Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Think your daily commute is extreme? Then you may not have heard about two trips made by chemist, engineer and NASA astronaut Leland Melvin in 2008 and 2009: from Earth to the International Space Station and back. When it was time for his official portrait to be taken at Houston’s Johnson Space Center in 2009, Melvin was determined to have two of his biggest fans in the picture with him: his rescue dogs, Jake and Scout. Since NASA’s a dog-free workplace, getting them into the building required some fancy footwork. Once inside and dressed for the occasion in his orange spacesuit, Melvin was joyfully mobbed by his dogs, the photographer started shooting and the rest is viral history. Later, when asked about the photograph, Melvin said, “They were my boys. … It changed my life having those two dogs.” Read about Melvin’s inspirational career in his new memoir, Chasing Space, available in adult and young readers’ editions.
Any time Alexandra Horowitz releases a new book is cause for celebration here at Bark. We’ve been fans since her 2009 hit, Inside of a Dog, and have continued to follow her work as she uncovers new insights into our co-pilots’ internal lives and external behaviors.
In addition to teaching psychology, canine cognition and creative non-fiction at Barnard College, Columbia University, she also leads the college’s Dog Cognition Lab.
Her new book, Being a Dog, delves deeply into the primacy of dogs’ sense of smell, and we talk with her about what she found.
Bark: Has anyone studied why some dogs are better at smelling than others —is it genetic or is it drive?
Alexandra Horowitz: Everything I’ve seen points to drive being the major indicator of whether a dog will be good as a detection dog: drive to find the odor, to keep working when frustrated, to get to the reward (like a game with a tug toy) at the episode’s end.
This is not to say that breed is irrelevant: some breeds are naturally more driven to pursue an odor relentlessly, or are driven to do whatever it takes to get a game of toss with a tennis ball. And some dogs—like Bloodhounds and Beagles—have more olfactory cells in their noses and more equipment around their faces (long ears, drooly jowls) to help bring odors up the nose. They may smell odors at lower levels.
Curiously, though, the notion that certain breeds are inevitably better at detection work than others hasn’t been borne out. It’s tradition more than science.
B: I was once told by a woman who handles tracking Coon Hounds that dogs can show a preference for how they scent; talking about the same breed, she said some sniff the ground, while others prefer sniffing the air. Have you observed individual differences in the same breed in your research?
AH: Absolutely. Different dogs have different sniffing tactics; “on the air” or “on the ground” are the two ways dogs try to pursue a scent. Often, though, these are distinguished by task, not by dog—that is, if a dog is tracking a distant (old) scent, on the ground makes more sense; the odor is probably no longer in the air. But a dog trying to locate someone/something who has recently passed by will be air-scenting.
B: Can adult dogs can identify their littermates or their mother by smell?
AH: In theory, this would be trivially easy for dogs. All dogs have their own “signature scents” (as do we, to dogs), so there would be no trouble distinguishing dogs of one’s litter from other dogs. Now, the question of whether an adult dog who has been separated for years from her littermates/family can recognize them is a different question: it’s more about memory than about perceptual ability. Memory is fallible in humans, and it is fallible in dogs. We forget. So it’s quite possible that, even having known one’s family by scent, it would be later forgotten. (But there is also good reason to believe that a trace would remain—that distant memory one cannot quite place.)
B: While you note in your new book that puppies at the Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania aren’t formally trained until a certain age, they do receive some kind of training, right?
AH: Yes, they are being “trained” to some degree: I think Dr. Otto and the Penn Working Dog Center trainers would agree when I say they are being trained to be good general-purpose working dogs. As I describe in my book, I saw dogs being put through their paces in lots of different (what were to them) games: find the missing person, find the hidden scent. They are being exposed to unusual sounds and environments and getting acclimated to them. They are learning the skills of detecting something, working with someone, and loving it. And they do.
B: Do working dogs get nose fatigue— do they reach a point at which they can no longer reliably follow a scent? If so, what do the pros do to work around that?
AH: The phenomenon of the nose no longer noticing an odor—adaptation —happens to us within minutes. Walk into a coffee shop, take in its familiar odors and a few minutes later, you might smell … almost nothing. The receptor cells in the nose that noticed the odor simply stopped responding after continued exposure.
The cells in the dog’s nose work similarly, but any dog employed as a detection dog is doing something different. Because they continue to sniff different areas of the odor “scene,” their noses won’t turn off to the smell. Tracking dogs are also known to simply lift their noses from the ground once in a while and sniff the air, as though to clear their noses.
On the other hand, working dogs certainly get fatigued from too much stimulation and too much exertion. Handlers know their dogs and will read their dogs’ responses to know when they need a break.
B: In the book K9 Scent Training by Resi Gerritsen and Ruud Haak (leading specialists in identification, tracking and detection-dogs), I read that female dogs are better at smelling than males. Did this also come up in your research? Any idea if the same can be said for our species?
AH: Gerritsen and Haak are great resources on detection-dog training and skills. I suspect their assessment comes directly from their own and other trainers’ experience with dogs. I don’t doubt it, though I don’t believe that the question has been formally tested. Interestingly, women are often said to be “better smellers” than men, and research does bear this out (on average, of course).
B: I’m quite curious about the canine visual sense vis-à-vis their olfactory sense, especially for dogs of the sporting breed. When our Wirehaired Pointer is out in the field, she seems to rely primarily on her sense of smell; sometimes a rabbit’s been sitting just a few feet from her, but she doesn’t see it, or even seem to smell it. Is it “I can’t smell it so I don’t see it”?
AH: As with us, dogs’ senses work together. Only for dogs, olfaction takes priority. From that point of view, you can imagine how vision might aid smelling: if a dog detects an odor on the breeze, she can then look up and try to locate, with her eyes, the source of that odor (and then head toward it for closer sniffing!). When I watched the dogs at the Penn Working Dog Center do a “person search” for people hidden in large PVC barrels in a large field, the dogs used vision to guide them while smelling: first, they followed their eyes to head toward the barrels, then followed their noses to identify which one held a person.
A dog who is sniffing in the grass to a hidden ball (or rabbit) that is perfectly “visible” to someone else nearby is simply using olfaction first. By sniffing in the whole area around the hidden object, she creates an on-the-fl y map of where the object is; the closer she gets, the stronger the odor is. Sometimes, dogs rely on that much longer than we would expect before bringing fuller attention to what they see to aid their search.
B: I’m trying to train one of my dogs, Charlie, to find the poop of his housemate Kit while we’re out in the park; he’s actually pretty good at it. I started doing this after I noticed that he likes to pee on her fresh poop, and only on hers. How would you recommend I boost his proficiency level? And why the peeing on it?
AH: “Find poop!” Great game. And lots of dogs would be pretty good at it. Since Charlie started doing this behavior on his own, clearly little shaping was needed. The only task is pairing it with a request (like “find poop”) and making him aware that what he’s doing—which to him is “following that interesting smell”—is something that’s also valuable to you, so he’ll do it whenever you ask. If he’s not doing it reliably, then he doesn’t see its value to you. Better rewards! More reliable rewards! (But you and every good behavior reader know that.) And, taking a cue from working-dog handlers, you could pair an “alert” behavior—sitting, barking and so forth—so that he tells you when he’s found it.
What I learned from Sam Wasser, who trains dogs to find wildlife scat, is that what’s often difficult in training in the field (and you’re always “in the field”!) is to know yourself if the dog has alerted on the right scat. Once they are confident of their dogs’ alert, and don’t accept partial alerts, handlers can reward only for the correct scat.
As for his peeing on the poo, that’s a question I don’t think science has directly tackled. But we know that marking isn’t territorial in dogs; it seems to be information-leaving. It could be that a nice pile of stinky poo is a good place to leave your own mark.
B: Besides enrolling our dogs in nosework classes, what do you recommend that we do to tap into their world of smell and enrich their lives?
AH: Let them smell. If you live with a dog, start thinking about what the world is like from an olfactory point of view. Let them smell you (you are your scent, to your dog), let them smell each other (that’s how they find out who it is), and let them smell the world. Take walks for smelling (not just for peeing, or for exercise). The pleasure that comes from watching a dog snuffling down a path, nose to the ground and nose in the air, guided by nothing more than the filaments of odors that come his way, is to me unmatched.
Run, Spot, Run
By Jessica Pierce (U of Chicago Press)
Bioethicist Jessica Pierce, whose book The Last Walk thoughtfully and honestly explored end-of-life care, dying and euthanasia for companion animals through her experience with her own much-loved dog, now takes on another sensitive subject. As in that book, in her new one she also addresses questions we rarely think about—or want to think about. Foremost among them is the morally ambiguous practice of keeping pets in the first place. Writing clearly, and clearly from the heart, she avoids academic jargon and provides us with reasons to really think about what we’re doing when we take animals into our lives.
The Pit Bull Life
By Deirdre Franklin and Linda Lombardi (The Countrymen Press)
A colorfully illustrated and thoughtful consideration of a type of dog who was once considered quintessentially American. Today, however, the words “Pit Bull” have become shorthand for something to be feared. The authors trace that transition and, continuing Franklin’s long-standing advocacy, inject the facts about these cheerful, resilient dogs into the national discussion. In doing so, they also provide a primer for Pit Bull owners, and potential owners.
By Neil Abramson (Center Street)
In this novel, the author considers the balance between fear and compassion, and the ways politically expedient solutions threaten everyone. The story centers on a sanctuary for unwanted, abused and abandoned dogs in New York City and the veterinarian who operates it. When a dangerous and unknown virus spreads though their neighborhood, the sanctuary’s dogs are presumed to be the carriers, putting them and the people who protect them in even greater jeopardy. The pace is intense and the characters well drawn.
The Secret Language of Dogs
By Victoria Stilwell (Ten Speed Press)
In her new book, trainer Victoria Stilwell wants to help us understand what our dogs are telling us via their expressions, vocalizations and behaviors. A proponent of positive reinforcement training, Stilwell not only describes these various methods of communication but also, provides tips on ways to respond to them.
By Janet Vorwald Dohner (Storey Publishing)
An in-depth and beautifully illustrated breed guide to a hard-working class of dogs, Farm Dogs is hard to resist even if you live in a city apartment only big enough for a Chihuahua. In addition to familiar breeds such as the Jack Russell, German Shepherd and Border Collie, Dohner also discusses a number of more exotic types, including the Berger Picard, Mudi and the wildly dreadlocked Puli. She also offers pointers on puppy selection, adult rescue, socialization and training.
Home Alone—And Happy!
By Kate Mallatratt (Hubble & Hattie)
This highly illustrated book from the UK provides lots of good advice for preventing canine separation anxiety, which is far more challenging to fix than to avoid. The author, compassionately considering the subject through a dog’s eyes, suggests that teaching a dog how to be emotionally stable is more important than teaching him how to sit or heel. In this book, she shows us how to do it.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Good for you, your dog and business
In 2010 a study, headed by Christopher Honts, at Central Michigan University, found that the mere presence of a canine in the office could help make people collaborate more effectively. The researchers also showed that the staff who worked with a dog gave all their teammates higher scores for trust and team cohesion than those who worked in dog-free groups. And now a new study confirms what The Daily Show people said in a recent interview with The Bark, dogs are the greatest destressors for both dog owners and the dogless employees in their office, as well as collaborative “assistants.” This study was conducted by an aptly named investigator, Randolph Barker, PhD, professor of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business. The findings, published in March in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, found that dogs do buffer the impact of stress during the workday for their owners and make the job more satisfying for those with whom they come into contact. “Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference,” Barker said. He also concluded that “Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support. Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace.” (See the infographic on this topic created by the MBAPrograms.org)
The American Pet Products Association recently surveyed 50 companies that welcome pets and discovered:
1. Lower stress levels and less absenteeism than in pet-free offices;
2. Productivity and employee morale got a boost when canine companions joined the work force;
3. Employees were more willing to work overtime, thanks to the addition of pets in the workplace.
So if your company doesn’t have a dog-in-the-workplace policy and is, hopefully, considering developing one, the following tips can be used to help set up a successful dog-policy.
By the Numbers
Congratulate the canines in your household for showing up on earth at just the right time, because, compared to those dogs who lived 25 years ago, today’s dogs have many advantages.
1. Coercion training has been largely replaced by kinder, gentler positive methods. While not everyone is training with modern techniques, the trend continues to gain momentum. It is more effective and better for the relationship between dogs and people to teach dogs what to do and then reinforce them for being right—with toys, treats, play or affection—than to issue commands and deliver a leash pop or a shock in response to an incorrect response.
2. Behaviorists abound to help people with their dogs’ issues. Twenty-five years ago, it was more common to euthanize dogs for problems such as aggression, destructive chewing or repetitive behaviors than it is today. Now, many of these concerns can be resolved by working with a qualified animal behaviorist.
3. Options are plentiful for dogs who suffer pain due to injuries, arthritis or other medical causes. Acupuncture, while an ancient art, is relatively new on the scene for canine pain management, and the multitude of dog massage techniques, including TTouch, means that many dogs are relieved of pain rather than living with it or suffering from the side effects of medications.
4. It’s easier to travel with dogs now. More hotels accept dogs, and riding in the car is safer due to the use of crates and canine seat belts. Fewer dogs are left at home during family vacations and outings, and fewer are sliding around in the backs of vehicles.
5. Walking on-leash is a part of life for most dogs, and compared with 25 years ago, there are more relatively humane and effective options. It’s hard to imagine a dog who wouldn’t prefer a Gentle Leader, Snoot Loop, Halti or SENSEation harness to the choke chains that once were common.
6. Canine play is considered important in ways that were unheard of years ago. Play is widely viewed as critical for developing and maintaining good relationships between people and dogs, and as a result, more than ever, dogs are having fun with their people on a regular basis, and playing with better toys. The toy options are dizzying; from Kongs and Chewbers to Dogzillas and Nina Ottosson’s puzzle toys—the world of dog toys has moved well beyond balls and sticks!
7. Dog-centered activities are more numerous now. Agility, flyball, herding, tracking, lure coursing, rally-O and dog training classes as diverse as basic obedience and even tricks and games are common, as are “dog camps,” places where people and their dogs can enjoy such activities in the company of the like-minded.
8. Compared with 25 years ago, dogs are welcome in more places. Many people take their dogs to work, and more shops and businesses are allowing dogs as guests. On a more fundamental level, more dogs are now living inside our homes rather than outside as before. This greater hospitality may stem from the biggest change of all over the last 25 years, which is that more than ever, dogs are now considered members of the family. The wholehearted inclusion of dogs in our families—a perspective once voiced only by the very brave or slightly quirky—has become a mainstream idea over the past quarter-century.
Then or now, perhaps one of the greatest things about being a dog is that the tendency to sit around with friends and bark about “the good old days” doesn’t exist. I like to think that for dogs, the “good old days” are happening right now.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Reading is a year-round pleasure but summer is particular seems to invite us to kick back, chill out and dive into the printed—or digital—page. Here are our candidates for your reading list, books we feel offer intriguing perspectives and tell good tales.Non-Fiction
The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love
Behind the scenes with a remarkable organization that trains dogs—some from shelters—for highly specialized work for young children with disabilities. Inspirational and absorbing.
By Melissa Fay Greene (Ecco)
Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon
This is a thoughtfully-researched book examining the history, stereotypes, fictional and societal worries surrounding a breed that was once considered an American icon.
By Bronwen Dickey (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers
This is a compelling investigation of the many ways that dogs come into our lives—keeping in mind how the financial transactions involved affect all dogs.
By Kim Kavin (Pegasus Books)
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Noted ethologist shows us that animals are not only smarter but also engaged in different ways of thought we have only begun to understand. The importance of looking at other species through their own world-views.
By Frans de Waal (W.W. Norton & Company)
Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures
Looking at the correlation between human and animal healing and how finding a cure is important to both species.
Arlene Weintraub (ECW Press)
Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home
A thoroughly engaging book about a lost dog’s journey and a family’s furious search to find him before it’s too late.
Pauls Toutonghi (Alfred A. Knopf)
Pets on the Couch: Neurotic Dogs Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry
Noted veterinarian behaviorist breaks new ground with the practice of One Medicine, the recognition that humans and other animals share the same neurochemistry, and that our minds and emotions work in similar ways.
By Nicholas Dodman, DVM (Atria Books)
Free Days with George: Learning Life’s Little Lessons from One Very Big Dog
An inspirational story about the healing power of animals, and about leaving the past behind to embrace love, hope and happiness.
By Colin Campbell (Doubleday)Fiction
A touching and dramatic story about saving animals in a no-kill shelter from a virulent virus. Some claim that dogs are the source but the veterinarian in charge of the shelter needs to prove this isn’t the case to save the animals.
By Neil Abramson (Center Street)
Stalking Ground: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery
The second in a new mystery series about a small town policewoman and her K-9 partner. Realistic portrayal of how the two work together; plus good character development that includes a sympathetic veterinarian and his two young daughters.
Margaret Mizushima (Crooked Lane Books)
No Better Friend: A Man, a Dog, and Their Incredible True Story of Friendship and Survival in World War II
A young readers’ version of one of our 2015 picks. This is a compelling and well-researched book that does justice to the remarkable dog Judy and the men whose stories are told so effectively and poignantly. Theirs is truly one of the great sagas of WWII.
By Robert Weintraub (Little, Brown and Company)
Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess
Elegant, charming and whimsical a story of a governess teaching 67 dogs and how she imparts 20 important lessons to her furry brood.
By Janet Hill (Tundra Books)
Picture Book (Ages 4 to 8)
Finding hope and love with memorable shelter dogs
Photographer Traer Scott follows up her groundbreaking book Shelter Dogs with a new work of equal grace and sensitivity. The portraits in Finding Home not only showcase a collection of canines with indomitable character and spirit, they are also an eloquent plea for more adoptive families, and a tribute to all dogs everywhere. Published by Princeton Architectural Press, the book is scheduled for release in October.
I no longer believe there are truly bad dogs in the world … only misunderstood, lost and confused souls. I consider it my job to do everything in my power to get them a second chance. On tough days, I look at all of the dogs who have found amazing homes and use that as a gentle reminder to myself that what I do matters … even if only to one or two dogs, every once in a while. It’s not about saving them all—it’s about giving them fair shots and never losing compassion for these incredible and selfless creatures.
—Bethany Nassef, Dog Coordinator, Providence Animal Rescue League
The ASPCA reports that 35 percent of dogs entering shelters are adopted and 31 percent are euthanized.
For shelters, rescues and the dogs they house and care for, many factors go into determining rates of adoption versus euthanasia: geographic location, breed, history, temperament, legislation and, many times, just sheer dumb luck. Ultimately, all policies and politics aside, the reason that so many of the dogs in this book made it is because the groups that I worked with are highly effective.
While we should absolutely work to save the dogs who are right here right now, we should also think about how we can make truly lasting change. By supporting humane legislation, we will put laws in place to regulate and punish those people who will never care at all about dogs, and through community outreach and targeted humane education, we can reach new generations and create a future of people who do.
Take heart: it is working.
News: Guest Posts
This inforgraphic is a good reminder that we should consider our dogs when picking plants for both inside and out. According the ASPCA, their poison control hotline receives around 150,000 calls annually from pet owners needing assistance with possible poison-related emergencies. This inforgraphic is based on a list of toxic plants from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's most common causes of emergency calls and Texas A&M ’s “Common Poisonous Plants and Plant Parts ”. The infographic gives you a break down of the risks to your dog (and cat!) and warning signs to look out for.
Compiled from Bark’s Best Places to Work
The following businesses understand the value of working in the company of dogs— whether it’s writing code, blowing glass or saving the environment … work is just better with a dog by your side. We’ve gathered together the most comprehensive list of dog- friendly workplaces in America, both large and small, covering 30 states. We salute these companies for working and playing hard, and valuing a belly-rub and as much as a balance sheet. (If you know a dog-friendly company we’ve missed, please add it in the comments)
Company: 3five, Inc.
Company: Advent Software
Company: archer>malmo, inc.
Company: Assembly of Dog
Company: Average Joes Entertainment
Company: Ben & Jerry's
Company: Big Communications
Company: Big Foot Media
Company: Big Spaceship
Company: BISSELL Homecare, Inc.
Company: Boa Technology
Company: Bomber Industries
Company: Bravo! Vail
Company: Bulkley West
Company: Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners
Company: Camp Bow Wow of Bridgewater
Company: Canine Detection and Inspection Services
Company: Cape Art Tiles
Company: Carnation Corners
Company: CattleDog Publishing
Company: Century Box
Company: Certified Wildlife Friendly
Company: Chehalem Wines
Company: Chuck Latham Associates
Company: Clif Bar & Company
Company: Country Walkers
Company: Cram Crew
Company: Culver Brand Design
Company: Dean Insurance Agency
Company: Delphic Digital
Company: Diamond Creek Pet Retreat & The Canine Sports Center
Company: Dogster/SAY Media
Company: Flathead Spay & Neuter Task Force
Company: Fluent City
Company: Found Animals
Company: Frenchie Winery
Company: Giraffe Marketing
Company: Glassy Baby
Company: Grassroots solutions, inc
Company: Harbors Home Health & Hospice
Company: Healthy Paws Pet Insurance
Company: Helen's Salon
Company: Humane Society of the United States
Company: Hydro Flask
Company: Integrated Benefit Consultants
Company: Intent Media
Company: Jaime Ellsworth Studio
Company: Jersey Printing Associates
Company: Joliet Slammers
Company: Jones Soda
Company: JVST USA LLC.
Company: K9 Country Club & Training Academy
Company: Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc.
Company: Kiosked Ltd
Company: Larson Family Winery
Company: Law Offices of Daniel F. Brookman
Company: Le Chateau Pet Resort
Company: LeashLocket, Ltd./AEI
Company: Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards
Company: Madison House Assisted Living Residence
Company: Marcus Thomas LLC
Company: Martinez Animal Hospital
Company: Midland School
Company: Milton M. Muraski DDS Inc.
Company: Ministry of Supply
Company: Momofuku Milk Bar
Company: Morristown Deli
Company: Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory
Company: Natural Habitat Adventures
Company: Nebo Agency
Company: Neff Associates
Company: Now What
Company: O.H.S.O. Eatery & nanoBrewery
Company: ODEL PLC
Company: Ogden Contract Interiors, Inc.
Company: Onestop Internet
Company: OverGo Studio
Company: Page One Web Solutions
Company: Palantir Technologies
Company: Paula's Choice
Company: Peskind Law Firm
Company: Pet Sitters International (PSI)
Company: Peterson Milla Hooks Advertising
Company: Procter & Gamble
Company: Qualey Granite & Quartz
Company: Radio Systems Corporation
Company: RE/MAX Results So Co
Company: Replacements, Ltd.
Company: Road Rebel Entertainment Touring Logistics
Company: RSA FILMS
Company: Sam Simon Foundation
Company: Service Dog Project
Company: Scream Agency
Company: Small Dog Electronics
Company: Small Girls PR
Company: Sports Basement
Company: Springbox Digital Partners
Company: StackMob, Inc.
Company: Summit Contractors Group
Company: SUP ATX
Company: Swift Collective
Company: Synapse Product Development
Company: Tassel Depot
Company: The Clymb
Company: The Glenn Group
Company: The Golden Paw
Company: The Honest Kitchen
Company: The Nerdery
Company: The Squires Group, Inc.
Company: The Watering Bowl
Company: Tito's Handmade Vodka
Company: Tomlinson's Feed & Pets
Company: Treats Unleashed
Company: Vaughn building
Company: Vision 360 Design
Company: WAKA Kickball & Social Sports
Company: Wasabi Rabbit
Company: Wild Goose Chase, Inc.
Company: Winchester House
Company: Wolf Conservation Center
Company: Working Dogs for Conservation
Company: Wyatt Technology Corporation
The comic book of the year is a dog story for the ages.
Great comic books are pretty common these days. Saga, a family drama set in space, is winning raves and readers. Batman 66 has picked up where the Adam West series left off, bringing back campy Batman for a new generation. Afterlife with Archie is a genuinely terrifying mashup of Archie Andrews and the gang with zombies. There’s a wealth of exciting work in comics, from self-published web comics to Marvel, DC and Image.
But when the time came to name the best single issue of a comic book published in 2013, both the Eisner Awards and the Harvey Awards (named for comics legends Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman) selected the same one: Hawkeye 11, otherwise known as the Pizza Dog issue. This incredible piece of art—written by Matt Fraction, illustrated and lettered by David Aja, and colored by Matt Hollingsworth—wowed the comic book world. It’s also an issue every dog lover would enjoy, offering a remarkable level of insight into our best pals.
Hawkeye has been raved about since its first issue, which also introduced Pizza Dog. “Pizza Dog” is the nickname for the pooch who was named Arrow when he was owned by the “Tracksuit Draculas,” a group of gangsters who menace the residents of Hawkeye’s building. Hawkeye saved Arrow—literally, taking the poor dog to the vet after he was hit by a car—and renamed him Lucky after adoption. Just like other superheroes and adopted dogs, Pizza Dog has several names.
Unlike comic book pets of the past—such as Krypto the Super-Dog and Ace the Bat-Hound—Lucky isn’t a superpet, and Hawkeye isn’t really a superhero comic. Hawkeye (Clint Barton) is a member of the Avengers, but he’s just a regular guy who shoots arrows really well. He’s no god like Thor or super soldier like Captain America. Hawkeye takes advantage of Barton’s status as a regular guy by following his life during his off-hours, when he’s not being an Avenger fighting for the fate of the world. The result is the superhero equivalent of an indie comic, both in terms of the everyday, relatable content and the art influenced by independent comics legend Chris Ware.
The story of Pizza Dog fits right into this already off-kilter Marvel Comic. Hawkeye 11—titled “Pizza Is My Life”—is told entirely from the point of view of Lucky, as Fraction and Aja make readers experience what Lucky sees, hears and (especially) smells. As we all know, dogs live in a world of smells that puts our puny noses to shame. Aja’s art depicts Lucky’s smell-based world through pictograms. For example, when Hawkeye meets with a police officer who is investigating the murder of neighbor Grills, we see Lucky’s mental flow charts for both characters. Little images of a cop car, a gun and the crime scene are linked to the cop. For Hawkeye, there are pictures of beer bottles and a figure getting out of bed—a very subtle way of suggesting that Hawkeye had a few beers last night, just got out of bed, hasn’t showered and smells like it. Similar smell maps exist for other characters (such as Kate Bishop, who is also called Hawkeye) and the whole building, showing Lucky’s internal map of his world.
Like a lot of great ideas, this issue started as a joke. As Aja recounts in Comic Book Resources, he was talking to Fraction and editor Steve Wacker and said “[M]aybe we should draw one issue from the dog’s point of view and I can draw it like how a dog sees. It was a joke. Suddenly, Steve and Matt said yes, let’s do it.” Aja planned to use the dog issue to catch up on deadlines, thinking it would be an easy issue for him: heavy on text, light on illustrations. As it evolved, it became the exact opposite, and Aja ended up doing even more work than usual, including the lettering. Remember the Far Side comic where Gary Larson showed how dogs hear English as a bunch of gibberish plus a few select words, like their names? That’s the same approach taken by Aja. He wrote in the dialogue, then erased the words that would be Greek to a dog, figuring it would be easier to do that himself than to explain it to Hawkeye letterer Chris Eliopoulos.
Lettering tricks and pictograms aside, Aja’s skill in drawing the body language of dogs is astounding. Every issue of Hawkeye is impressive, as Aja brings a far more humorous, human feel than can be found in most superhero comics. You can tell he obviously has a dog or has been around dogs. Aja captures Lucky’s curiosity, anger, happiness, sleepiness, sadness and shock perfectly as our hero dog investigates Grills’ murder, falls in love with a neighbor dog, barks at his abusive former owners and lives up to his nickname of Pizza Dog by rummaging through the trash for a blessed slice.
The commitment to portraying Lucky’s world also extends to the colors. Via email, colorist Hollingsworth told me, “The issue was approached entirely differently from any other comic. It was colored using only the color range that dogs see. So, I always had a reference image open that showed that range and stuck to that, which is basically yellow and blue to blue violet—so, sort of a two-color palette. That was Matt Fraction’s idea.”
Hollingsworth also took the opportunity to have a little extra fun with this unusual issue: “At the time that I was coloring it, I perpetuated a hoax on Facebook and Twitter. I faked up an image of some goggles and posted that picture. I live in Croatia, and I wrote that these had been made for me by Nikola Tesla’s great-great grandson. Tesla lived in Croatia at certain points of his life, and I said that his descendent had made these goggles for me which replicated dog-vision colors, and that I was wearing them the entire time I was coloring the issue. Everybody was taken in by this for about one day, and they were retweeting it. Funny.” Even without magic goggles, Hollingsworth’s colors are impressive.
So if you’re looking for the perfect gift for one of the dog people in your life, hunt down Hawkeye 11—or, even better, the collection Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits, which includes the Pizza Dog issue.
They say you don’t need a cape to be hero. Pizza Dog proves that statement applies to hero dogs too.
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