Dog's Life: Lifestyle
1. He needs a job. Dogs love to work. Well, some breeds do, and my Louis is a mix of many of them. He’s a rescue, some sort of Australian Shepherd/Border Collie/Terrier/lunatic cross. He’s tested our patience with his energy and psychological issues. But we love him and have always forgiven his youthful exuberance, assuming it would pass as he aged. It did not. A few months back, I dug out an old canine backpack and tried it on Louis. “You have a job now, son,” I told him. “Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to wear this pack. Time to leave that crazy behavior behind and set an example for the others.” He stood there for a minute wondering how he got hired, decided the pack felt okay and agreed to my terms. As we walked, he seemed more focused, stayed closer to my side, stopped tugging and pretty much changed how I feel about dog walking forever.
2. It calms him down. Something happened to this dog before we got him. Something bad enough to make him afraid of many, many things. Cars are number one on the list. Fight or flight? How about both? A car comes along, Lou tenses, trembles, starts lunging and barking, then—when he fails to pull off my arm—bites at my leg. A trainer helped me get him over the worst with a combination of Cheese Whiz, clicker training and sweet talk. But the pack is what really did the trick. Like a Thundershirt, a pack can make a dog feel more secure. I still talk Louis though every vehicle, but he’s 95 percent better.
3. He carries my stuff. I never have enough pockets on a walk. Gloves, hat, phone, extra baggies, rain jacket: they get zipped into the right pocket (right for “right side to put my things”) of the pack or tucked under the elastic webbing on top. My smallest dog runs leash-free on the trail and his leash now has a place to go besides around my waist (irritating) or neck (dangerous). On the way home, we pick up the mail. This is something I could never do before. Handling three dogs plus full poop bags plus mail would be doable, but throw in a squirrel and game over. The mail is in the road, the poop bag has busted open and I’m screaming in the street like a mad woman.
4. He carries his “stuff.” There is no better way to carry poop. Anyone who has ever felt the fat, warm slap of a full bag swinging against their leg knows that carrying it yourself is just totally unappealing. Tying the bag to a leash risks tangling or tearing (eww) and fastening it to the dog’s collar just seems humiliating. Colorful bags only do so much to disguise the disgusting, and forget about reusing those see-through produce bags. Even on an unusually productive day, Louis can carry all three dogs’ offerings, and he does it without complaining. Full bags go in the left side. (Left for “best left alone, there’s poop in there.”)
5. He looks great. Oh yes. His looks have always been number one on Lou’s short list of redeeming qualities. Now that Hollywood face has red-carpet style to match. He may still be a bad boy on the inside, but he’s a supermodel on the outside.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Celebrate the big day with charity.
Around 2.2 million couples marry in the U.S. every year. Surveys show that the average amount spent on a wedding is around $35,000, and the average gift carries a $99 to $127 price tag. Now, an increasing number of couples are either requesting charitable giving in lieu of these gifts or adding it as an option to their registries.
As a recent article in the New York Times noted, the trend largely stems from the millennials, “who have a growing awareness that what you do with your whole life should reflect your values.” It also is a great boost for the charities, which get “prominent billing on a couple’s wedding day.”
The Times profiled a couple who credit their rescue dog with bringing them together; they’re asking friends and family to donate to a L.A. no-kill shelter. The article also mentioned a couple who had their dog in their wedding and were able to raise more than $15,000 for the Humane Society of New York.
To make it easier to customize and track the gift giving, there are now a few websites—among them, SimpleRegistry, JustGive, Blueprint Registry and the GoodBeginning—to make such arrangements easier.
Dog's Life: Travel
A tip for every state in the union (and then some)
Bark editors offer up a tip for every state in the union, plus D.C.
Alabama: On-leash dogs are welcome everywhere at Little River Canyon National Preserve, including in the visitor center, where we’re told treats are often available at the information counter.
Alaska: The glaciers and ice fields of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park are perfect for thick-coated, snowloving creatures such as bears, harbor seals and Malamutes. Answer the call of the wild in an area as big as six Yellowstones. (Note that while unleashed dogs are allowed on trails, bears and moose are also on the loose here.)
Arizona: Sedona is the center of the state’s legendary Red Rock Country. The area offers much to marvel at: red-rock spires, sandstone cliffs and postcardperfect views. Several companies offer dog-friendly jeep tours.
Arkansas: Try canoeing down sections of the Ouachita River. One of the most popular trips is the journey from Oden to the Rocky Shoals; the 10-mile stretch features deep pools and shady banks.
California: Carmel, with its leash-free, pristine white sand beach and 37-acre Mission Trail Nature Preserve, is a canine paradise. Cafes, inns, shops all cater to happy dogs.
Colorado: Aspen has everything from fine dining with your dog to miles of trails, including Smuggler Mountain Road. If you’re dogless but yearning for some canine attention, spend a day with an eager companion courtesy of Aspen Animal Shelter’s “Rent-a-Pet Program.”
Connecticut: The folk tale of the Black Dog of West Peak haunts the Hanging Hills. Hikers explore the deep gorges and clear waters of Merimere Reservoir, watching out for the legendary dog that foretells danger or joy.
Delaware: Cape Henlopen State Park, one of the few places in the state where (with some restrictions) dogs are allowed year-round. The American Discovery Trail begins here; hike its first few miles.
Florida: Key West (aka Bone Island) is historically one of Florida’s most dog-friendly tourist destinations. An abundance of inns, guest cottages and restaurants welcome dogs.
Georgia: Take a leisurely stroll along the Eastside Trail, the first leg of Atlanta’s Beltline project. This 2-mile path is part of a huge “railsto- trails” revitalization effort to transform 33 miles of vine-covered railroad into parks, multi-use trails and transit around Atlanta.
Hawaii: While canine visitors are subject to quarantine, shelters on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island invite you to check out approved dogs for day-long field—or beach —trips. Even better, sign up for a shelter pet transfer program and give a homeless dog a shot at a new life on the mainland.
Idaho: Ketchum offers Bald Mountain Trail and alpine walks and lakes throughout Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Famous for skiing, Sun Valley is also a nature (and dog) lover’s delight in summer.
Illinois: Chicago-based Camp Dogwood utilizes facilities at nearby Lake Delton, Wisc., 600 acres of fields, woods and lakefront. The focus here is on bonding rather than competition.
Indiana: Walk the rolling dunes of Indiana Dunes State Park, where 10 trails pass over tall drifting mounds of sand, across miles of lakeshore beach, along marshes and through 1,800 acres of woods.
Iowa: One of the best states for rails-to-trails and a great place to try out dog-friendly bicycle gear. Bike the 63-mile Wabash Trace Nature Trail (Council Bluffs to Blanchard).
Kansas: Wichita State University is home to the Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection, one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Includes works by Andy Goldsworthy, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson and Joan Miró, among others.
Kentucky: Daniel Boone National Forest is a birder’s mecca—bring your binoculars in search of hooded mergansers and scarlet tanagers. Dog-friendly accommodations, plus homegrown bluegrass and bourbon, are close by in Lexington.
Louisiana: New Orleans offers legendary history, architecture and gardens, best explored on foot. Your canine companion will be welcomed at 80-plus eateries with outdoor seating, including Chartres House Café, Café Beignet, Parkway Tavern and The Bulldog.
Maine: Acadia National Park encompasses more than 47,000 acres of granite-domed mountains, woodlands, lakes and rugged coastal shoreline; its 100 miles of easy-to-challenging trails offer adventures and respite for both dogs and their people.
Maryland: Catoctin Mountain Park features miles of on-leash, dog-friendly trails that wind through the rugged hardwood forest of this Appalachian highlands park. Picnic and camping areas available.
Massachusetts: Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, has much to offer, both old and new. Stroll down its main street; explore its beaches (the city-managed beach is leash-free), marshes and dunes; or run off some energy at Pilgrim Bark Park, one of the top five in America. Your pup can even travel with you via public transportation on Bay State Cruise Company’s ferry service between Boston and Provincetown.
Michigan: Agility, flyball, backpacking, boating, herding, tracking all await you and your dog at the Dog Scouts Camp in the beautiful Northern Lower Peninsula.
Minnesota: The Twin Cities’ long list of off-leash parks includes the crown jewel Minnehaha Dog Park in Minneapolis on the Mississippi River, and four in St. Paul, notably High Bridge, a fully fenced 7-acre site.
Mississippi: Follow the ancient, winding routes of Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians along the 445- mile Natchez Trace Parkway and take in antebellum mansions, river views and more than 60 miles of wildflower-fringed hiking trails.
Missouri: Dip toes and paws in Bliss Spring for cool relief, just one of the many natural wonders to be found along White’s Creek Trail in the Ozarks’ Irish Wilderness area, part of Mark Twain National Forest.
Montana: Whitefish loves its dogs. In town, visit the 5-acre Hugh Rogers Wag Park. Just outside of town is the Whitefish Trail, miles of stacked loops, scenic overlooks and gated logging roads.
Nebraska: Hike or bike along one of the many trails in Nebraska, the “Historic Trails” state. The Lewis and Clark, Mormon Pioneer, Pony Express, Oregon, and California National Historic Trails crisscross the state.
Nevada: Spend a day rafting a peaceful 5-mile stretch of the Truckee River, near Tahoe City. Check in with Truckee River Rafting for details.
New Hampshire: Great North Woods state parks offer many dog-friendly parks and natural areas. Swimming holes and waterfalls abound, and keep an eye out for covered bridges.
New Jersey: Sunfish Pond, formed 15,000 years ago, is the southernmost glacial lake on the Appalachian Trail. The rock formations and hardwood forest host an abundance of flora and fauna.
New Mexico: Wonderful discoveries await you, from Taos’ Rio Grande Gorge area, with its stunning vistas and many small hot springs, to Carson National Forest.
New York: Explore the natural beauty, small towns and tranquility of the Catskill Mountains, including rummaging at the many flea markets and unmatched hiking and fishing.
North Carolina: Asheville provides mountain hikes (nearby Lookout Trail) and a number of (leashed) dog-friendly festivals, from traditional folk music to regional crafts.
North Dakota: The tall-grass prairie on the rolling hills of the Sheyenne National Grasslands is a significant contrast to the stark badlands found in the Little Missouri National Grasslands. Or, visit the leashed-dog-friendly International Peace Garden in Rugby.
Ohio: The Buckeye Trail circumnavigates the state and is the longest loop trail in the country. Hike the wild 25-mile stretch in Hocking Hills State Park, and camp at one of its dog-friendly campsites.
Oklahoma: One of historic Route 66’s longest stretches goes through this state. Look for roadside attractions like the Totem Pole Park in Foyil or the giant Blue Whale of Catoosa. Stop by White Dog Hill restaurant outside of Clinton for some home-style cooking.
Oregon: The state’s tallest peak, Mount Hood, provides hiking and cycling in a Cascade Range forest. Explore long stretches of secluded coastline at Cannon Beach and Lincoln City.
Pennsylvania: Is Philadelphia America’s most dog-friendly city? Their chamber of commerce thinks so, and pup-welcoming establishments Hotel Palomar and restaurants like the White Dog Cafe and Honey’s Sit ’n Eat support their claim.
Rhode Island: Well-behaved dogs are welcomed on Gansett Cruises in Newport, plus get treats and a special blanket to sit on. Take a scenic harbor tour or sunrise cruise on Narragansett Bay.
South Carolina: Congaree Swamp National Monument has 20 miles of trails (dogs must be leashed on trails and are not allowed on boardwalks). Nature abounds with old-growth cypress and tupelo, woodpeckers, cardinals, and hawks.
South Dakota: See the landscape as Lewis and Clark may have along the Native American Scenic Byway from Chamberlain to Pierre, as it passes through two American Indian reservations.
Tennessee: The only state declared a Civil War National Heritage Area by Congress, which makes it a prime spot for al fresco history lessons. Dogs are welcome at several historic battlefields, including Shiloh National Military Park.
Texas: San Antonio Missions National Historical Park allows leashed strolling along the famous River Walk, and around the grounds of the 18th-century Spanish missions, including the Alamo.
Utah: Best Friends, in picturesque Angel Canyon outside of Kanab, is the nation’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned cats and dogs. The dramatic setting and humane mission are inspiring. Plan a working holiday: arrange a sleepover in one of the cabins and host an appreciative animal for some snuggling.
Vermont: At Dog Mountain, 150 acres of private mountaintop in St. Johnsbury, artist Stephen Huneck’s Dog Chapel celebrates our spiritual bond with canines. There’s no leash law here—dogs are free to run, play and swim (don’t miss the new agility course).
Virginia: Blue Ridge Parkway allows dogs on more than 100 trails, ranging from easy valley strolls to strenuous mountain hikes. Check out the many festivals and music events in the area that enliven the Shenandoah Valley. Stay at Big Meadows Lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Washington: Ferry to the San Juan Islands (75 miles north of Seattle) for hiking, kayaking and cycling amidst some of the Pacific Northwest’s most spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife.
Washington DC: Rock Creek Park, more than 1,750 (dog-friendly) acres, lies north of the National Zoo and has hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Plus, the K9 Corps at the Historic Congressional Cemetery has a private dog-walking program permitted by membership only.
West Virginia: The New River Gorge offers multisport delights, from rafting and rock-climbing to hiking past old grist mills and waterfalls—all in the heart of Southern Appalachia.
Wisconsin: Sheboygan is a sportsman’s paradise—swim, kayak or fish on Lake Michigan or nearby Elkhart Lake.
Wyoming: Try your hand at cowboy life at one of the state’s many dude ranches. If you yearn for fresh mountain air, open spaces—and if your dog is horse-friendly—check out listings on duderanch.org
Dog's Life: Travel
International travel with a humane purpose.
Set amidst swaying coconut palms not far from the quiet beaches of Bang Saphan on the Gulf of Thailand, Headrock Dogs Rescue (HDR) is a small operation powered by the will and drive of Britishborn Verity Cattanach Poole and her husband, Suthep Samkuntod (Thep), a native of Thailand. The couple has dedicated their lives to sheltering, healing and rehoming the area’s abandoned dogs, which are, unfortunately, legion.
The number of dogs in HDR’s care varies, but rarely goes below 70, and many are puppies, who are regularly dumped at the shelter compound or at a nearby Buddhist temple (HDR also cares for the temple’s many dogs). HDR is an open shelter; while puppies are kept safe in pens, juvenile and adult dogs have space to run and sort themselves into groups. Each day is packed with tasks: The dogs need regular bathing and brushing, along with eye and skin treatments, medications, and feeding. Their sleeping areas, food bowls and the puppy pens need to be cleaned. Equally important, they need human kindness and attention, which are critical to their transformation from anxious and traumatized to frolicking and joyful.
To do this good work, Verity and Thep rely on the help of volunteers, many of whom are in the country on backpacking trips. Or professionals such as John Thai, a Belgian photographer who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty in the service of animals. Thai makes an annual donation of his time and skills to humane causes; in the past, he’s volunteered at the Iberian Wolf Recovery Centre in Portugal and the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary in Thailand.
“NOT ONLY WAS IT EXTREMELY AWARDING SEEING DOGS WHICH WERE SOMETIMES CLOSE TO DEATH BECOME PLAYFUL AND HAPPY, THE EXPERIENCE TEACHES YOU THAT ALL DOGS, WHEN TREATED WELL, CAN BECOME GOOD NATURED.”
—DEREK HALL, HEADROCK VOLUNTEER COMMUNICATIONS
Earlier this year, he spent a month at HDR, documenting their amazing work. As he says in his online journal at johnjourney.be, “As a dog photographer, I want people to remember their companions at their most vivid moments. Running freely with barks of joy, shaking off the excitement, wrestling with playmates, or just going for that one so-irresistible mud bath.”
His photographs of the Headrock dogs certainly capture those moments, as well as many that celebrate the caregivers’ gentleness, compassion and joy in their duties. The gratification they get from their work is clearly evident in Thai’s photos.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Whistle (and bark) while you work
This Friday marks the annual Take Your Dog to Work Day—created by Pet Sitters International to celebrate the great companionship dogs offer and promote their adoption. Since its inception in 1999, TYDTWDay® has brought awareness to dogs in the workplace and help encouraged the practice. Today, being able to bring one’s dog to work is a bonafide perk—right up there with great health benefits and a gourmet lunchroom. In speaking to companies who welcome dogs, some best practices jump out. If your company is considering instituting a dog-friendly policy or looking to tweak their existing program, take note …
Best practices employed by dog-friendly companies
It is common practice to require a 2-week or 1-month trial or probationary period to see if the dog (and people) work well together. It is only after the trial period that the dog is officially granted “office visits” status. This lets people know that nothing should be taken for granted and that people and dogs have to be on their best behavior. This is a practice recommended to offices rolling out a dog-friendly policy.
Some companies required dogs to wear work ID badges, photo and all—including dog’s name, office location, owner’s name and telephone … it comes in handy more than you’d think.
The main points of responsibility to get across to people is that dogs should never be left by themselves or permitted to wander. Any issues of aggression or even high alertness (ie. barking when somebody enters a room) should be addressed. A dog doesn’t need to growl and bare his teeth to be disruptive.
Over time, there will probably be dogs who are so well adjusted and mellow, that they may be able to wander the office or hang out at various (sunny) spots on the premises. Most dog-friendly offices have these kinds of “roaming” dogs. But you don’t start out that way. Abiding by rules and agreed upon structure are essential when rolling out a program.
Like any other new program that requires employees to have ownership, it might help to put together a small group of workers, dog owners, management and non-dog owners to work out the rules and regulations. Trupanion, the Seattle-based pet insurance company has a great program that is led by a committee who meet quarterly (or when needed) to review policies, mitigate issues and develop dog-related programs.
Dog owners need to understand that having a dog-friendly office is a privilege and not a right— so everybody needs to be committed to making it work.
Autodesk (San Rafael, CA) is one of the first software companies to allow employees to bring their dogs to work back in the early 1980s. According to company lore, programmers worked such long hours that they began bringing their canine companions to the office so they didn’t have to run home to feed and walk them. Recognition of a dog-friendly workplace is so key to the company culture, that it is even written into Autodesk’s corporate bylaws. About 5 percent of the company’s 9,000+ employees take advantage of this benefit. Other perks include offering a dog insurance group plan and dog training classes scheduled during lunchtime.
Autodesk shared their ten-point rules for a successful dog-friendly work environment:
1. Dogs are to be kept on a leash when inside company facilities.
2. Dogs should stay with their owner or designated watcher at all times and should be in the employee’s office when the employee is there (in cubicles baby gates are often employed or dogs are tethered).
3. Dogs with fleas are not to be brought to the office.
4. Dogs are not allowed into bathrooms or into the café serving and seating areas.
5. Dogs are not to brought into meetings.
6. Employees are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs should the dog have an accident inside the facilities.
7. Employees are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs outside the buildings. All receptionists have “doggy bags” for this purpose.
8. If a dog has three accidents inside the building the dog will need to stay at home at least until the owner can demonstrate that the dog has been through some kind of training program to mitigate the issue.
9. Any incident of aggressive behavior by a dog is unacceptable and the dog may not be brought back to work. Loud, repetitive barking or eating another employee’s food is also not acceptable.
10. Employees with allergies to animals may ask a dog owner not to bring a dog to the office if that dog makes it difficult for the allergic employee to work.
Dog's Life: Travel
Set in the green and rolling Texas hill country, Austin is known for its eclectic cultural events—think Austin City Limits and SXSW—Lady Bird Johnson's bluebonnets in the spring and the bats of the Congress Avenue Bridge. It's also a pretty dog-crazy place, as noted by Beth Bellanti Pander of Austin's own Tito's Handmade Vodka, where she's the company's Program Manger of Vodka for Dog People. Here are some of her hot spots...PLAY
Ahh … the water, the trees, the squirrel sightings: Red Bud Isle and Emma Long Metropolitan Park’s Turkey Creek Trail are great places for a leash-free dog to unwind. Dogs can go also off-leash at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park, 293 acres of trails (which, FYI, they share with cyclists), hills and creeks. For a more contained experience in the central city, give Norwood Dog Park a try; it’s fully fenced and has a large, shaded main section and a separate area for small dogs. For time on the water rather than in it, stop by Zilker Park Boat Rental, where your dog’s welcome to join you in a canoe (bring his life jacket, as the rental company doesn’t provide them for dogs). Finally, if you and the pooch are in the mood for a movie, look into Austin’s “Movies in the Park” series, which started in April and runs through November in parks across the city; the pup will need a leash, but you'll both enjoy being entertained under the beautiful Austin night sky.STAY
Consider taking the HomeAway route; at press time, the online booking site had 157 pet-friendly listings in Austin—which, coincidentally, is its home base.EAT/DRINK
Dog-friendly eateries are thick on the ground in Austin. Jo’s Coffee not only welcomes dogs, it also sponsors the annual Lyndon Lambert Easter Memorial & Pet Parade. Perla’s serves some of Austin’s tastiest seafood, which can be indulged in on the patio in the company of your dog. Likewise, Mozart’s Coffee Roasters has patio seating (in this case, fronting Lake Austin) as well as—you guessed it—fine coffee drinks and a decadent selection of desserts. Three venues go the extra mile when it comes to kicking back with canines. Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden not only provides a leash-free area, it also makes a sausage just for dogs. At Dog House Drinkery, dogs are welcome to congregate with their people in the bar area or run off some energy in one of the Drinkery’s fenced OLAs. Wet your whistle under a shady tree at the Yard Bar’s off-leash dog park while your dog goes nuts on the agility course; the bar’s full-meal menu includes two “Dog Food” entries: Bones and Co sliders and house-made ice cream.
Beth notes that on Amplify Austin day, Tito’s Handmade Vodka does its part to raise money for local charities by creating a special cocktail served at participating watering holes.
On May 12, The Bark had the pleasure of hosting author W. Bruce Cameron for a special Q&A on Facebook. Cameron is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today bestselling author with several books to his credit, including A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey. His newest book, A Dog’s Way Home (Forge Books), was released in early May, and Cameron shared his thoughts on his new work as well as on one of his favorite subjects: dogs.
Bark: Tell us about A Dog’s Way Home …
W. Bruce Cameron: A Dog’s Way Home is a story of utter devotion, of a bond between a person and a dog, a bond so powerful that the dog will do literally anything to be with her human family. Bella is a rescue and Lucas, a young man, is her whole world. When Bella is banned from the city in which they are living (she is a Pit mix) and relocated hundreds of miles away, she decides a mistake has been made and sets off on a multi-year trek through the Rocky Mountain wilderness to find Lucas.
Bark: Is it fair to say it’s a little different than your previous books?
W. Bruce Cameron: I’m told that A Dog’s Way Home is rapidly turning into a reader favorite. I think it has to do with the lack of fantastical elements! In the “A Dog’s Purpose” series, there is the reincarnating dog; in Emory’s Gift, there is a bear who may or may not be real. In the “Repo” series, a man has the voice of a ghost in his head. But A Dog’s Way Home is a very realistic story about a dog separated from her people who needs to find her way back to them. Could happen—in fact, DOES happen—all the time.
Bark: For us dog people, the fear of being separated from our dogs is always at the back of our minds, isn’t it?
W. Bruce Cameron: I once had a dog—her name was Chinook—who was lost for seven days. She hopped the fence in a thunderstorm. She was eventually found by a farmer, who called in response to my newspaper ad. She was 50 MILES away.
Bark: What inspired you to write about this particular subject? Do you have a special interest in breed-ban laws and the work canines do with veterans? Is there a story behind the canine character being a Pit Bull?
W. Bruce Cameron: My dog Tucker gave me most of the ideas, or at least, that’s what he’s been telling people. I’m not a political agitator, but I just don’t believe Americans want their government telling them what kind of dogs they can own, especially when the law is about how dogs look, not how they behave. It is as ludicrous as arresting someone because he looks like a criminal.
I am proud of and grateful to our men and women in uniform—they have made great sacrifices for our country. Some have had experiences that left them with injuries, not all of which are physical. Dogs can be wonderful in helping veterans cope with and recover from trauma.
I have met many Pit Bulls and Pit mixes and generally find them to be among the most gentle and loving of breeds—though, let’s face it, the majority of dogs are gentle, loving and devoted.
Bark: Your books often involve a journey, sometimes of the heart, sometimes a physical journey. In A Dog’s Way Home, a 400-mile trek is at the center of the story. Can you talk about the role journeys play in your storytelling?
W. Bruce Cameron: My novels look at characters who evolve over time and distance. In this new book, Bella is an entirely different animal at the end of the trek than she was when she started out.
Bark: What message do you want people to take from your “A Dog’s Purpose” series?
W. Bruce Cameron: I guess it’s that dogs need us and we need them. That the ones we rescue, rescue us. That without us, they are lost creatures and they need our love, our help and our kindness.
News: Guest Posts
A sport and lifestyle of spotting random dogs
First there was trainspotting, then planespotting, and now…dogspotting! Take an object that interests you – in our case, dogs – and turn it into a hobby by seeking as many different examples as possible, taking photos of them and sharing with other enthusiasts. A Facebook page called Dogspotting has become wildly popular. Members – currently over half a million - post photos of an incredible diversity of dogs in all sorts of situations from around the world. One can easily become lost scrolling through the photos, reading comments, smiling all the while.
There are rules for participating. In a nutshell: no photos of your own dog, or a dog you already know; no photos taken at dog parks, vet clinics or other “low hanging fruit” locations; no service dogs (they’re working, so leave them alone); no posing humans in the frame; and be nice to each other. If you have photos that break the rules but still want to share, there’s a sister page called Dogspotting Society where they’re allowed. There’s also a Dogspotting phone app.
The site has generated its own dogspotting lingo. Some common words include: doggo = dog; sploot = dog lying with all legs splayed; pupper = puppy; floof = especially fluffy dog; cloud = white fluffy dog (usually a Samoyed); mlem = dog’s tongue is licking its muzzle in photo. The lingo and photo descriptions (e.g. describing a bulldog puppy as a giant wrinkle) are half the fun. There’s also a point system, with higher points awarded for spots of unusual dogs or situations, for example a dog carrying its own leash, or a wild canid (fox, coyote, or wolf), “the most noble of all spots.” Links for the rules, the points system, and frequently asked questions are available on the page.
This is a hobby most easily indulged in a city or urban area where seeing “strange” dogs on streets or in cafes is common and photographing them easy. For those of us living in the country, spotting a wild canid is a challenge worth embracing. Visit the page, but be warned, it’s a time sink! It’s difficult to avoid scrolling through the photos and reading a few comments for each. Initially, that’s time well-invested before posting your first spot as you’ll see site administrators chiming in on rule-violating posts, gently reminding the poster that sister site Dogspotting Society is the appropriate place for their photo.
The wide variety of dogs and settings in the photos and the accompanying comments are wonderful antidotes to life’s daily stresses. Just don’t forget to take your own dog out for a stroll – maybe a stranger will post a photo of her on Dogspotting.
Dog's Life: Travel
Why would a 57-year-old professional photographer set out on a road trip from Maine to the Arctic Ocean with only her two dogs for company? Was she on a hunt for the perfect image? Or, in packing up her suburban dogs and driving off into the Alaskan wilderness, was she just impossibly naïve?
Linda Griffith’s journey to the north in 2008 with Hugger and Comfort might most accurately be called a spiritual migration, one that began long before the trip actually started and never really came to an end. After returning home in 2009, it took her five years to narrow down the 20,000 photographs she took to the 75 she would include in a book and exhibit she called The Secret Life of Light.
Even then, Griffith’s journey was not complete; she would come to find it unbearable to have her work viewed only as beautiful photos. Her passionate assertion that Arctic light itself is endowed with conscious awareness, caught through the lens of her camera, is as intriguing as her photographs.
But none of that was in play when Griffith was struck with the idea for the trip in 2003 following the unexpected deaths of her grandmother, mother and a long-time mentor. Though Griffith grieved, she had a focus, a way to deal with her sorrow.
Sixteen years earlier, she had occasion to meet a Lenni Lenape Clan Mother at an Allentown, Pa., museum when she took a bag full of oddly shaped stones that she thought might be Native American artifacts to be evaluated. The Clan Mother, respectfully titled “Grandmother,” took Griffith under her wing, teaching her the Lenni Lenape worldview in the same way she would teach a granddaughter.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t like my culture and wanted to try on somebody else’s,” Griffith said candidly. “It was that I picked up these rocks and they led me to this place, through a path that was uniquely mine.”
By the time the three matriarchs in Griffith’s life passed in 2003, she had developed a different sensitivity.
“I had an awareness of how directions [affect] my life,” she explained. In the medicine wheel, West is the place of dying and transformation, while North represents wisdom and clarity. “It just naturally occurred to me that I should be going North to integrate the loss of these people, and to understand where I am in my life now.”
Griffith spent four years getting ready for the trip. First, she purchased a used bus and hired a mechanic, who spent a year reconditioning and converting it to four-wheel drive. Over the next three years, she removed seats, laid carpet and installed insulation. She also coated its exterior with a special paint developed by NASA to help protect spacecraft from intense heat and cold. (As it turned out, during her August stay in Deadhorse, Alaska, the temperature was 15 degrees; the extra insulation turned out to be time and energy well spent.)
Then, there was the matter of communication. “The concern was, what do I do if I get in trouble? It’s not like you can walk back to town,” Griffith pointed out. She came up with an ingenious solution: a few days before departure, she had the bus outfitted with a military- grade satellite dish, theoretically providing access to the Internet. Upon seeing pictures of the bus before departure, friends dubbed it “Jaw-droppin’ Babe Lucille.”
“With the dish up, it looked like Border Patrol. Nobody ever messed with it,” Griffith said.
Griffith also had some soul-searching to do about her dogs. What would quality of life be like for them inside the bus, where living space had been whittled down to 7 by 14 feet? It would mean that they wouldn’t be able to run loose for a year. “I am not a believer in putting them at risk that way,” she stated emphatically.
Ironically, putting the dogs at risk by taking them with her into the wilderness was a prospect Griffith was more willing to entertain. In the end, her decision to take Hugger and Comfort was influenced by several factors. Not only were both deeply attached to her, Hugger—who at four had already had two cruciate repair surgeries—required regular medication for a kidney issue, and five-year-old Comfort had separation anxiety. Griffith knew she’d refuse to eat if left behind.
Griffith’s own separation anxiety also played a part. “The dogs travel everywhere with me,” she declared. “I decide where I can go and when I can go based on whether or not I can take them. If I can’t take them, I don’t go.”
Unlike Lucille, the dogs needed very little special equipment for the trip. Hugger, a Husky mix, thrived on cold weather, and Comfort, a Terrier mix, wore a thermal shirt for most of the trip (she basked in sunbeams whenever she found them). Other than that, a couple of sleeping bags, an abundant supply of Hugger’s prescriptions and 200 pounds of kibble were all the gear the dogs required. (“We carried way more food than was reasonable in case we got stuck somewhere,“Griffith explained.) And harnesses, of course; for their safety, the dogs wore them full-time so Griffith could quickly leash them up as needed.
On the Road
As it turned out, the satellite dish never worked very well. The first one had to be replaced even before setting out, delaying her start by a week and unintentionally pushing Griffith’s departure date to her late grandmother’s June 6 birthday. The second dish worked great at first, as Griffith made her way from northern Maine into Canada, and continued to work as she traveled back into the U.S. and across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, heading steadily westward.
By the time she reached Montana, however, the software had failed again, requiring a 200-mile detour to the last place that could repair it before she headed into the wilderness. The dish was plagued with technical difficulties for the rest of the trip, and whenever it was cloudy—which most days are in Alaska—it wouldn’t pick up the satellite at all.
In addition, Lucille needed constant attention. “The bus broke down the whole way there and the whole way back. I could tell you about every Ford service station between Fairbanks and Maine,” Griffith said. “But there was no giving up!”
Oblivious to all of that, the dogs settled easily into bus living. In fact, they thrived. Comfort remained alert while they were driving, stationing herself next to Griffith and taking in the scenery. Hugger slept in the back most of the time they were on the move, but developed a passion on walks that surprised Griffith.
“Nothing made her happier than sniffing f lowers! I didn’t know this about her,” Griffith said fondly. As they continued north toward Skagway, stopping at fields of flowers along the way, their bond grew stronger than ever.
“I felt as if the three of us were living on a level that people rarely get to experience because culture is so invasive,” Griffith remembered. “I feel that we’re very equal. My job is to keep them safe, not to oppress them.”
Despite Griffith’s watchful eye, the dogs did get occasionally get into trouble. Take, for example, their stop-off in Haines, Alaska, to photograph the grizzlies. The salmon were running and the bears were feeding. For the most part, birds and bears have a reciprocal arrangement in Alaska: the bears leave salmon remains wherever they happen to be and the birds pick them clean.
That day, however, the dogs beat the birds to a salmon under a bush, and before Griffith realized what was happening, they’d eaten enough rank fish to get sick. It was the kind of thing that could have happened anywhere, but they weren’t just anywhere, they were 130 miles from the nearest veterinarian. By evening, both dogs were vomiting blood.
“I’m used to being able to take my dogs wherever they need to go for whatever care they need. But it didn’t matter what I was willing to do, because there was nobody there to help us. That was the worst night of the trip,” recalled Griffith. There was nothing to do but head up the highway to Whitehorse (Yukon Territory, Canada).
Griffith drove north into the Yukon through the lengthening night, stopping every few minutes to take the dogs out into the thick of grizzly country to be sick. The next morning, having arrived intact at the vet’s office, she got the medication they needed, and they were fine within a couple of days. Griffith stayed in Whitehorse for two more days just to be sure, then drove back to Haines, always in pursuit of that perfect photo.
Still, Hugger and Comfort earned their keep, alerting Griffith to the presence of bears. Their message was clear, and it wasn’t only conveyed by barking; at times, they’d get out of the bus and stop dead. Other times, they’d start backing up. Whenever this happened, Griffith did the same, retreating into the bus and heading on down the road.
“Living with bears present, I was aware that there were things out there that needed to eat me if they could,” said Griffith. “That put me in my place right quick. We had stepped out of this culture that we live in, and were living much closer to the terms of the earth. Yeah, sure, I had a generator, and the bus, and food, so how at risk were we, really? But when we stepped out of the bus, especially at night, we were at risk. That felt very primordial, because I don’t think that human beings were always superior and had power over every other living thing. We used to have a place in the food chain.”
While Griffith was conscientious about the safety of the dogs, when it came to herself, she was absolutely fearless in her hunt for photographs. That drive led her to some remote locations where, had the bus broken down, it was unlikely that help would have arrived before winter set in.
“I was only going to do this once, so I was to see it and photograph it,” Griffith said emphatically. “What I do for my dogs is done for me, I’m just passing it on. I’m part of the instrument for their care and well being. I feel well cared for on this planet; it doesn’t matter where I go. I feel like I belong here, like the planet is designed to support my life, up to a point; past that time, I should just graciously go. I was never frightened of being in the wild, as it were. That wasn’t scary to me, ever.”
They’d been on the road a little over two months when Lucille finally made her way through Fairbanks and rolled across the 66th parallel, leaving behind pretty much every vestige of civilization and putting Griffith within 500 miles of her goal: the Arctic Ocean. Covering that distance on the pot-holed washboard of the Dalton Highway took five days, during which Griffith began to notice a change in Hugger and Comfort’s behavior.
They’d been animated for most of the trip, but as they began crossing the tundra, where signs of wildlife were limited to the sighting of a single crow and one musk ox, the dogs were initially glued to the windows, then settled into a state of tranquility.
“I think an awareness of how barren this place was registered on the dogs, probably on the level of What the hell are we going to eat if this bus breaks down? Or maybe I’m projecting,” Griffith said.
“This is really what I think was going on,” she continued. “The light, and the mist, and the earth itself have a responsiveness that I’ve not experienced anywhere else. It’s as if the earth is aware that you’re there. I think at one point, probably most of the globe was like that and because of all the changes we’ve made, we’ve lost it.
“I had a sense of being someplace sacred—that this was not just about me looking at the land, but that the land and the light were looking at me, too. Dogs are very sensitive to light. I’d be surprised if they didn’t feel that, as well. They certainly grew very peaceful.”
Griffith’s own sense of tranquility merged with the dogs’ as they became immersed in what she would refer to later as “the secret life of light.” Even so, as they neared the Arctic Ocean, she was overcome by a wave of emotion.
“If I had to give a name to it, it was that in that place, I felt very loved,” Griffith said quietly. Her desire to understand where she was in her life and to integrate the loss of her loved ones had been fulfilled.
“Everything in its own way contributes to sustaining life. Even though it may not appear that way at the time, invariably, the turn things take is life-affirming. Even dying is life-affirming,” she continued.
She was grateful to the dogs, not only for their company and protection but also, because she was aware how much her own sense of well being played off them.
“My gratitude for them is greater than it ever could have been without the trip. There were times when it was incredibly lonely and they were such emotional support, so beautifully present and attentive.” Knowing that dogs have an ability to key in on illness in people, Griffith observed how they reacted to her from day to day. Their responses became an important part of what she called their “feedback circle,” sometimes on a barely conscious level.
“We’re not always aware of it, but our dogs are constantly checking on us, watching and being mindful of us. In the bus, that was so obvious,” said Griffith. There was another animal Griffith appreciated having along for most of the trip. “I swear the only reason I got there and back alive was because of the crows.
They would cue me when to stop and where to park for the night. I would just pay attention and hear in the way you hear when you have a dialogue with a dog. As a result, every time we broke down, it was near was somebody who could fix [the problem]. Every single time.”
After much anticipation and five days on the tundra, Lucille delivered the trio to Deadhorse. To Griffith’s intense disappointment, that was as far as the dogs (and Lucille) were allowed to go. A bus owned by the oil company took her to the beach at Prudhoe Bay, where she was permitted to spend only 10 minutes.
“I was pretty surprised to discover that the only way I was going to be able to actually see and touch my destination was by the grace of the oil company. Of course, they limit what you see for a very good reason: what they’re doing there. The amount of destruction of the environment is significant. And there’s nothing worse than a woman with a camera, you know,” said Griffith.
Despite her restricted access, Griffith rejoined Hugger and Comfort feeling electrified by the ocean. She was also honest enough to recognize the part she had played in the incongruity of that day.
“There was an irony in having to confront my own contribution to irresponsible living,” she reflected. After all, she’d driven there in a diesel-fueled bus that got roughly nine miles per gallon, and the final stretch of highway only existed to support the Trans- Alaska Pipeline, which was built to carry oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
“What was I doing to help the environment?” she asked rhetorically. “I was in this place that’s so important to preserve, and yet I was a contributor to its demise. I had to face that truth. It was very troubling.”
It was another nine months before Lucille delivered the pack of three safely back to Maine by way of Tucson, Arizona. They arrived on June 6, 2009, exactly one year after they’d set out. By the time Griffith finalized The Secret Life of Light project in 2014, she realized that the sense of serenity she’d felt above the 66th parallel had stayed with her.
“The opportunity to experience that place was a gift. It came at a time in my life when the questions of death and dying were so primary. I feel as if that experience has paved the way for me to go into the last stage of my life. I’m ready to go, whenever,” Griffith said easily.
“There was a moment when we were very far back,” she remembered. “We were about 150 miles from anybody. It was, you know, If this bus doesn’t start tomorrow morning and if the dish doesn’t work, we could just die here. I did go through the process of okay, what would I do? Night came down as I thought that through, but then the sun came up, the bus started and we went on.”
For more examples of Griffith’s work, go to fineartphotographyoflindagriffith.com.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Helpful tips on shaping up with your dog.
Frank Wisneski of West Covina, Calif., started smoking when he was 11 years old. When hit by a heart attack at the age of 38, he weighed 215 pounds and had been smoking a pack a day for 27 years. He had a five-year-old daughter and a wife who was eight months pregnant. But it wasn’t until about seven years ago, when his daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, that he knew he had to make changes.
“At the rate I was going, I realized I probably wasn’t going to be around to help my wife take care of her. That’s what pushed me to quit smoking. About six months after that, we got Major, and I’ve been running with him ever since.”
Major, his black Lab, is their service dog and Wisneski’s primary exercise partner, along with the family’s other black Lab and a Malinois. The four-pack runs four to five miles every weekday morning, starting out at 4 am, before Wisneski goes to work On weekends, he and Major hit the trails around a local lake, where the dirt is a bit easier on the joints, running up to 16 miles in a day.
Wisneski, who now weighs 180 pounds and has completed five marathons, gives his dogs full credit for his good health. “Dogs don’t care if it’s raining. Dogs don’t care if it’s cold. Dogs don’t have another meeting to be at or some other obligation. Dogs are the best training partners ever. They just want to spend time with you.
If you’ve got to get up and go run, you’ve always got a partner to go with you.”
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, a certified vet surgeon based in Pennsylvania and author of Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound, completely agrees. “People make up all kinds of excuses not to exercise, but dogs are always ready to go,” he says. Multiple scientific studies have shown that humans and canines derive similar physical, psychological and emotional benefits from exercise.
Zeltzman recommends that dogs of all ages have a complete physical exam before beginning any exercise program. He has a few other pointers as well: Tailor your activity to your dog’s breed, age, personality and health status. Start slow and progressively build endurance. If you and your dog are just starting to exercise, begin with simple walks, which can later morph into more strenuous activities. Read your dog for stress signals during and after exercise, particularly if your dog is a senior. However, age by itself isn’t a disqualifier, Zeltzman says. “Age is not a disease. I see 12-year-olds that act like six-year-olds.”
At the human end of the leash, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults—including those 65 and older who “are generally fit, and have no limiting health conditions”—get 150 minutes per week of moderateintensity exercise, such as brisk walking. These 150 minutes can be broken into 10-minute increments throughout the day. So, taking a break for a quick stroll with the dog is possible for even the busiest among us.
Walking is a great starting point. “You don’t have to run for hours with your dog to benefit,” Zeltzman says. According to the American Council on Exercise, even modest exercise improves circulation, bringing more oxygen to the heart and muscles and decreasing both the risk and severity of many diseases. Like dogs, people need to start slowly and build up the intensity and duration of their walks. Zeltzman suggests that adding variety to an exercise routine will help ward off boredom; switching up the routine can also help avoid a workout plateau. Following are a few of Zeltzman’s suggestions for doing just that.
Stair walking. For a terrific workout that benefits both the cardio system and leg muscles, find a stairwell, either outdoors or indoors. A variety of types of stairs (such as spiral or half-turn stairs) and/or a variety of stair surfaces (wooden, concrete, brick) can add a distraction for the dog that will ultimately build overall confidence. This comes with a caveat, however: many dogs don’t care for open stairs, and they should not be attempted until your dog is a well-seasoned stair climber.
Hiking. Find a trail at a local park and hit the dirt surface. According to Zeltzman, every organ in our bodies benefits from this type of exercise. Add a few obstacles, such as crossing logs and climbing hills, and you’ve engaged even more muscles, built intensity and spiced up the adventure.
Resistance walks. Lakes and beaches are prime territory for this activity, which involves walking in shallow water and/or on dry or wet sand. Dry sand is the more strenuous option; walking in it exhausts muscles pretty quickly.
Fetch. Retrieving can be a great boredom-buster while walking or hiking. However, this doesn’t mean that you get to relax on a stump while your dog fetches the ball or toy. Rather, you’ll be moving quickly, either toward or away from the dog, during retrieves. A Frisbee or a portable ball launcher such as a Chuckit complements exercise routines.
Power walks. Recommended for physically fit humans and canines, power walking provides a thorough workout. The brisk pace interspersed with intervals of jogging or running and/or armpumping doesn’t allow time to stop and sniff. You can also mix it up with squats, fetch or another activity you both enjoy.
Swimming. Taking your dog for a swim is easy on the joints and great for building endurance. Introduce your pup to water slowly, perhaps starting with resistance walks in warm, shallow water. Add a floatable ball and retrieves can be enjoyed by all.
“Dogs are the best for a healthy, active lifestyle. If a dog is by your side, he doesn’t care what he’s doing. And if he gets to smell a park along the way, that’s a good day,” says Wisneski, who credits his canine exercise partners with saving his life every day.
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