as well and she took it as a sign her brother was okay.”

Los Angeles World Airports (LAX) was the third to create a therapy dog program, after San Jose and Miami. Heidi Heubner is director of Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) and volunteer programs for LAX. PUP, which launched in April 2013 with 30 teams, now has 52, allowing them to have dogs in most terminals every day of the week. Each PUP dog has his or her own baseball card–style ID, which is given to passengers as a keepsake.

Heubner enjoys observing the interactions between volunteer teams and passengers. “The dogs bring strangers together,” she says. “We’re often afraid to talk, or are on our devices, but with the dogs, people are sharing stories and photos of their own dogs, talking about where they’re going. I never get tired of watching them. Sometimes my face hurts from smiling so much, watching them in action and listening to what the passengers are saying.”

Therapy teams are also called upon to calm passengers when things don’t go as planned, Heubner notes. “One day, a f light was cancelled. A f light attendant asked if one of the dogs could visit with the passengers. The passengers loved it, were saying, ‘Who cares that we’re delayed! It was worth it to see the dogs.’”

Airport therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds but the thing they have in common is that they’re all certified by one of the country’s therapy-dog organizations; for example, Charlotte and LAX use teams certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. New teams do an initial walk-through at the facility to make sure the dog is comfortable with the noises, smells and crowds of strangers. If that goes well, they’ll go through a more thorough vetting, with the human half of the team undergoing background and security checks. Once approved, teams typically work one day a week.

Dog-loving passengers rave about the programs. A letter sent to the Charlotte program expresses an often-repeated sentiment: It was like having my pups with me though they are miles away. The stress that is lifted when you see and touch a dog, it’s indescribable and it was the best part of my trip today. I cannot thank you, the staff that implemented the program, the handlers and the dogs enough for this remarkable program.

Clearly, these programs are positive for passengers and airport staff, but they’re also proving beneficial for the handlers. “Max has made me a better person,” says Fred. “I’m not a very social person, sort of a lone wolf, but taking Max to the airport has gotten me out and around people, improved my social skills. And it puts me in a good mood. Last week I had a bad day at work. I took Max to the airport and came home in a totally different mood.”

News: Guest Posts
A Guide To Bringing a Dog Home For The First Time
[Infographic]
A Guide To Bringing a Dog Home For The First Time

There are few more joyfully optimistic moments in life than the day you bring a new dog into your home. Your new bundle of fluff will add a new dimension to the household, helping you to see your home in new ways, providing unexpected moments of love and humour, and bringing demonstrable benefits to your mental health. But that element of surprise a pup brings can turn into stress when your new best friend discovers ways to damage your stuff – or herself – that you had never imagined in the days of anticipation before picking up her up.

The right preparation is crucial when introducing a new dog into your family, and even if you’ve had dogs before, chances are it’s been a decade or more since you went through that difficult teething period – so a little refresher is called for. Every dog has it’s own needs, and you’ll want to check with the breeder or rescue home as to your new pal’s particular dietary and exercise needs – and any emotional quirks of which you need to be aware. Shop for the toys, tools and barriers you’ll need in advance, and set out a plan as to which areas of the house she will be allowed in, and where on your property she will sleep, play, go to toilet and so on. Ensure everyone in the family knows the rules, and their own responsibilities.

Once she arrives, it can be tempting to just play with and dote on her until you both collapse exhausted on the sofa – but establishing some ground rules straight off is essential. Take her to her toilet place, and remain with her until she’s done: do this regularly until she knows where’s where. If you already have a dog, introduce the new siblings on neutral ground. To your first dog, this suspicious character will be an intruder on their territory, so getting them to bond is a sensitive business.

There’s a lot to consider in preparation for bringing a new dog home, but thankfully this new infographic breaks it down into a handy checklist. Be sure to go through it in detail before pooch arrives, and you’ll be set for a beautiful – and fun-filled – life together.

A guide to bringing a dog home for the first time [Infographic] by the team at Santa Fe Animal Shelter

Dog's Life: Travel
Dog Adventures: Transcontinental Cycling Trek
Sora was most certainly the coolest dog in Bolivia’s extraordinarily large Salar de Uyuni (salt flat).

From the moment my partner, Dave Hoch, and I decided to embark on a world cycling tour in 2015, our Australian Shepherd, Sora, was a crucial member of the team. Leaving her behind wasn’t an option. Sora is part of our pack: if we go, she goes. After years of work and training, Sora—whom Dave had adopted in 2008 as a “last chance,” three-year-old project dog—had become a well-behaved adventure companion. However, she never seemed to shake her mistrust of new people and need to challenge other dogs, and we came to accept that this was just part of who she was. So, imagine my surprise when I walked out of our hotel in a Chilean Altiplano village earlier this year and saw Sora standing between two preteenagers, being vigorously petted. They said that their own Australian Shepherd had recently passed away, and Sora reminded them of their pup.

Why was I surprised? Sora is not exactly kid-friendly. Their uncontrolled movements and loud noises terrify her, and she tends to react by growling and lunging. Yet, these two young people got in her face, crowded her and petted her like she was the dog they once had. And she seemed to revel in the attention.

Who is this dog?

The answer to that question begins with what turned out to be an experiment in trust. Determined to have Sora with us on our trek, we focused on providing her with opportunities to associate strangers with positive experiences. The program relied on our understanding of Sora’s needs, explicit communication and treats—lots of treats.

From the beginning of our tour, which started in Norway, we allowed frequent, short interactions with inquisitive strangers on the street or in the homes of hosts along our route. We overcame language barriers by demonstrating how to meet Sora while avoiding direct eye contact with her; how to stand next to, not over, her; and where to pet her (under her chin). Slowly, Sora began to form positive associations with strangers. She began wagging her tail at initial greetings, and would sidle up to people and solicit their attention. As her confidence grew, so did our confidence in her.

Once we hit the Balkans, we no longer feared her reaction to humans. Dogs, however, were another matter. There, dogs roam the streets, and when a new tail comes to town, everyone wants to get in on the greetings. To assuage our anxieties , we developed a routine that worked for Sora.

We never allowed head-on meetings. Instead, other dogs got their sniff on from behind as we petted and praised her. We observed her body language: was she stiff and ready to fight, or was she wagging her tail and grunting, which signified her intent to play? As we made it possible for Sora to engage with dogs gradually and on her terms, she became more relaxed and far less combative.

In more than 15 months of travel through 20 countries, we accomplished a feat we previously thought impossible. Taking Sora out of our home environment, where encounters with new people and dogs occurred only occasionally, the series of micro-introductions while traveling transformed her into a more social, confident dog. While she still has moments of distrust, her behavior has evolved from a handicap to an occasional slip.

We have walked Sora through the streets of busy cities like Istanbul, Turkey, and Santiago, Chile, where dogs sprinted toward us in droves, and stayed in the homes of complete strangers with both children and dogs. This was made possible by exposure, being clear with others about what she needs and taking it day-by-day.

Sora sleeps at our feet each night and snuggles between us each morning. She’s a constant reminder to play, and helps us meet new friends. As we zoom by, kids squeal and adults grin. Having her with us amplifies the adventure.

For more on Jen, Dave and Sora’s big adventure, go to longhaultrekkers.com
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Cleaning Leather Dog Collars with Beeswax
Cleaning Leather Dog Collars with Beeswax

Recently, our dog Lola got a little too personal with a skunk and wound up with a face full of stink. To remove the offensive smell, we very carefully washed her with the go-to formula of 4 cups hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon dish soap—that did the trick. Her leather collar was still pretty smelly, however, so I took another approach for it. After soaking it in warm water with 2 teaspoons baking soda and letting it air dry, I applied Skidmore’s Leather Cream with beeswax to both sides to recondition and soften it up. That not only worked like a charm, it also added a refreshing aroma. 

Dog's Life: Travel
Dog-Friendly Off-Leash Federal Lands
National Conservation Lands
Dog-Friendly Off-Leash Federal Lands

National Conservation Lands protect 32 million acres of this country’s most ecologically rich and culturally significant landscapes. Each is different, not only in terrain but also in history. These lands are made up of National Monuments and National Conservation Areas and similar designations, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Scenic and Historic Trails.

They are overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and, unlike other public lands, such as those administered by the National Park Service, they have a much more tolerant policy about off-leash dogs.

There are more than 30 sites in the western states in which you and your dog can freely explore. It’s important to note that while dogs need to be on-leash in developed areas and campgrounds, generally, they are not required by law to be leashed in the backcountry. However, in some regions, for their own safety, dogs should be under leash control; hunting and fishing are allowed on most of these lands, more reason to keep the safety of your dog in mind. Be sure to follow the rules at each individual park, and—of course—to pick up and pack out your dog’s waste.

Fall is a great time to visit. For a complete listing of dog-friendly National Conservation Lands, see conservationlands.org

Good Dog: Studies & Research
Here’s What Dogs See When They Watch Television
Can dogs watch TV? What do dogs see?

Have you ever noticed your dog taking interest in something you are watching on the television? If so, you may have wondered what they might be thinking, or if they are even seeing the same things that we are, or in the same way that we are. 

As it turns out, dogs do in fact notice and understand pictures that they see on the television screen, as well as the sounds that accompany them. These days, with the evolution of television and more high-resolution and digital broadcasting, dogs literally see a brand new picture, with much more clarity than before. There are even scientific studies in which the results show us how they see and process images, why they are attracted in the first place, and whether or not they understand what they are watching.

Is There Any Proof?

A 2013 study shows that dogs can pick out pictures of other dogs apart from humans, and group them into categories using only visual clues. It is a known fact that like-species gather for social interactions and dogs recognized and were drawn to their own species on the television screen more readily than images of anything else. Possibly an evolutionary measure based on breeding needs, it is an important facet of a dog’s life.

There is even a channel especially for dogs on HDTV called DogTV. The channel has more frames per second than regular television and is specifically colored for a dog’s specific sight. Since dogs can process visual information faster than humans, what they see is quite different from what we see.

Herding dogs, in particular, are motivated by moving objects (think flocks of sheep). They watch the television much more intently that other breeds for this reason.

Depth Perception

Human depth perception is the ability to distinguish a 3-dimensional worldview from the 2-dimensional images from the retina. This comes about from the human cognitive ability to reason and formulate similarities of experiences. For dogs, the term could more readily be described as depth sensation as their means of locating objects that they have seen. 

The evolutionary adaptation known as binocular vision allows the eyes of some mammals to move in simultaneous directions, also known as "vergence". When something is view close up, ocular convergence is promoted. Seeing objects in the distance, on the other hand, promotes ocular divergence. Both canine eyes then work together in a state known as fixation where two different images come together to create depth sensation, which is promoted by binocular overlap.

This comes into play while dogs watch television in that they realize the objects are not actually with them, but on some other plane all together. It doesn’t thwart their curiosity, however, and often leads to complete fixation on the images on the television screen.

Field of View

The term "field of view" describes how different parts are seen at any given point in time along the visual plane. Dogs who are predators have a very narrow field of view and depend more on binocular overlap to, or depth sensation, to visually locate and isolate prey. Their maximum field of view is about 240 degrees, while animals of prey have a nearly 360-degree field of view, for protection reasons.

This field of view possessed by dogs may immediately attract some breeds to a moving picture, but once they determine that there’s nothing really happening, they may quickly lose interest.

Detecting Motion

Humans have many more cones in their eyes than dogs do, therefore human eyesight is very sensitive to movement of bright lights. A dog’s retina’s, which have far fewer cones, are much more sensitive to lower light situations. They are also much more capable of noticing a moving target and can hone in on moving objects at further distances than stationary objects that are quite near them. 

This ability to monitor movement is another reason dogs are capable of seeing and paying attention to television. They may not have a good idea of what is going on within the program, but they can see that action is taking place. When their curiosity is satisfactorily peaked, they will pay more attention. 

Dogs and Television

Old style American televisions that work from tube technology have a frame rate of 60Hz, meaning that the frame refreshes sixty times per second. Newer television, models known as HDTV, refresh at a much faster rate. Many images on the television screen appear stationary to humans, as their rate of vision is slower than that of the television. At about 50Hz, images would appear, to the human, to look like images from a flipbook. Dogs, on the other hand, get the flipbook imaging up to 75Hz, so the images have to have a higher refresh rate to appear fluid to a dog.

To dogs, the older televisions reflect images that they perceive as simple flickers of movement or light, however, the newer televisions present more fluidity and make images appear more realistic to the canine eye’s abilities.

Some dogs even use face-tracking as a means of identifying and relating to information they see on the television screen. However, as a study has shown, face-recognition in dog’s is a trained behavior that can cause dogs to focus on the images that they see on the television screen, effectively overshadowing their natural abilities and responses in this scenario. 

Dogs are initially attracted to the television because of certain sounds that they hear. Once the noise has their attention, and they then find out where the sound is coming from, they begin to focus on the images and, depending on the breed of dog and the way their eyes function, interact with the stimulus or not. It was found that some of the sounds that elicited the most response from dogs was other dogs barking or whining, the sound of the human voice giving friendly commands or praise and the sounds of squeaky toys.

Dog's Life: Travel
Glamping With Dogs
Camping in style
Glamour Camping With Dogs

RUSTIC + LUXE + DOGS

Glamping is for those who prefer to take their outdoor experiences with a side of luxury. Like the name—a mash-up of glamour and camping— suggests, it’s a world of tricked-out cabins, yurts, trailers and treehouses that offer appealing creature comforts, including hot water, an indoor bathroom and protection from the elements. Recently, Glampinghub.com, a leading purveyor of rustic-luxury accommodations, introduced a special service for dog-friendly destinations, both here and abroad. Prices range from $138 per night for a yurt in upstate New York to just under $1,700 per night for four tented cabins on a Montana ranch. It’s a new way to experience the call of the wild. 

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Parents Take On School Districts Refusing Service Dogs
Devyn Pereira Fighting for Independence
Devyn Pereira and Hannah

Devyn Pereira and Hannah, her service dog, move through their day as one. Clipped to Hannah’s harness, the nine-year-old is both safe and as independent as possible. If Devyn tries to roam, the 110-pound, white Bouvier des Flandres sits down, stopping the child with the weight of her body.

Before Hannah came into her life five years ago, the little girl had to be carried or transported by wheelchair to the school bus loop. Now, she walks beside Hannah. The dog is also trained to detect seizures and alert adults so medication can be administered.

Devyn was born with Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that affects speech and mobility, and causes developmental delays, autism and seizures. The Gates Chili Central School District, located in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., permits Hannah to accompany Devyn to school, as long as her mother pays for a dog handler. Heather Pereira’s position is that her daughter is Hannah’s handler, and she only needs minimal assistance from school staff (a one-on-one school aide and a nurse are also with Devyn daily).

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed, and in September 2015, sued the school district for violating Devyn’s civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). School officials refused to comply. On August 7, U.S. District Court Judge Charles J. Siragusa dismissed the school district’s motion for a summary judgment (a method for promptly disposing of legal actions that are without merit). This means the case will go forward.

“People ask me all the time, why do you think the school is doing this? Why do you think that they are making this so difficult?” says Pereira. “When Gates disregarded what the DOJ said, it became clear this isn’t a matter of ignorance, it is blatant defiance … Devyn’s school is using her disability against her. Her level of delay does not erase her rights. It does not make her less worthy of the compassion and respect all parents want for their children.”

Legal Wrangles

Most children are able to bring their service dogs to school without a hitch, according to Ron Hager, senior staff attorney with the Washington, D.C.- based National Disability Rights Network. But families who face prolonged resistance from school districts find themselves spending enormous amounts of time and, in some cases, money trying to convince school administrators to allow these service animals in their classrooms.

The number of legal disputes between families and school districts over this issue has increased in the last five years, says Hager. In the fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case involving Ehlena Fry, a 12-year-old Jackson, Mich., girl with cerebral palsy who was banned from bringing her Goldendoodle service dog, Wonder, to class.

“Our case is specifically about whether people bringing disability cases have to jump through a lot of administrative hoops first,” says Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which brought the suit with the Frys. Steinberg says he is confident about the outcome of the Supreme Court case, noting that a child with a disability should not have to choose between her education and her independence. “Give Ehlena her day in court and we will prove that the district violated the ADA,” he says.

In some instances, school officials have prohibited a service dog on the basis that the district was already meeting all of the student’s educational needs. However, preventing children from bringing their service dogs to school disrupts the special bond between handler and animal, says Tiffany Denyer, founder of Wilderwood Service Dogs in Maryville, Tenn. “It doesn’t work unless you send the dogs to work.”

When Fairfax County School District in Virginia refused to allow Andrew Stevens, who has severe epilepsy and is developmentally delayed, to take his German Shepherd service dog, Alaya, to school in 2010, his family reached out to the national media, even appearing on The Today Show. When interviewed by the media, Kim Dockery, Fairfax County Public Schools assistant superintendent, said she was concerned about keeping Andrew and the other students safe. The district ultimately allowed Alaya to accompany Andrew. “I think they’re afraid of new things they don’t understand,” says Angelo Stevens, Andrew’s dad.

Reasonable Accommodations

Heather Pereira began advocating for her daughter’s right to take her service dog to school six years ago. When she talks about the ongoing conflict with Gates Chili school officials, you can hear the weariness in her voice, but the determination is still there, too. In 2011, the district allowed Hannah to accompany the preschooler to school; then, that summer, Pereira was informed that in order for the service dog to continue to be permitted in school, she would have to pay for a dog handler. Pereira complied, but she also hired a disability rights attorney and ultimately filed a complaint with the DOJ’s civil rights division.

In September 2013, two investigators traveled to Rochester to interview Pereira, school administrators and classroom staff. Nearly two years later, the DOJ found that the district was in violation of ADA requirements and ordered it to reverse its policy and pay more than $25,000 in damages. The New York State Education Department also found in Pereira’s favor.

This battle could prove pricey for the upstate New York school district. From October 2013 to May 2015, Gates Chili incurred more than $34,000 in legal expenses related to the case, according to documents obtained by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A detailed report revealed how the DOJ reached its finding:

“Since D.P. began working with her service dog, she has learned to communicate with the dog through hand gestures and signals. Her service dog interrupts certain behaviors caused by her autism (such as meltdowns, wandering and repeated body movements). Her service dog also alerts adults to oncoming seizures so they can take precautions before the seizure occurs. In short, with the help of her service dog, D.P. is both safer and more independent at school.”

The federal agency also found that requiring staff members to unhook Devyn from the dog from time to time and to occasionally remind her to issue a command were “minimal and reasonable accommodations.”

Two weeks later, the school district challenged the ruling and filed an appeal.

“It’s extremely rare for a school district to fight the federal government. To actually litigate—I’ve never seen it,” says Ron Hager, who has been a disability rights attorney for decades. Gates Chili Superintendent of Schools Kimberle Ward declined a request for comment, saying that she could not speak on a pending matter.

The school district just doesn’t get it, says Kristin Small of the Empire Justice Center in Rochester, one of Pereira’s lawyers. “It does not get to choose how Devyn Pereira, as a person with a disability, travels through this world. That is Devyn’s choice alone, or her mother’s, as long as she is a minor,” she says. “Just as it would not be permitted to tell a person in a wheelchair, ‘I know you prefer to use the wheelchair, but … just try crutches instead,’ it is not appropriate to say to this child’s mother, ‘I know you would like her to bring the dog, but we think she can do fine at school without it.’ The fact that Devyn’s use of a service animal is an inconvenience to the school district is irrelevant. If the school can reasonably accommodate that choice, it must do so.”

Waiting for Justice

Hannah was trained at Tiffany Denyer’s Wilderwood Service Dogs, which specializes in providing service dogs for people with neurological diseases, including autism, psychiatric disorders, dementia, PTSD and brain injuries. According to Denyer, “About half the dogs are rescues; the rest come from breeders we have relationships with.” She looks for dogs who enjoy work, are calm and easily adapt to change.

In 11 years, she has placed about 200 service dogs. Each undergoes roughly 18 months of training; the first six months focus on general tasks; the rest is geared to meet the individual handler’s needs. The dogs learn about 50 commands and are taught to be low maintenance; Hannah goes the entire school day without food, water or having to relieve herself.

Hannah cost $16,000, but some trainers charge $25,000 or more per service dog. Many families, including the Pereiras, fundraise for months in order to purchase a dog. Denyer estimates that 10 to 20 percent of the families she works with have encountered problems getting schools to fully accept their service dogs.

Heather Pereira calls Hannah a “gentle giant.” “She has such a calm, graceful presence, even when Devyn gets ramped up about something,” she says. “Devyn never asks to be untethered from Hannah. That says a lot for their connection.”

This fall, Devyn will enter a fourthgrade special education class. Pereira says she is amazed at the growth she has seen in her daughter, attributing much of it to her connection with Hannah.

“Devyn is doing things with Hannah we never thought she’d be able to do. If Hannah is lying down, she’ll tug on the harness to make her get up. She taps the ground so that Hannah will lie down. Before, Hannah guided Devyn all the time; now, Devyn is the one guiding Hannah.”

As fall approaches, the Pereiras and the Frys wait for justice.

“We hope that the school district realizes they don’t have a strong case and negotiates a settlement,” Pereira says. “The pressure to make this better for Devyn and all who follow is real. Every parent knows they will not be around forever and so we work to create a world that not only accepts our child’s differences, but more importantly, embraces them.”

Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Surfboarding in Brazil
Man and dog ride the waves together.
Surfboarding with dogs in Brazil

Brazilian Ivan Moreira remembers the first time his father took him surfing. He was five years old, and they set off from a Rio de Janeiro beach. From that point on, surfing played a major role in his life, just as it did in his father’s.

An only child, Ivan often wished he had a brother with whom to share the joy and excitement of surfing. The longed-for brother never did show up, but years later, Ivan found the companionship he craved in a chocolate Lab.

Bono, named for an Oreo-like chocolate cookie, was a birthday gift for Ivan’s then-wife in 2010. He was, of course, adorable: blue puppy eyes, fluffy ears and a desire to destroy the furniture if given an opportunity. From the first, Ivan took Bono to the beach with him; Ivan spent hours on the surfboard and Bono hung out in the company of Ivan’s friends.

When Bono was three, Ivan decided to trade in his traditional board for a much larger stand-up paddleboard (SUP). That was when Bono took matters into his own paws: he trotted behind Ivan and hopped on board for what would be the first wave ride of many to come. For the dog, the days of watching from shore were over.

In the beginning, the two were frequently knocked down and swept under by the waves. “At first,” says Ivan, “I didn’t really have a plan for how to train Bono to get his balance on the stand-up board. I had heard of dogs doing SUP but never thought that my dog would be one.” Time and persistence helped the pair learn how to synchronize their movements so they could stay upright.

A new era started for Ivan and Bono when Ivan switched back to a large surfboard and invested time and energy in a different type of training. Being able to pop up (jumping from a lying-down position to an upright position) with Bono already onboard was a major challenge, but the two built their confidence as a pair and learned how to recognize and predict one another’s moves.

In a few months, Ivan and Bono were catching waves like pros. After attracting the attention of video producers and potential sponsors, they entered the 2014 Surf Dog Competition in Huntington Beach, Calif., competing in the tandem category.

“I never expected a competition of that magnitude. I was expecting to see just a few dogs having fun on the beach,” Ivan recalls. There are no surf dog competitions in Brazil, which probably explains his notion of what the event involved.

Bono and Ivan won first place. The following year, they returned to Huntington Beach, where they repeated the feat. Once back in Brazil, they were welcomed as heroes, and Bono became the most popular dog in the country; his smiling face appeared on TV shows and in newspapers and ads. Companies were eager to sponsor Bono by providing his food, his baths and his vet care. Recently, a new Brazilian pet accessory and toy brand bought the right to use Bono’s image to promote all its pet gear, including a swimming vest specially developed for him.

Considering that in Brazil there is not a single beach where dogs are officially allowed, Bono’s accomplishment may lead to changes in the way dogs are seen and treated in the country.

This year, Ivan decided to undertake a new challenge and realize an old ambition: to have his name, along with Bono’s, entered in the Guinness Book of World Records by breaking the record for the Longest Stand Up Paddleboard Ride on a River Bore by a Human/Dog Pair. They set the new record in March, when the two traveled 1.05 miles down the Mearim River, on Brazil’s northern coast. “After three minutes on the paddleboard, I started feeling my knees burning, but then I looked back and saw Bono’s face so happy and joyful. I forced myself to persist, no matter what,” says Ivan.

Besides surfing dogs, the use of dogs to cheer up patients in hospitals in Brazil is another new project that Bono is launching in the country, as Ivan and Bono also pay constant visits to kids undergoing cancer treatment, through Casa Ronald MacDonald in Rio de Janeiro. “The kids’ mothers always tell me that when Bono arrives the kids are filled with renovated energy and joy and that they forget about their cancer and treatment side effects,” says Ivan, teary-eyed.

With almost 40,000 followers on Instagram, Ivan hopes to close a deal for a TV series that will highlight his and Bono’s adventures, lifestyle and special bond. He also has been approached about a documentary focusing on his two passions: surfing and his surfing buddy, a five-year-old chocolate Lab named Bono.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Rules for Dog-Handling and Life
Dog Days Are Forever
Rules for Dog-Handling and Life

The first rule in handling: Always keep your dog on your left side.

Handling is dominated by the left. Your number, rubber-banded to your left arm, will be checked by the ring steward, who stands to the left of the entrance to the conformation ring, regulating the order and spacing of the competitors. The ring itself is in the shape of a square, marked off with thin white ropes looped through copper posts staked into the grass. When it is your turn to enter the ring, you must keep the leash in your left hand and the dog on your left side. You walk around the ring counterclockwise, turning smoothly to the left at each corner. Once you complete a lap, you stop and stand your dog, taking care to ensure she is stacked nicely and on alert.

One by one, each dog is examined by the judge. When it is your turn, you walk your dog to the center of the ring, where the judge will be kneeling on his/her left knee. The judge will be looking to see how well your dog maps to breed standards: inspecting her bite, spanning her chest, comparing leg flexibility, and running a hand through her coat, creating Mohawk-like ridges in the fur along her spine. After the judge finishes the physical examination of your dog, he/she will often have you walk your dog in a straight line out and back, or perhaps in a triangle, or maybe even a figure eight.

Once the judge has seen every dog, each handler-dog pair takes another lap, after which the judge lines up the dogs in the order of their placement. First place goes to the far left, sixth place goes to the far right. If there’s a tie, there will be a walk-off.

By this point, the judge will already have an opinion on the physicality of the dogs. What makes a difference now is how well the dog moves. The judge looks at the dog’s grace, power, and rhythm, and everything else fades away. Your heart pounds, blood roars in your ears and you don’t even notice the whispers of the crowd, or the heads turned in your direction. All that matters is your dog, and the sound of her paws swishing through the grass in a two-count cadence. Where you stand—on the left or the right—depends on this final walk.

Handling rule number two: When doing the walk-out, always keep your dog between you and the judge.

My parents got Deegan as a wedding present. He was predominantly white, like all Jack Russells, with chestnut-brown ears and matching spots above his tail. Deegan was my parents’ first child, and they took him everywhere: to work; on weekend hikes; and once, even into the movie theater. On a whim, they brought him to a dog show in Suffolk County and loved it so much that within six months, they were members of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA).

Mom, Dad and Deegan were a little family of three for several years, until three more additions came along: Annie and Duffy, a mother-son Jack Russell duo, and me. Deegan took to his role as big brother like a fish to water. He allowed Annie and Duffy to share his chew toys, he never snapped at them when they stole his treats, and he taught them the best way to jump onto the counter. He allowed me to dress him up in doll clothes, he never snapped when I tugged too hard on his leash, and he slept at the foot of my bed every night from the day I was born to the day he died.

Deegan was my protector and my playmate, but even his patience had its limits. One day, I was eating dinner, my plate filled with carrots, applesauce and dinosaur (aka chicken) nuggets. Deegan was at my feet and I was under strict instructions never to feed him from the table. But I was a bored and curious three-year-old, so I decided to see what would happen if I pretended to give him part of my meal. I picked up a chicken nugget and moved it up and down, side to side, near Deegan’s face; his eyes followed the nugget’s every move. Then I got more daring in my movements, adding zig-zags, stars and figure-eights to my repertoire. I was able to react fast enough to save the nugget from two close calls, but then my luck ran out. On Deegan’s third attempt, he captured the chicken nugget as well as part of my finger. My shrieks pierced the air as I stared at the bright red blood bubbling from the puncture marks, staining my skin and swirling down my finger.

Handling rule number three: Never bait your dog.

In the terrier group, when the judge examines your dog, he/she will consider a variety of aspects related to how fit your dog is to hunt, which is what Jack Russells were originally bred to do. Is your dog’s chest small and flexible enough to go underground? Does she have a scissor bite? How are her legs—are they parallel?

By the time I was old enough to show in Child Handler, Deegan was 10 and no longer had the energy needed to be a show dog for a five-year-old girl. So instead, I showed North Country Clementine. Clemmie, with her brown ears bordering on orange, came to live with us after Nonie, our close family friend, passed away. For the first few months we had her, Clemmie hardly ate and she never wagged her tail; all she did was sit by the door, howling and scratching at the screen, waiting for Nonie to come back for her.

After a few months, Clemmie finally adjusted to her new life with us, which is when we realized that she was actually quite the rebel. If Deegan was my big brother, Clemmie was my wild little sister. She never came when called; she jumped up on the kitchen counter and ate our dinner at least twice a week; and she always escaped our yard, which was especially awkward when she ran to our neighbors’ house.

Our neighbors owned one of the largest garbage companies on Long Island, and they were extremely wealthy. Their house had the only gated driveway on the entire street, and they tended to keep to themselves, choosing to skip block parties and other community events. Although they seemed nice enough, we were fairly certain that they were in the Mob.

Early one Saturday morning, Clemmie went pelting out of our yard, through the hedgerow and over to the neighbor’s house. My dad, sprinting as fast as he could, arrived just in time to see Clemmie and the neighbor’s dog barking at a raccoon. The neighbor dashed out of his back door, took one look at the scene, then reached into the pocket of his bathrobe and pulled out a handgun. He shot the raccoon dead in the eye. Needless to say, after this incident, we tried even harder to keep our distance.

Handling rule number four: If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.

You can show in child handler from ages 5 to 10, after which you move up to the Youth Division. While Child Handler involves only Conformation, Youth Handler also includes agility, go-to-ground and obedience. Clemmie was my Youth dog for nearly my entire career, from my first Child Handler class at five years old to my last regular season Youth Handler class at 15, and these 10 years of showing together resulted in an incredible partnership. We became so familiar with one another’s movements and so aware of each other’s presence that I never tripped over her leash in the Conformation ring and I never had to worry about her running off during agility, even when she went off-lead.

I was the one who crawled through tunnels to teach her how to do agility. I was the one who dug her out of a go-toground tunnel to save her from a skunk. And I was the one who helped her whelp her first litter of puppies after she went into labor when my parents were away. In return, Clemmie was with me as well. She was the one who memorized the agility course on the first run-through and picked up the slack when I forgot which element came next. She was the one who was with me when I won and when I lost. And she was the one who comforted me when Deegan died, curling up next to me on the couch with her head in my lap and offering silent companionship to replace the one I had lost.

The week before the 2010 U.S. National Trial, I got a text from my parents during school; they asked me to call Millie, our good family friend, to see if I could borrow her dog Intensity to show the following week. I didn’t bother responding. They thought Clemmie was too old and had been nagging me for weeks about finding another dog to show in Youth, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I had always shown Clemmie, and that was that.

Six days later, I became the Youth High Score National Champion, something Clemmie and I had worked for throughout our entire career.

But I didn’t win it with Clemmie.

The same day I received the text message from my parents, I found my dad waiting for me at the door when I got home from school—a rare thing, as he normally worked late into the evening. He told me to go into the living room because he needed to talk to me about something important.

My dad, a veterinarian, told me that not only had Clemmie thrown up her breakfast that morning, she had also thrown up blood. He was pretty sure she had Lyme disease, and thought there also could be an obstruction in her small intestine, so he took her into the vet hospital to pull bloods and get an X-ray. On the way, Clemmie had a seizure, but seemed to recover after my dad dosed her with phenobarbital and put her on fluids. However, a few hours later, she had another seizure.

This time, she didn’t make it.

Handling rule number five: If something out of the ordinary happens, prepare yourself for all possible outcomes.

I announced my retirement from the Youth Division a few weeks after the 2010 National Trial. I still had a few years of eligibility left, but wanted to end my career on a high note, and knew that my experience wouldn’t be the same without Clemmie. Finally winning the title I had worked so hard for was an incredible moment, but no matter how sweet the victory, nothing could offset the fact that Clemmie wasn’t there with me. Nothing, that is, except for a new dog.

That’s right. My parents got me a dog.

Ginny is unlike every other dog in our house, not only because she is the only brown-furred Border Terrier, but also because she is the only Terrier we’ve ever had who is solely a pet. We don’t show Ginny, nor will we ever. She goes on walks not because we need to leash-train her, but because we want to take her out, sometimes for a swim in the pond. She is groomed on a regular basis not to keep her coat in top shape, but because her fur grows so fast that it gets in her eyes. She is on a diet not because we want her to look fit in front of a judge, but because it’s in the best interest of her health, especially with all the treats I sneak her when my mom’s back is turned. She is much calmer than our Jack Russells, choosing to sit behind me when I’m cooking rather than bark at the stove.

Deegan was my childhood, Clemmie was my adolescence and Ginny is my now. She’ll never be with me in the Conformation ring nor in the agility tunnels, not even at a go-to-ground, but she will be there when I graduate from Villanova, when I get my first job, when I move out on my own. She has never known the handling part of my life, and never will, but she knows me today, she will know me tomorrow and she will know me for all of her days that follow. Ginny is not my Youth dog, but I no longer need one. I’m growing up, and Ginny will be there as I do it.

The last rule in handling: Always stand by your dog— after all, your dog will always stand by you.

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