readers write
News: Letters
Lizzie, Another Real Dog
Dream Dog Awakening

The process Laurel Seville went through with Ainsley is so similar to mine with Lizzie that it’s eerie. Although Lizzie is not a rescue, she went from getting her CGC and therapy-dog certification right after her first birthday to barking and lunging at strangers, especially strange dogs, two years later. Although she never really enjoyed therapy visits, I pushed her because I wanted her to be good at it. My dream was for her to be a canine Mother Theresa. When it became obvious that she was not going to be, I too cried, got mad and tried to pretend I could manage it without really fixing it.

Somewhere along the way, I reread Suzanne Clothier’s Bones Would Rain from the Sky, then had my epiphany: she was what she was and would never be my dream dog, and I needed to accept that. It was hard to listen to family and friends, and have them give me “that look” when she acted out. Like, For this you go to training every week? I was the family’s dog-whisperer—how could I not have a well-behaved dog? Then I followed Seville’s route: I scoured the Internet, spent a fortune on training books and DVDs, bugged the heck out of my training buddies, and am still hooked on Yahoo dog forums. Basically, I made her worse before I started to make her better. Now, I never leave the house without a clicker and a pocketful of treats. My favorite line in the essay is “a dog who is trying hard to sit still and look for treats even though she wants to be Cujo.”

Perfect! I hope Saville contributes again to Bark.

News: Letters
Adopting Tucker
Dream Dog Awakening
Border Collie

Recently while waiting for my endodontist appointment, I picked up a copy of BARK magazine.  Thumbing through it, I spotted the Border Collie pictured with your story ("Waking Up From My Dream Dog" - Bark Jun/Aug 12).  So, I began to read it being the Border Collie person that I am.  Well, I couldn't believe what I was reading.  It was as if I had written it!  You were talking about my Tucker.  We rescued him at 8 months old.  He had been abused as a small puppy and had been through at least two foster homes.  I failed to mention that we adopted him because we lost our beloved 14 year old BC Abby 3 months earlier and couldn't get past the grief.  It just felt right taking in this poor little guy that given such a difficult puppyhood.

We had Tuck for a couple of months when, as you put it, the Cujo came out.  It seems that once he became comfortable with his new surroundings and owners, he completely changed.  We have worked with a couple of trainers and looked for any assistance we could find.  We also at one point considered sending him back to the rescue, but just couldn't do that to him, and ourselves.  He has no tolerance for other dogs (even though he lived with them in his foster homes), children, trucks and strangers until he gets to know them.  Well, like yourself, we have adjusted our lives to him.   He is the sweetest, loving, playful little guy with us but still has those issues that we continue to work on.

I still can't believe that I am writing this to you, but I felt such a strong bond with you after reading the story that I felt I had need to thank you for letting me know that we aren't the only BC parents out there with this issue.

Please give Ainsley a scratch behind the ears from us!

Culture: Readers Write
Increasing Our Compassion Footprint
The human-dog interconnection is the way forward

Our relationships with animals are challenging, complicated, frustrating, awkward, ambiguous, paradoxical and range all over the place.We already know a lot about animals’ lives and what they want, more than we often give ourselves credit for. Indeed, their lives aren’t all that private, hidden or secret.We know that animals experience deep feelings, and care about what happens to them.When people say they’re not sure if dogs have emotions, if they feel joy or grief, I say I’m glad I’m not their dog.When people tell me that they love animals and then harm or kill them, I tell them I’m glad they don’t love me.

The best way to make the world a more compassionate and peaceful place for all animal beings, to increase our compassion footprint, is to “mind” them.“Minding animals” means that we must mind other beings by recognizing that they have active and deep minds and feelings.We must also mind them as their caretakers in a human-dominated world, one in which their interests are continually trumped in deference to ours.We easily mind dogs, and this close relationship is a way forward.

It is also essential for people with varied expertise and interests to talk to one another, to share what we know about our animal kin and to use this knowledge for bettering their—and as a result, our—lives. And what could be a better place to do this than at dog parks?

There are many ways of knowing, and figuring out how science, the humanities and non-academics—including those interested in animal protection, conservation and environmentalism (with concerns ranging from individuals to ecosystems)—can learn from one another is essential. We observe animals, gawk at them in wonder, experiment on them, eat them, wear them, write about them, draw and paint them, move them from here to there as we “redecorate nature,” make decisions for them without their consent, and represent them in many and various ways, yet we often ignore who they are and what they want.

We also double-cross animals. I can imagine an utterly exhausted polar bear asking, “Where’s the ice?” as she attempts to swim with her offspring from one floe to another as she has in years past, only to discover that the ice is gone due to climate change. Despite global attempts to protect animals from wanton use and abuse, what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working; “good welfare” just isn’t good enough. Excuses justifying animal exploitation, such as “Well, it’s okay, I’m doing this in the name of science” or “in the name of this or that,” usually mean “in the name of humans.”We’re a very arrogant and self-centered lot.

Existing laws and regulations allow animals living on earth, in water and in air to be treated in regrettable ways that demean us as a species. Indeed, in the eyes of the law, animals are mere property and thus can be treated like backpacks, couches and bicycles. The animals’ own eyes tell us they don’t like this at all. They do, of course, have a point of view.

Enough is enough.We all need to coexist peacefully and gracefully, and it’s mutually beneficial to make every attempt to do so in the most compassionate ways possible. Compassion for animals will make for more compassion among people, and that is what we need as we journey into the future. I’m reminded of something Albert Schweitzer once wrote: “Until he extends his circle of compassion for all living things, man will not himself find peace.” Of course, animals aren’t living “things,” but let’s not worry about that right now.

Each of us can make a difference.We can make positive changes for all beings by weaving compassion, empathy, respect, dignity, spirituality, peace and love into our lives. We also need to focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t, or what hasn’t worked in the past. I’m an unrelenting dreamer who remains unflaggingly hopeful about what we can do collectively if we put our hearts and heads together and agree to work harmoniously toward shared goals.

We always need to mind animals—as well as earth, water and air—from deep in our hearts. We can always add more compassion to the world. Animals are asking us to treat them better or to leave them alone, and we need to listen to them now. Time isn’t on our side.We’re truly lucky to be able to work together to increase our compassion footprint. Animals and future generations will thank us for our efforts. So let’s get on with it. Never say never. Let dogs lead the way!

Culture: Readers Write
Show & Tell: Gavin
Cairn Terrier, Gavin

This is our Cairn Terrier, Gavin. Our rescue boy is a seven-year-old who was once afraid of everything and everyone. Now he’s parading with the Fort Collins Pipe Band, wearing a band uniform and smiling for the camera, with his pal Davey.

Culture: Readers Write
If Just One Day We Could Be a No Kill Nation
A poem for "Just One Day" on June 11

Danielle Durst is 13-years-old and lives in Michigan. When she read about “Just One Day,” the effort to stop all euthanasia in shelters (to be a no kill nation) for one day at least, on June 11, she was inspired to write this poem.

If just one day we could be a no kill nation

Maybe the dogs would get to stay

If just one day we could be a no kill nation

Maybe the kittens would get to play

If just one day we could be a no kill nation

Maybe the bunnies would get a good home

And maybe those smart chickens would get to roam

If just one day we could be a no kill nation

Maybe the sun would shine bright and it would be a hopeful day

Maybe the hope would stay through the night

And come back the next day

If just one day we could be a no kill nation

Maybe that horse would get rode

Maybe that duck could finally feel safe at a home

If just one day we could be a no kill nation

Maybe that lion would finally get a zoo

Maybe it could find a mate too

If just one day we could be a no kill nation

Maybe we could put ourselves in the animal’s shoes

Maybe we could picture ourselves

Getting gassed

And masked

And shots, being told its okay

When really

We know it’s our last day.

If we could be a no kill nation for just one day

Maybe our realization would stick

And help us make the pick.

Animals don’t want to cry or die

The same as you and me

They just want to be loved

So June 11th let’s take action!

And stop all of the kills

Help the animals that have the minds of you and me

And help all of these shelters see

This isn’t how it has to be.

Embrace the fact that killing is wrong

If just one day we could be a no kill nation

The animals would get to play

If just one day we could be a no kill nation

All of the animals could be saved.

Culture: Readers Write
Hot Wheels for Kodi

We have a nearly 13-year-old Great Pyrenees named Kodi who has been using his Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair for the past six months. Kodi’s daily life has transformed since getting his new wheels! A year ago, we did not think he would be with us today.

As a younger dog, he volunteered as a “friendly greeter” at the Cleveland Clinic, bringing enthusiasm and comfort to those around him. When patients, families and staff came walked through the main doors, Kodi never failed to put a smile on their faces.

As a result of a neurological disorder, degenerative myelopathy (DM), Kodi was unable to continue his volunteer work at the clinic. He slowly lost his ability to walk on his hind legs and stand for more than a few seconds before collapsing to the ground.

Being outdoors was becoming more of a chore than a luxury for Kodi. We watched his quality of life diminishing and wanted to find a way to help him. In searching for a solution, we came across Handicappedpets.com. Though skeptical at first about the Walkin’ Wheels’ ability to assist a dog Kodi’s size, we had everything to lose. It was worth a shot.

It took a few weeks for him to get used to his wheels. The first few practice sessions consisted of him staring at us in the driveway as if to say: “Are you kidding me?” But now he is eager to go on daily walks (even in the snow) with his hot new wheels and he has become a social butterfly in the neighborhood—acting as if he were a young pup greeting his dog buddies around the block.

Outside of the DM, Kodi is a healthy and happy dog. He loves to be outdoors and his positive energy and smiling face touches the lives of the people and dogs he interacts with regularly. Kodi’s sense of freedom with the wheels is allowing him to make the most of his senior years as he continues to enjoy his favorite activities.

On July 2, he will turn 13 years old! Regardless of what happens in the future, we are so grateful for the support and resources we have found within the animal community to enrich Kodi’s life in his ripe old age. He is even continuing to offer his therapeutic services to our 97-year-old great aunt Adeline. Every day we have with him is a miracle. He continues to surprise us with his spit-and-vinegar attitude—refusing to come home and insisting that we continue to parade around the neighborhood.

We want to thank the dog community for its resourcefulness and creativity. The Walkin’ Wheels is a wonderful device that gives dogs a second chance at an active life.

Watch Kodi take his wheels for a spin:

Culture: Readers Write
Doggone Bloat

Fortunately for me, I caught my Weimaraner, Eva, in the act of bloating, and it only took 10 minutes to get her to the emergency veterinary clinic. I had just returned home from work one night when it began. It was an ordinary day, so my panic came quickly when she crawled around the house trying to vomit, without success, and her torso began expanding. She puffed up like a blowfish. Her abdomen was rock hard. This was the emergency I heard about numerous times from breeders and one I dreaded ever happening to my dog. Bloat can kill a dog within hours of onset, even within minutes.


I started yelling, “Eva is bloating. Oh my God, it’s happening. I’ve heard horror stories about this. We have to go NOW!” I was so scared and nervous, too shaky to drive. I did not know where to go. Thankfully, my fiancé, Al, remembered spotting a new emergency clinic for animals near the house. I fumbled for their phone number and called. I said I would bring my dog in because she appeared to be bloating. I put Eva in the van. Al drove. It was a short ride, but felt like forever.


The woman behind the desk at the clinic took some information from me. I don’t remember the exact sequence of events. But by the time the veterinarian X-rayed Eva positively for bloat with torsion, the woman kindly informed me that she needed $1,000 up front if I wanted to go ahead with the recommended surgery. After that, I could expect to spend a total of $5,000 for Eva’s care. I signed up. Weimaraners can expect to live in good health until they reach age 13 or 14. Eva was four.


Surgery can save a dog in bloat distress. The stomach twists like a wringed rag and will cause loss of circulation and tissue damage. The stomach cannot return to its normal shape after torsion. As I said, I had heard of this happening to other people’s dogs. I know now that Weimaraners share the top five breeds prone to bloat with Great Danes, Gordon Setters, Irish Setters and St. Bernards. A more complete list for other breeds prone to bloat gets much longer. Google it! Google bloat. It is imperative that your dog receives veterinary care as soon as possible. You may miss the opportunity to save your dog from bloat. However, some folks choose to put down a dog in lieu of the great cost of surgery and aftercare from bloat with torsion.


I might have put Eva down had she been an older dog. How old is older? I guess in my case, I would say 10, or 11, but that’s just me. Also, had Eva been home alone and bloated hours before my return from work, the progression of damage may have resulted in a near-death condition. In that case, I would show mercy and let her go. Consultation with the veterinarian assured me that Eva was a great candidate for surgery and survival because we brought her in so soon after her symptoms started.


The Clinic staff urged Al and me to return home after the veterinarian staff began prepping Eva for surgery. It was about 7:00 pm when we left. I sat up alone and waited for the first report. I didn’t know what to expect. Oh, the waiting, wondering! The veterinarian finally called me at home at 11:15 pm. He said that he waited until Eva woke up from anesthesia after surgery. Everything went as well as anyone could expect. The tissues that could have been damaged were pink and healthy when he opened her up. The veterinarian also said that he untwisted the torsion in the stomach and tacked up the stomach lining to the outer body cavity. In doing so, torsion a second time was impossible. She could bloat again. In that case, a vet would need to insert a gastric tube to relieve the gas.


 On a Wednesday evening, Eva’s surgery took place at the emergency clinic. Thursday morning, the small clinic bused Eva to their hospital downtown for constant aftercare to stabilize her until we could pick her up Friday night. I called the hospital repeatedly. All of the staff members and veterinarians acted in kindness. They always answered my questions even if it seemed routine for them. I developed an astute memory for all that I was learning in such a short time. I began to relate in terms as scientifically and accurately as possible. The total bill came to $4,000 and some change, less than the $5,000 maximum the clinic quoted me.


Eva never slept at the hospital. She was like a zombie when we picked her up but gradually calmed down. She had to adjust from intravenous morphine to pills for pain. I gladly took over as her nurse, carefully administering her medications and small amounts of soft food until she could stomach her regular diet. When Eva’s stitches came out 15 days after surgery, I bought her a celebratory soft-serve ice cream cone that she shared with me. I love to see dogs smile!

Culture: Readers Write
Graduation Day

One of the interesting things about insecurity is that on any given day, even the most self-aware, seasoned professional in the field cannot say exactly how it will manifest itself. They can tell you with certainty that their hands will sweat, or that they’ll feel an onset of that low-level panicky buzz that is adrenaline surging through their system. But what they cannot explain is why, while buttoning their fly and listening to the neighbor’s sound system throb with the vintage wail of Robert Plant singing “Whole Lotta Love,” a powerful sense of dread will overtake them no less keenly than if someone had pulled a muslin hood over their head and kidnapped them.


It's graduation day. Dog graduation day. Lynn, the trainer, takes out the little boom box and pops in the CD playing—no kidding—“Pomp and Circumstance.” But in Lyle’s meager economy, it’s big stuff, and buttoning his damn fly is suddenly almost more than he can handle.


Walter, on the other hand, is nonplussed. It almost seems like a trick of the marbled mirror, combined with the late afternoon light trying to make headway through the rice paper window coverings, but as Lyle catches sight of his dog’s reflection, he looks the way you might imagine Confucius to look when he was hatching a particularly pithy quotable. Serene. Indomitable. Cool-headed.


There is a nod these days towards the intellectual potential in four-legged creatures. Harder hearts and heads will call it softening of the brain on the part of the owner, but proponents will whisper under their breath that their dog/cat/ferret gets it! Really gets it. And Lyle, owner of Walter, the part-Jack Russell, part-Dachshund, part-Beagle-maybe, had become a true believer. True believers in anything lean towards overzealousness regarding the tenets of their faith. True-believing dog owners are kind of off the charts. Walter is who he dragged to PetStop to deal with a few behavioral issues (compulsive paw-licking, plant-eating, an obsession with the vacuum cleaner), and that's when the bug bit. Lyle saw in Walter the potential for Great Things. Lynn, the trainer, concurred; two classes and 360 bucks later, here they were, poised on the threshold of personally defined greatness.


The phone rang, and Walter raised his small, grizzled head. Lyle, as if answering a partner’s dance move, let his fingers caress the dog’s ears and neck as he moved toward the telephone. Wrong number. It frequently was, as Lyle’s phone was one digit off from the 24-hour doughnut shop two blocks over.


It wasn’t so long ago that Lyle, washed up at the age of 34, was living alone. Really alone. No family that would have him, and two ex-girlfriends with surly dispositions. If you’re in that boat and looking for companionship, where do you go? Other desperate souls would turn to the Internet, redefining themselves in such a way that might deem them worth a look. Lyle didn’t have the heart, the guile or the dial-up speed. The local pound seemed like a more forgiving place to make a connection.


Walter is who he found. Lonely man meets neurotic dog. Had Walter a say in the matter, he might have asked for a guy with more confidence. Lyle had a steep learning curve when it came to obedience training, but Walter was willing to work with him on that. Really, he couldn’t complain. Most dogs don’t. There would just be this getting him over the hump of Session Six, Advanced Obedience. He was hopeful. Most dogs are.

Culture: Readers Write
Breast Cancer in Dogs

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but chances are dog owners have no idea that their dogs can actually get breast cancer. The bad news is that breast (mammary) cancer in dogs is common; the good news is that the disease can be treated successfully if caught early.

According to veterinarian Dr. Race Foster, the most common type of tumor in female dogs is the mammary tumor—especially in (unspayed) dogs between the ages of five to 10 years-old. There are male dogs that do develop breast cancer and, sadly, their prognosis is not good because this type of breast cancer is very aggressive.

Signs of Breast Cancer in Dogs
Similar to human breast cancer, mammary tumors in dogs can range in size. Breast tumors in dogs often grow quickly with an irregular shape. These malignant tumors can also cause bleeding and ulceration. However, if your dog’s tumor does not exhibit these signs, that does not mean your dog is free from breast cancer; small tumors that have been present for a while can suddenly grow aggressively as well. As with most other types of cancer, once malignant tumors in dogs start to grow, the cancerous cells can spread to other parts of the body.

If you find a lump on your dog, do not wait to go to the veterinarian. It is always best to play it safe and have your dog examined by a licensed veterinarian who will perform a biopsy. Half of all mammary tumors in dogs are benign, but do you really want to play guessing games when it comes to your dog’s health?

Treatment of Canine Breast Cancer
Treatment of a malignant tumor usually involves surgery. Similar to breast cancer in humans, dogs will either have just the tumor removed or the entire mammary tissue along with lymph nodes. Dogs’ mammary glands are different than humans in that they are outside of the muscle, so the surgery is not as radical. Dr. Race Foster suggests that unlike humans, chemotherapy and radiation in dogs are not successful.

Canine Breast Cancer Prevention
The best way to prevent breast cancer in female dogs is to spay them before they go into heat for the first time—just another benefit of spaying. By doing this, dog owners can practically eliminate the chances of their dog developing mammary cancer.

Culture: Readers Write
Love Is More Important Than a Clean House

To say I used to be meticulous would be an understatement; I really did sweat the small stuff—including crumbs—and would judge anyone whose house was not “company ready.” My floors were always vacuumed or swept, the dishes were hand-washed and put away immediately after eating and dust was a dirty four-letter word in my house.


If my husband made a mess after eating I would yell at him, and the towels had to be folded the way I liked them—just like in Bed, Bath and Beyond. Even my kitchen pantry was organized with all of the spices lined up alphabetically. Whenever I knew company was coming over, I would literally get on my hand and knees and clean until the house was spotless.


When we moved to Houston we bought a brand new house with hardwood floors—floors I had never had before. Little did I know that every little thing would scratch the wood. I was mortified when I bent down and saw scratches and immediately blamed the builder for not putting the appropriate coating on the floors. The builder’s response was, “Get a dog and that way you’ll have so many scratches all over the floor you won’t even notice them anymore.” I was livid—how on earth could a professional homebuilder suggest such a thing? Didn’t she know I was house-proud?


I thought about installing carpet over the wood or even replacing it with tile but decided the hardwoods would have the best re-sale value. For some reason everyone loves them—everyone, that is, except me.


Then one fateful day in July my husband and I went to a dog show and I came home a different person. I wanted a dog. Yes, I knew these creatures were a huge responsibility—especially the breed I wanted, an English Cocker Spaniel—but my heart ached for a furry companion, so I bit the bullet and adopted a dog named Euri.


Euri was just about the cutest dog I had ever seen and everyone that meets him falls in love with him instantly. He looks like a stuffed animal come to life and has a personality to match.


Though I brush Euri twice a day, he still sheds like crazy. My husband was adamant that Euri was not allowed on the couch because he would get it dirty and fur would get embedded in the fibers, but Euri’s big brown eyes are so hard to resist, so months later, Euri was allowed on the couch. Yes, his fur gets all over the couch—even with a blanket draped over it—and yes, his fur is all over the floor, on our clothes, and all over my car, but I don’t care.


My husband files Euri’s nails at least once a month, yet his nails still manage to scratch our hardwood floors. We even had part of our floor replaced after Hurricane Ike and shortly thereafter, Euri scratched the new floor. But did I care? No. Nowadays I rarely make the bed, clean the toothpaste stuck to the sink or dust.


My husband tells me that I’ve changed for the better; I’m more calm, laid back and relaxed, and I don’t let every little thing bother me—including the crumbs on the floor. But most of all, I'm happy. So how has Euri changed my life? He taught me that keeping a tidy house isn’t the most important thing in life; letting love into your life is.