News: Guest Posts
The Language of Euthanasia
What’s the alternative to “putting him down”?

(Editor’s Note: We received this letter from Bark reader Donna Kane of Portland, Oregon. She writes so honestly and forthrightly about an experience many of us have faced and stumbled over, we thought we’d let her open a conversation about the language we use to describe this difficult passage.)

My husband and I had a rough year and a half starting in June 2006 when we made the decision to euthanize our 16-year-old deaf and nearly blind dog. His quality of life was limited to a very small window of time on sunny and warm afternoons; the rest of the time, he paced and would flinch if you tried to comfort him. After that, our nine-year-old cat’s kidneys failed and we found ourselves in another round of grief, only to have our second cat of 15 die of a stroke six months later.

We are recovered now and have good memories and a great little rescue dog, who is delightful. But the words that come back, not only through our own loss process but throughout other conversations I’ve had the last couple of years, are “put him down.” Just as I’ve never considered myself an owner, but merely a guardian for the animals that I’ve adopted and taken the responsibility for, I’ve never thought when making the decision to euthanize them that we were “putting them down.” I find this term somehow offensive even when it comes out of the best of mouths with the best intentions.

“Putting him (or her) down” feels abusive and not something a loving person would want to happen to their beloved pets. “Putting him down” needs a compassionate replacement, nothing too cute or too blunt, but something that makes you feel as though you have done the right thing by your pet who has loved you unconditionally, given you years of pleasure and then relied on you to make a choice for them that is very hard for to you make.

News: Guest Posts
Where’s A Pup to Poop?
What's proper etiquette for neighborhood walks?

While returning home from a dog walk one night, I spotted a woman loitering outside of my house. Since I didn’t have my glasses on, it took me a moment to realize she had a Shih Tzu on an extendi-leash pacing back and forth across my lawn, as he chose the perfect place to poop.

I called out to her just as her dog squatted down to do the deed. “Excuse me, is he going to the bathroom on my lawn?”

I had to repeat this a second time before the woman turned to acknowledge me. “Oh, this is your house?”

I was incredulous: Did it really matter whose house it was? It was my house. In fact, I’m a new homeowner still busting with pride—and I was right there! I never allow Truman do his business on people’s lawns, especially not in a neighborhood like mine, with all kinds of public parks. In fact, my own house backs onto a large park, and if she’d turned the corner, her dog would have had blocks of greenery on which to do his thing.

“No harm, no foul,” she said dismissively, pulling out a plastic bag. I paused for a second, hoping for an apology, before correcting her.

 “No,” I said, attempting to be diplomatic. “This is my home, this is my lawn, so don’t ever do this again. I don’t let my dog do that on someone’s front lawn. That’s really rude!”

“I’ve picked it up, relax,” she spat.

I felt my grip tightening on the leash as she slowly sauntered down the street. Truman, my Shepherd-cross, growled in solidarity.

My neighbor and I aren’t the first to get into an altercation over dog doo. Last fall, a 47-year-old Washington woman named Linda May Johnson went to trial after being charged with trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct. She had allegedly allowed her two miniature poodles, Ollie and Hershey, to poop on her neighbors’ lawn, repeatedly. The neighbor, who’d frequently asked the woman to let her dogs poop elsewhere—and who’d been verbally berated as a result—was also a dog owner, but disagreed with Johnson’s assessment that the first few feet of her lawn were actually public property.

Unfortunately, the judge dismissed the case. During an interview with The Washington Post, Johnson said she’s considering filing a formal complaint against the police service and suing her neighbor.

These struggles aren’t limited to regular folk. According to TMZ.com, comedian Dane Cook was evicted in September from a West Hollywood apartment after failing to pick up his Miniature Pinscher’s droppings. That same month, Adrianne Curry—of “America’s Next Top Model” fame—filed a restraining order against a woman whose dog was decorating her lawn. Of course, the woman—whom Curry accuses of stalking her—had also allegedly posted creepy messages on Curry’s MySpace page and even sent her a pair of designer shoes in her favorite colors. (I hope she checked inside them before putting them on.)

If you raise the subject of dog-break etiquette in a mixed crowd, you’ll probably hear everything from moral outrage to tolerance. But whatever side you’re on, it’s probably best to err in the direction of the curb. Next time Mr. Boggles yanks you towards your neighbor’s begonias, why not give the leash a tug and lead him toward the road or sidewalk? Better yet, reward your dog for pooping in a particular spot, and he’ll quickly comprehend that there are some places he can go and others he can’t. Conflict averted.

And for those who suffer rage blackouts when your neighbor and her canine companion dump on your turf, take a deep breath and zip it. Do you really want to make an enemy out of the nut-bar next door?

Bark Off: Is scooped poop different than no poop at all? Is the edge of a lawn better than the middle? Be honest, as a dog-person, a lawn-lover or both: Share your best and worst neighborhood pet waste experiences.


News: Guest Posts
The Wrestler Goes Soft On Dogs
Mickey Rourke's Chihuahuas feel the love

If you stayed up for the full Golden Globes celeb-u-thon last night, you were treated to a salty, sentimental canine thank you the likes of which we've never seen. Formerly down-and-outer Mickey Rourke put it out there for his pups, saying "sometimes when a man's alone, that's all you've got, is your dogs, and they mean the world to me." Watch the authentic, profanity-rich delivery here. Below, Mickey and Loki on the red carpet in Venice last year.

News: Guest Posts
My Pack's Plans for 2009
I asked my dogs if they had any New Year's resolutions, and to my surprise, they did.

The thought of New Year's resolutions makes me want to eat ice cream ... preferably a pint of chocolate chocolate chip from Oberweis. There's just too much pressure and I have yet to reach any goal through resolution. So I asked my dogs if they had any plans for 2009 and, to my surprise, they did (see below). Have your dogs resolved to make some changes this year? I'd love to hear from them!

"Eat more peanut butter, herd more sheep, chomp more Kongs to bits, and continue teaching that sassy little whippersnapper Ginger Peach to respect her elders." - Desoto, 11 yrs., Catahoula

"Pass my Canine Good Citizen test, persuade more people to rub my belly and under my pits, and go lure coursing at least three times this summer. I also want to go on more summer skunk hunts, but Mama does not approve." - Shelby, 7 yrs., Pit Bull mix

"Earn an agility championship, bruise fewer shins with my whip tail, ignore those new freckles or 'age spots,' go running with Mom for conditioning, play ball more often with Dad, and remember to play nice with others." - Darby Lynn, 6 yrs., Dalmatian

"Seriously? Well, I resolve to be less shy around new people and in new situations, work hard to perfect those darn weave poles, and continue to be the best mouser in the house. Oh, and eat my weight in raw turkey necks." - Jolie, 5 yrs., Dalmatian

"Catch as many frisbees as possible, compete in more Disc Dog competitions with Daddy, practice agility with Mommy, be less of a nuisance to my elders, continue showing Bruiser Bear the cat that it's okay to play with dogs, learn to walk on a loose leash and not jump up on people, no matter how much I so badly really, really want to." - Ginger Peach, 18 mos., mixed breed

News: Guest Posts
Bark Dogs on TV
One look at the Bark Nov/Dec '08 cover and it's clear why Tru and Jammer -- both rescues -- were chosen out of 6,000 contest hopefuls.

One look at the Bark Nov/Dec '08 cover and it's clear why Tru and Jammer -- both rescues -- were chosen out of 6,000 contest hopefuls. They're super photogenic and have a twinkle in their eyes. Owner Liz Dodge of Coos Bay, Ore., was just getting over the shock of seeing her two dogs on the cover of a national magazine when the local TV station called. You can see the pups in action and hear more about their amazing story from shelter dogs to supermodels here. Hopefully, their story will inspire more people to adopt dogs from shelters and breed rescues.

News: Guest Posts
Biden Pup Breeder In Doghouse

Elected to public office? Then congrats, you're getting a dog! Seriously, you'd have to live in a cave not to know that the Obamas are searching for a First Puppy. But who knew that Vice President-elect Joe Biden also made a doggie deal? His wife, Jill, said he could get one if the Obama-Biden ticket prevailed.


Last week, Biden visited breeder Linda Brown's Jolindy's Kennels in southeastern Pennsylvania to pick out a three-month-old German shepherd puppy. As someone who co-founded and volunteered for New Orleans German Shepherd Rescue for several years, I'm disappointed that Biden chose to purchase a puppy from a breeder. This magnificent breed is often passed over at shelters due to its large size or tough reputation. Yes, I know that some folks insist on having a young puppy, but you'd be surprised at how many young German shepherds ranging from six months to one year end up in shelters simply for "getting too big" or getting into trouble due to lack of training, exercise or attention.


On the upside, at least the Bidens didn't buy their puppy from a pet store or a backyard breeder just looking to make a buck. Then again, in looking at the breeder's Web site, it's unclear as to whether she is a member in good standing with a national registry like the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club. Or whether she tests her sires and dams for health problems commonly found in German shepherds, such as hip dysplasia, before breeding them. She appears to use mostly dogs imported from Germany in her breeding program. I much prefer the structure of the traditional working German shepherd versus the extreme back-leg angulation of American-bred show German shepherds. That's one important reason why the police and military import their working dogs -- their sound structure allows them to actually do the work for which they were bred.


But then I noticed that Brown has four litters available for sale, which is quite a few puppies. Most hobby breeders only breed one litter a year or less because they're not in it for the money. They carefully research the pedigrees of the prospective sire and dam and do the necessary (and perhaps even extra) health tests of eyes, hips, elbows, etc., and any genetic diseases that affect their breed. My guess is that Brown is a commercial breeder, one who breeds often in order to make money. Sure enough, Brown is believed to have 85 dogs at her facility. And she was recently cited for several violations, including "unsatisfactory ventilation, inadequate maintenance and sanitation, and missing sale and vaccination records." What's worse, according to AKC Board of Directors meeting minutes dated April 10-11, 2006, "The AKC's Management Disciplinary Committee has suspended Ms. Linda Brown, Spring City, PA, from all AKC privileges for one year, effective April 10, 2006, and imposed a $1000 fine for having submitted or caused to be submitted three litter registration applications that she knew, should have known, or had a duty to know contained false certifications as to the sire and/or dam (DNA exclusion)."


Maybe Biden should've adopted after all. Need more convincing? Check out BidenDog.   

News: Guest Posts
What’s in A Name?

Because I am living in Charleston, S.C. for the season (I could not take another blizzardy winter in NYC), I am meeting many new dogs. Southern dogs. This past week I had to take my spaniel Chloe to the vet (ruptured cruciate ligament and meniscus?)  and was amused to learn that many of the dogs were named Savannah, Rhett, Ashley and even General Lee (the latter, a Schnauzer, even resembled the general with his generous grey beard). I had never thought of the concept of place-specific dog names before, but this week I realized it’s quite common. In New York City, our dog friends had such names as Madison, Brooklyn and Hudson. In Woodstock, there was Marley (after Bob), Cassidy (after Jack Kerouac’s muse) and Dylan (the other Bob). Even I named my dog Chlothilde, because she is part French spaniel, and I wanted to give her a French old-lady name. After a few days I shortened that to Chloe (because it’s an easier name to call across fields, and because she looked more like a Chloe than a French old lady).


What does this mean, I wonder, to name a dog based on place? Are we trying to ground them to a particular setting? One more bit of proof that we are providing our dogs a home?


It might be interesting to note that more often rescue dogs have these “place names.” Those show dogs have names like Champion Sea Breeze – Covered Bridge de Pillowcase Oswageon. (If that’s not enough to confuse a dog I don’t know what is!)


This is a rambling blog, but I like to believe that Chloe takes comfort in the fact that she is Chloe. That her place is with me. What are the stories behind your dogs’ names?

News: Guest Posts
Bless the Beasts, Irish-style

The Blessing of the Animals (The Bark, Sept/Oct 2008) at the massive Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York is a Noah’s Arc-style affair (think: camels, eagles, reindeer framed by elaborate Gothic arches) that would have knocked the sandals right off its patron saint, Francis of Assisi.

A recent blessing outside St. Muredach’s in Ballina in western Ireland might have been a little more to the tastes of the ascetic friar. On November 30, a smaller group supporters of and volunteers from the North West SPCA gathered on a chilly day under the open sky with their friends, mostly dogs, to celebrate and renew their commitment to all creatures.



News: Guest Posts
The Patience of A Dog

Most recreational dog bloggers focus on their own pups. It's sort of a species of canine-navel gazing. That's why I love Jon Sung's Dogblog. He zeroes in on a simple slice of the urban canine's life--waiting outside shops, cafes and other no-dogs-allowed zones around San Francisco. In snapshots and laid-back commentary, stretching over nearly three years so far, he celebrates the patience, quirky charm and nobility of ALL DOGS.

News: Guest Posts
Dog & Owner Reunited After Three Years

What an incredible journey for Czar and owner Michelle Garza of Lisle, IL! The 13-year-old mixed breed finally came home after three years thanks to his microchip. I still can't believe a senior dog survived as long as he did. If you haven't already microchipped your pup, now's the time! And if your dog is microchipped, be sure to update your contact info. With the holidays upon us and company coming in and out on a regular basis, it'd be easy for your dog to make an unexpected escape. A microchip will give you peace of mind, and better yet, improve your dog's chances of being safely reunited with you.