News: Guest Posts
I want to hate this idea; it's so Big-Brother-meets-Match.com. But the more I read about these SNIF tags, the more intrigued I am. The little lime-green collar gadgets use radio, software, Internet and social networking technologies to allow humans to monitor their pup's activity and spark up new relationships -- all from a distance. I like the idea that witnessing your dog's inactivity while you're away at work might inspire better activity interventions. I'm not sold on the promise of the SNIF tag as a catalyst for friendships.
Are there any BARk readers out there who have Beta-tested these gadgets? I'd love to hear a report from the field.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Being a bit of a science and tech wonk, when I heard that the Vue personal video network had scored a Popular Science 2009 “Best of What’s New” award, I was instantly impressed and interested in trying it out for keeping track of our two new pups, Holly and Kit. We have four dogs, two older ones come to the office with us all day, but pups Holly and Kit only “work” the after-lunch shift, so we were curious to know what they did with their A.M. time. What better way to remotely check up on them than by setting up Vue’s miniature cameras in choice spots in the house—and how lucky was I to get a system from the generous folks at Vue to test out? Turns out that we have really good pups, or extra sleepy ones—because most of the time they snoozed on the couch (which they are allowed to do), with a few breaks for a round of sister-on-sister sumo wrestling, then it’s back to naptime. But knowing this relieved me of the guilt of leaving them alone for 3 hours—then its me going home for lunch, letting all dogs outside, then packing them up for the short drive back to the office.
The set up of the system was easy. Its wireless base station plugs into the wall and into a wireless router. The out-of-the-box system comes with two Vue cameras—but you also buy additional ones—they all synchronize with the Vue gateway, and are easily mounted. The sync process involves bringing each camera within 12 inches of the gateway and just pressing the sync button, piece of cake! There is no need to go into intricate network settings and mess with them. But if you have trouble with the setup you can email Vue and ask for their support. Next you then set up an account online at my.vuezone.com, and then you are ready to start to see what’s happening on the cameras from just about anywhere. You can use a free iPhone application or a web-based interface called VueZone. The user online interface and the one on iPhone are simple to navigate. Both let you look at multiple (up to 50!) cameras at once—with a range of unobstructed line-of-sight 300 feet from the base station.
Do be aware that the service is routed through the VueZone.com web site, requiring a $20 annual fee for service after the first year—including sharing and recording features—but also exposing your in-home videos to possible snooping—so puppy-cam is a good idea, anything, let’s say, of the more personal nature, you might want to switch off the cameras! The cameras themselves are battery powered and should run for one year before needing new $2 cells. The cameras also default into a sleep mode when their feeds aren’t being viewed to save battery life. The system is mostly intended for short-time, status-check kinds of monitoring. Like pups on couch, pups playing, back to couch etc. The tech savvy reviewers who look into such things as colors and exposure note that these are fine, and the resolution “is around 320x240—saved as 478x358 for recordings, with a stated 15fps rate that actually looks like roughly 4fps.”
What’s really cool is that sharing can be done by sending others an invitation to view the clips or photos, though they are embedded on Vue’s website. Either can also be uploaded to an existing Flickr or YouTube account. Look for a Holly and Kit wrestling match soon!
—Claudia Kawczynska, Editor-in-chief
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Rescue groups and their fabulous canine calendars
The words “noble, wise and downright precious” describe 2010’s pack of calendar dog models. Across the country, nonprofit animal welfare groups have assembled some of the most irresistible faces, and all you have to do to see them is click below. Even better, by purchasing one of these calendars, you’re helping yourself and a good cause at the same time. Don’t delay—time’s flying! P.S.: Check in with your local rescue and shelter groups, who may also be offering calendars—support your home-town heroes!
American Black & Tan Coonhound Rescue
BADRAP’s “My Dog Is Family” or “Happy Endings”
Barks of Love
Border Collie Rescue of Northern California
Canine Companions for Independence’s “Guide Dogs” or “SF 49ers and Canine Companions”
Dogs Deserve Better
Downtown Dog Rescue
For the Love of Rescues
Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation’s “Makin’ Me Smile”
National Mill Dog Rescue
New Beginnings Dog Rescue
Northern California Sled Dog Rescue
Saving Shelter Pets
Southeastern Greyhound Club’s “Growing Up Greyhound”
Sula Foundation’s “The Pit Bulls of New Orleans”
Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation “Celebrity Pet Calendar”
The Unexpected Pit Bull
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Smart uses for your smart phone
Cell phones that only make and receive calls are so 2008! With a satellite signal and Internet access, today’s smart phones put the world—both yours and your dog’s—in your pocket.
1. Keep track of your pup’s day-to-day doings using the DogiDuty app; iPhone-toting dog walkers or sitters can manually file reports on her intake and output, then email them to you.
2. Pump up your walk. Map, record and share details of your canine-centered excursions at MapMyWalk.com or with your very own Google Earth Tour. As walks get longer, the Sit or Squat app, with its inventory of public bathrooms, comes in handy. Meanwhile, Eukanuba’s Off Leash iPhone app shows you the way to the nearest dog park.
3. Keep them healthy. Sign up for alerts about pet product hazards at HealthyStuff.org and pet food recalls at FoodSafety.gov. And be prepared for the unexpected—take along a Red Cross–trained assistant with the Pet First Aid iPhone app. You can also use your smart phone to store and access your dog’s medical records and keep track of appointments; the Pet Phone app puts that info at your fingertips.
4. Share a night out with your furry friend. With OpenTable.com, find restaurants that celebrate canine companions, then make your reservation.
5. Discover hidden treasures. Now that most of these phones are GPS-enabled, the once arcane (and obsession-forming) hobby of geocaching is within the reach of newbies. Get started at Geocaching.com.
6. Never miss a photo op. Capture the moment, then pep up the snaps with Shake and Bark (add your dog’s voice to her image) or Dog Thoughts (canine-themed captions).
7. Satisfy your curiosity. Use Dog-a-Log or iDogBook to help you figure out the answer to “What kind of dog is that?”
8. Focus on housetraining. Have a new puppy? With iPottyTrain, set alarms to remind you to take the pup out for a break, and log hits (and misses)—all of which keeps this important activity at the forefront of your attention.
9. Entertain yourself. During those quiet moments while waiting for the vet to arrive in the exam room, test your dog knowledge with Dog Trivia or play with the Obama’s Bo via The First Dog (at the time of release, a portion of the download fee was donated to the HSUS).
10. Carry a spare. Admit it—sometimes you go out with your dog but without your clicker. With the Clicker app, this training tool is always at hand (assuming you don’t also forget your iPhone).
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
To mark the end of summer’s dog days, we’re sharing a few of the products that have kept us company all season long.
Kangaroom Pet Pouch
To Go Bowl XL
Healthy Motion Powder
Pawduke All Natural Treats
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Get ready for Earth Day
It’s not hard beng green, but it does take a little education to know what you’re looking for, and research to sniff out some of the sources. So, in order to free you to participate in your local Earth Day celebration, Bark has done the legwork and rounded up a selection of eco-friendly gear for your consideration. Now, get out there and enjoy the day!
Chronicle Books’ EcoDog: Healthy Living for Your Pet, by Corbett Marshall and Jim Deskevich
Earthdog’s Hemp Collars and Leads
West Paw Design’s Eco Slumber Bed
Canine Earth’s Bath Products
Wagatha’s Extraordinary Biscuits for Dogs
Woof Wear Organics’ Dog Toys
Itzadog’s Ecollargy Collar and Leads
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Fetching for the Major League
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in 2000, the year Pacific Bell Park (now AT&T Park) opened. The B.A.R.K. team fielded Splash Hits for a couple of seasons, then was retired when compeition from boaters threatened their safety. They're now a fond memory, and one that we're happy to revive with this article.
The Portuguese Water Dogs had waited for over a thousand years to play baseball—but now their time had come. At long last, the National Pastime was calling forth the dogs of summer. A new era had begun for an ancient breed.
Six canine rookies, known as B.A.R.K. (Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps), were called up to the Major Leagues this July to fetch home run balls from the cold and turgid waters of San Francisco Bay.
One of the many charms of Pacific Bell Park, the new home of the San Francisco Giants, is the players’ ability to slug a home run into the bay. Hit a towering 450-foot drive over the classic brick wall of right field and the batter can achieve what has become known as a Splash Hit—a homer that touches down in salt water like a returning space capsule.
But someone has to retrieve it.
“This is the first sport to open itself up to another species,” says comic Don Novello, who gained fame as Father Guido Sarducci on The Smothers Brothers’ Show in 1975, and later on Saturday Night Live. Novello came to the Giants back in 1996 with his vision of homer-chasing canines. “Once I found out that baseballs float and were going to be landing in the water—I thought of dogs swimming out to get them.”
Hey, these baseballs are worth big money.
“All the home run balls the dogs get will be donated to Pets In Need for fund-raising purposes,” says Brenda F. Barnette, Pets In Need’s executive director. “The Giants will also make a $5,000 donation to our organization at the season’s end.”
This nonprofit plans to auction off all the balls to the highest bidder. Hopefully, the baseballs will be autographed by the player who hits them and will be accompanied by a paw print certificate from the B.A.R.K. canine team member who fetches it.
Pets In Need became the first no-kill shelter in the Bay Area in 1965. Its mission is to bring loving, healthy homes within paw’s-reach of every adoptable dog and cat in the community. No dog or cat suitable for rehoming is ever put to death at Pets In Need—no matter how long it takes to place them.
A New Kind of Dog Park
Larry Baer, the Giants executive vice president, admits that at first the Giants considered the idea of dogs swimming after home runs to be little more than a joke. “A lot of ideas for retrieving the balls were tossed around,” Baer says, “but after thinking about it, we decided the dogs were a very San Francisco thing to do. Now B.A.R.K. will be another fun feature at Pacific Bell Park.”
Once the idea was accepted, serious thought had to go into every aspect of this daunting enterprise. Since Pets In Need and the Giants were involved, the dogs’ safety would be a major concern. What breed would be up to the rigorous task of fetching balls in the often-turbulent waters? Clearly, a very special dog would be needed to swim in the cold and choppy waters of San Francisco Bay. A dog with the endurance and strength to swim for long periods of time without tiring.
The Portuguese Water Dog Club of Northern California quickly offered the perfect solution. For centuries, Portuguese Water Dogs—Cão de Áqua—have been used by fishermen to herd fish into nets and send messages from boat to boat. It’s not uncommon for those working dogs to spend hours in the cold water of the Atlantic. With their webbed paws and rudder-like tails, they were the perfect choice for this demanding big league chore. Still, extra training for such a special duty was required.
The animals would need a Doggie Spring Training.
Sue D’Augusta, owner of the eldest B.A.R.K. team member, Shadow, spent months getting her eight-year-old dog ready for her first Pac Bell outing. Shadow had already graduated from various programs like Apprentice Water Dog and Working Water Dog, but more training was necessary before she would be ready to swim in McCovey Cove.
“Baseballs bob in the water in a unique way,” says D’Augusta. “I practiced with Shadow in the San Francisco Marina so she could get the hang of it. The first few times she tried to swim up and grab the baseball, it got away from her.”
But like any big-league player, Shadow was soon snatching them up with the aplomb of a veteran. By the time the Los Angeles Dodgers showed up in San Francisco for a three-game series right before the Fourth of July, all six dogs were more than ready to make their debut.
Meeting the Fans
Don Novello, dressed in the vintage vestments of his legendary alter ego, Father Guido Sarducci, was on hand at Pac Bell Park to toss practice balls into the bay and introduce the dogs to the fans. On the morning before the game, the B.A.R.K. team was stationed on its yacht—The Good Ship Jollipup—a nifty powerboat equipped with a doggie diving deck. One by one, the Portuguese Water Dogs dove into the water after the baseballs. When Shadow got her turn, she neatly grabbed the ball and swam toward the media and fans on the dock rather than immediately returning to the boat.
“Shadow seems to really like to play to he crowd,” D’Augusta says. “Sometimes she just does her own thing. But you’ll notice she finally brought the ball back to the boat like we wanted her to.”
Unfortunately, on the dogs’ first day, batting practice was canceled due to an old-timers’ home-run-hitting contest. Because the dogs will only work on Saturdays and special holidays, those in the baseball know say most of their ball retrieving will take place during pre-game batting practice. That’s when the baseballs really fly into McCovey Cove.
Not that the dogs didn’t have plenty to do at their debut. Once they finished their warm-ups, they held a press conference with print and television media. The word was out. The dogs were a hot news item. Rumors were flying that Jay Leno was eager to meet the B.A.R.K. team and maybe even have them on his show. But all that would have to wait.
Novello stood on the pitcher’s mound in a ceremony before the game and introduced them. Over 40,000 people, a sold-out house, were on hand to watch these regal canines and their proud owners jog onto the infield like All-Star heroes.
Rio, the five-year-old superstar of the group who is the team’s captain and driving force, pranced out first. He was followed by Surfer, the only chocolate brown and the youngest at nine months; Shadow; Kyma, 20 months and a spectacular jumper; Topper, three, the barker; and Justy, 13 months, who was used to pawing through the ice to swim in her Connecticut pond.
As the dogs stood alert and proud on the pristine infield grass, it was clear to see why this breed was chosen by the baseball elite. Looking like a large Poodle, the Portuguese Water Dog is often thought to have preceded its more well-known cousin. The breed is so old its actual origins are shrouded in folklore. Some say the dogs date back to before the time of Christ. No doubt about it—these dogs are cool.
Put Me In, Coach
“I know Shadow can easily play the entire game,” D’Augusta said. “In fact, I’m certain she could go extra innings if it ever came to that.”
Fans in the upper deck and those watching on television could see the dogs waiting patiently as their boat bobbed in the water. The animals could hear the roar of the crowd. When things got exciting, they instantly went on alert.
But no homers came their way that first day.
Sue D’Augusta says she could feel the dogs’ readiness to jump in after a ball.
“All the dogs on the B.A.R.K. team were waiting for Barry Bonds to hit a home run to them,” D’Augusta says. “I could see them thinking, ‘What’s going on? Let’s get some action out here.’ But I’m sure we’ll get plenty of homers before the season is over.”
Not everyone is certain B.A.R.K. is a good idea. Many people have expressed concern. Animal Welfare Commissioner Richard Schulke says his telephone lines were ringing off the hook after the dogs were featured on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“People wanted to make sure they’re not abusing and overworking the dogs,” Schulke says.
Dog lovers can rest assured that the Giants have taken every precaution to ensure that these valuable and beloved pets are kept out of harm’s way. The Giants are paying for a police boat and two extra officers to make sure there are no accidents.
Now, let’s play some ball.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
For your favorite co-pilot
Finally, an automobile manufacturer is paying attention to us! Honda Motor Co. has come up with a design for a minivan with the safety and comfort of our dog co-pilots in mind. The “WOW Concept,” or “Wonderful Openhearted Wagon,” developed to test consumer reaction in Japan, was exhibited at the Tokyo Motor Show in late October.
The minivan features a special crate for small dogs in the glove compartment area, or for medium-sized dogs, a crate that pops up in the back seat area and can be folded into the floor when it’s not needed. It even has bigger doors and a special floor-mounted seatbelt to secure large dogs. With its paneled flooring, washable seat covers, built-in water bowls and paw-print tire treads, the minivan is Honda’s first step toward pet-friendly motor travel. “We created this vehicle from the point of view of a dog, but it turned out to be a gentler vehicle for elderly, children and other family members,” said Honda designer Katsuhito Nakamura. Though Honda hasn’t disclosed a plan for commercial sale of the minivan in the US, the company has been developing several “Travel Dog” car accessories for sale in Japan later this year.
About a fifth of Japanese households have dogs, and with the number of pet owners in Japan increasing by 3 percent each year for the last decade, it seems that Honda has identified a receptive market niche.
“Increasingly, car makers are looking to smaller runs of cars aimed at specific areas of the car-buying public,” said Paul Ormond, Honda representative. “With these kinds of accessories we are recognizing people love their dogs.”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Gear designed especially for seniors helps make these the best years of their lives—and makes your life easier too.
Turn up the heat. When clouds gather and the sun sets, plug in the Fauna Sauna. Its two adjustable panels (12-by-20 inches each) kick out infrared radiant warmth—like the sun’s heat without the dangerous ultraviolet rays. The Fauna Sauna is intended as therapeutic treatment for everything from arthritis and stiffness to joint pain, hip dysplasia and stress (also available as a decor-friendly spa bed). Or, when you’re on the go, the Dolce Vita heated cargo bed helps keep those vintage muscles limber.
Smooth the way. Leaping into the car and out again onto unforgiving pavement is definitely a pet peeve for seniors. Avoid your dog’s mournful stares and injuries with a vehicle entry ramp; look for a non-skid surface, stability and easy storage. Among the options: the Ramp4Paws rolls up and comes in sizes appropriate for large and some standard-size vehicles; the Petmate Pet Ramp and Cargo Step is especially good for those high-off-the-ground vehicles with hitches; for cars, furniture and short descents, Dog Ramp’s Sidekick with its compact size and side rails gives them a safe and steady lift. Indoors, steps give them a leg up; look for stability and a gentle slope. Solvit’s UltraLite Pet Stairs have a sloping design that makes them easier for Dachshunds and other small dogs to use, and they fold for easy storage (they can also be used for auto access).
Put some bounce in their step. When his otherwise-healthy 15-year-old Sheepdog, Watson, lost strength in his back legs due to arthritis and hip dysplasia, Arnie Costell drew inspiration from rock climbers’ harnesses to fashion the Bottom’s Up Leash. When fitted around the dog’s back legs, this nylon harness with washable neoprene sleeves allows you to support your dog’s hind end without stooping and takes the mess out of business breaks. An alternative is Walkabout’s Walkabelly, a neoprene belly sling that supports a dog’s torso.
Feather their nests. Old dogs are connoisseurs of what makes a good nap zone. Among those that would pass muster with Rip Van Canine: Canine Covers’ easy-clean Ultimate Dog Bed, with bolsters for comfortable head-resting and easy-on-the-bones egg-crate foam and high-loft batting protected by an interior waterproof nylon shell; West Paw Design’s Tuckered Out bed, made in Montana and stuffed with 100% recycled fiber fill for an eco-friendly doze; Gertie Gear’s airbed for dogs (and cats too), with its tough canvas undercover and a wealth of machine-washable outer cover options; and Crypton’s stain-, moisture- and odor-resistant bolster bed.
Satisfy their ergonomic needs. Among the stylish options: These Creatures’ made-to-order wall-mounted feeders in powder-coated steel with artful cutouts of cats, squirrels and dogs; the unique Wine Box Raised Feeder with its two stainless steel bowls and rubber feet that keep it in place; or the Melia Elevated Dog Feeder with either stainless steel or handpainted ceramic bowls.
Keep them safe and steady on their feet. Lightweight buckle-free stretchy collars by Tazlab rest weightlessly on the neck; Paw Pads, textured, ultra-thin neoprene “grippers” give unsteady elders traction on slippery surfaces; and Ruff Wear’s Grip Trex or Skyliner boots protect those senior feet and are great for outdoor play.
Avoid embarrassing moments. Reusable, machine-washable, layered protective pads protect rugs, furniture and beds are just the thing for worry-free reclining.
Treat them well. Wheat-free Senior Biscuits from Wagatha’s and gourmet soft dog treats that are easy to eat and yummy for the tummy from the Mom and Pup Bakery are just two of many good options.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Highlights and trends from Global Pet Expo 2009
The Global Pet Expo, billed as the world’s largest annual pet products trade show, recently convened in sunny Orlando, Fla. The show, equal parts innovation and salesmanship, is a good barometer for those of us who track trends in the companion animal world. The show is sponsored by the American Pet Products Association, which claims that the nation’s spending on pets is holding steady at $43 billion—“robust and resilient despite recession and cuts in discretionary spending …” That should provide comfort to everyone seeking the next new fetch toy or savory treat.
After two days of walking the show floor, I have some observations. I can’t vouch for the effectiveness, safety or value of any of these products—they all look and sound great in the 3-minute demos. A more rigorous evaluation will have to wait until Bark testers receive their samples.
Pet Locators: Statistics show that one in three dogs will be lost during his or her lifetime, and for those of us traumatized by such an occurrence, there are a host of gadgets dedicated to helping us find them. From services that require registration and custom ID tags to GPS tracking devices, there’s an abundance of choice. A new entry is Contech’s PetCompass, a hand-held electronic locator that detects radio signals emitted by a beacon attached to your dog’s collar. It purports to work up to one-half mile, relying on the fact that most lost pets are found within that radius.
Grooming: Some of the best products fall under the “a-ha” category—simple inventions that make an annoying task a little simpler or combine two tools into one. Bissell’s new Pet Grooming Vacuum Attachment adds a standard shedding blade to an attachment and voilà! Unwanted dog hair is collected as you brush and before it hits the floor! Plus, it fits any standard vacuum, not just Bissell models. I was also introduced to something called a Drool Cleaner—an all-in-one cleaner/brush/squeegee made use with, well, drooly dogs.
Treats: The great selection of natural and organic treats continues to grow—free-range chicken strips, venison jerky from New Zealand, gluten-free snacks and wheat-grass-infused treats from California’s Bell Rock Growers, who have trademarked something called “The Power of Green Nutrition.” Bell Rock’s brochure is convincing, and since they’re the makers of the pet industry’s only complete wheat-grass treat products, I’m willing to give them a try. They also offer a handy grow-your own pouch.
Toys: So many toys, so little time … an earnest young entrepreneurial duo caught my attention, makers of a fetch toy named the Wigzi. This wiener-shaped red toy claims to be free of chemical smell and taste, non-toxic and earth-friendly. CEO Nathan Chefetz invented the Wigzi for his Pug, who desired an odorless chomp. Chefetz and his partner, a former co-worker from NASA, ran the aroma test on me, handing over a competitor’s popular fetch toy, which smelled like an aging tire, and their Wigzi, which had no smell whatsoever. Like many upstarts at the show, they identified a niche—a toy free of chemical odor and taste—and are striving to fill it.
Alternative Therapies: Pheromone-emitting devices are increasingly popular solutions to certain behavioral problems brought on by anxiety—among them, barking and urinating. These products mimic the naturally produced pheromone that canine mothers produce to calm their puppies. A number of products dispense the pheromones via electrical plug-in diffusers, but Sergeant’s has brought them closer with their SentryHC Good Behavior Pheromone Collar for Dogs, an over-the-counter product that purports to be a natural solution effective for up to 30 days. The embracing of alternative therapies by corporate America signals that interest in natural wellness is here to stay.
Automobiles: Cars remain a big-ticket purchase, and a handful of automakers are recognizing the needs and wants of people with dogs. Toyota introduced its new Venza, a sleek sport sedan tricked out in custom-designed dog accessories (among them, seat covers and restraints) from Kurgo. Subaru’s Forester offered similar canine accessories made by Bergan. The design and materials are upgrades over similar efforts made by other automakers in recent years. This is further evidence that the dog-owner demographic is affecting sales and, quite possibly, design.
And the big trend? Natural certification—the certification wars have begun! “USDA Organic,” “Certified Organic,” “Approved by Co-Op America,” “Oeko-Tex® Certified”—each stamp of approval carries a different validation and has a different meaning. As a green consumer, be prepared to research a glossary of terms and seals. Everyone wants a piece of the green pie, and the (educated) buyer wins.
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