Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Edward Hoagland had it right

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. ~Edward Hoagland

This has long been a favorite quote of mine because it so succinctly demonstrates much about our relationship with dogs. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have clear ideas of what they wanted when deciding to add a dog to the family. Some pet owners are looking for simple companionship, some want a playmate for their children, or are looking for a show or sport prospect, while others want a watch/guard dog.

Regardless of why, the one thing everyone has in common is a reason for wanting a dog, and the reasons nearly always have to do with us humans --- our wants, our needs, our hopes. We have a desire to have our pet be a reflection of what we want from the relationship. Sure, we’re aware of the needs a dog has in terms of proper food, veterinary care and shelter, but we provide those things as part of the payment for getting what we seek out of the bargain.

However, the strongest bond between pets and owners comes from not only giving them the physical amenities they need for a good life, but also in taking a good, honest look at your dog’s world through their eyes to discover what means the world to them, separate from what they do for you, and being as creative in addressing their needs as we expect them to be in addressing ours.

We ask a lot of our canine friends in exchange for providing them room and board. We want our dogs to respond to us immediately, suppress their natural instincts, be attentive when we want attention but not want attention when we’re busy, walk politely and never dig, chew or pee on anything we don’t want dug, chewed or peed on. They should love our children, family, friends and other pets, but not love strangers…and to always know the difference. The list goes on and on.

It seems only fair that we spend some time acknowledging their need for doggy-ness and allow them full opportunity to not only experience it, but to join in ourselves. Whether it’s getting on the floor for a good roll, howling alongside their wails, running through the sprinkler with them or taking them on walks where the only objective is to allow them to snort, sniff or wet whatever object they fancy, spending time on the canine side of life opens up bonding opportunities that you just can’t get any other way.

Edward had it dead-on. Owning a dog isn’t just about the skill in getting them to be accessible to us. It’s about unlocking that part of us that is open and joyful, where our emotions are right there on our face for the world to see and fun lurks around every corner. It’s embracing all that is silly, sappy and guileless, and playing until our sides are heaving and we collapse into a happy, panting pile on the floor. Add a pup to the mix and we just may find the key to world peace.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 in the rear-view mirror

Every year I start with the more-or-less same list of good intentions, both personally and as they pertain to pet issues, and most of the time by year's end I'm left wondering where did all of those good intentions go? As we come to the close of 2008 (and am I the only one feeling a hearty "good riddance" to this particular year?) I can actually say I made a bit of progress.

First off, I managed to start this blog and am still contributing to it. Not that there are many folks perusing it on a regular basis, but the ability to start something and actually continue to work on it over the last several months is a big personal success for me. And, to be fair, there hasn't been much from me in the way of promotion, mostly because I thought it would be nice to have several items worthy of sharing before asking other folks to check me out.

I have high blog hopes for next year. I have several ideas for sprucing up the site, or perhaps moving to something where I can more fully embrace what I'd actually like to see the site become, which simply cannot be accomplished through Blogger alone. But one must walk before one can run and I needed to be able to prove to myself that I could maintain a little site before going to the pay-to-play model.

My other big accomplishment in 2008 was to obtain my Emergency Animal Rescue Services (EARS) certification through United Animal Nations. In the event of a disaster I can go to a location and be able to assist in the rescue of animals left behind, which has long been something I've wanted to do. Having the certification represents my time, effort and commitment to the cause. I walked the walk on this one, and for that I am glad.

I plan to finish out this year listing some of my hopes for 2009, especially as they relate to pets. For the few (very few) folks who wander across my musings, feel free to drop me a line with any ideas you may have regarding pet-related issues. And invite your critter-loving friends to give me a peek. They may enjoy what they see.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not fit for man nor beast…

While cuddling warmly beneath the blankets on my bed, trying to squeeze a few more inches of space from the cats and dog who had staked a claim on all of the really good snuggle spots, I heard the dog barking across the street. And became instantly annoyed.

Not at the dog, but at the folks who care for him. It was only 10:30 p.m., but already the temperature was reading 38 degrees, according to the evening news. That’s not even counting the additional factors of damp, drizzly rain.

My heart always aches a bit on nights like this. My neighborhood has a plethora of people who think nothing about leaving their dogs and cats out on nights like these. Nights that are so cold my fingers are shaking in the time it takes me to put empty cardboard boxes into the recycle bin…and I’m wearing shoes and a sweater.

What is it that goes through people’s heads to justify leaving a pet outside in the winter weather? I realize that we don’t live in the Dakotas, but even so, there’s no reason for an animal to be outside in the cold and wet. I hear people say that their dogs are outside for protection, but how much can they really help you out if someone gets into your house?

Asking your dog be outside 24/7, even with a dog house, put unnecessary wear and tear on their bodies, putting them at risk for an early death. Cats, of course, get the additional opportunity to be injured or killed climbing into someone’s car engine compartment to try and stay warm.

I recently read someone’s blog post where they referred to a dog as being “baby-fied” because their owner didn’t allow them to sleep outside, and I nearly spit out my coffee. Baby-fied, because they provide their dog with a warm, safe place to sleep with the rest of the pack? All dogs should be so lucky.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dogs convey envy or jealousy, just like us

Under the heading, "tell us something we don't know", this is a great news article about dogs and their response to unfair treatment:

LONDON (Reuters) – Dogs can sniff out unfair situations and show a simple emotion similar to envy or jealousy, Austrian researchers reported on Monday.

Dogs sulked and refused to "shake" paws if other dogs got treats for tricks and they did not, said Friederike Range, an animal psychologist at the University of Vienna, who led the study into canine emotions.

"It is a more complex feeling or emotion than what we would normally attribute to animals," said Range.

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also showed dogs licked and scratched themselves and acted stressed when they were denied rewards given to other dogs.

Other studies have shown monkeys often express resentful behavior when a partner receives a greater reward for performing an identical task, staging strikes or ignoring what they view as inferior compensation.

It turns out dogs are able to show a similar, if less sensitive, response, said Range in a telephone interview.

In a series of experiments using different breeds of dogs, the researchers looked at how two animals sitting next to each other reacted to unequal rewards after handing a paw to a researcher.

Dogs not given a treat licked their mouths, yawned, scratched and showed other signs of stress and stopped performing the task, Range said.

To show this was not just because the animals were not getting food, the researchers then tested the dogs alone and found that in this situation the envious canines cooperated longer before stopping.

"It is really about the unequal distribution of the reward," Range said. "If it was only about frustration they would stop at the same time."

(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Maggie Fox and Sophie Hares)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Puppy Size

This little Internet piece is too sweet not to share...

“Danielle keeps repeating it over and over again. We've been back to this animal shelter at least five times. It has been weeks now since we started all of this,” the mother told the volunteer.

“What is it she keeps asking for?” the volunteer asked.

”Puppy size!” replied the mother.

”Well, we have plenty of puppies, if that's what she's looking for.”

”I know... we have seen most of them,” the mom said in frustration.

Just then Danielle came walking into the office

”Well, did you find one?” asked her mom.

“No, not this time,” Danielle said, with sadness in her voice. “Can we come back on the weekend?”

The two women looked at each other, shook their heads and laughed.

”You never know when we will get more dogs. Unfortunately, there's
always a supply,” the volunteer said. Danielle took her mother by the hand and headed to the door.

“Don't worry, I'll find one this weekend,” she said.

Over the next few days both Mom and Dad had long conversations with her. They both felt she was being too particular.

“It's this weekend or we're not looking any more,” Dad finally said in frustration.

“We don't want to hear anything more about puppy size, either,” Mom added.

Sure enough, they were the first ones in the shelter on Saturday morning. By now Danielle knew her way around, so she ran right for the section that housed the smaller dogs. Tired of the routine, mom sat in the small waiting room at the end of the first row of cages. There was an observation window so you could see the animals during times when visitors weren't permitted.

Danielle walked slowly from cage to cage, kneeling periodically to take a closer look. One by one the dogs were brought out and she held each one. One by one she said, “Sorry, but you're not the one.”

It was the last cage on this last day in search of the perfect pup. The volunteer opened the cage door and the child carefully picked up the dog and held it closely. This time she took a little longer.

”Mom, that's it! I found the right puppy! He's the one! I know it!” She screamed with joy. “It's the puppy size!”

”But it's the same size as all the other puppies you held over the last few weeks,” Mom said.

”No, not size...the sighs. When I held him in my arms, he sighed,” she said. “Don't you remember? When I asked you one day what love is, you told me love depends on the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sigh!”

The two women looked at each other for a moment. Mom didn't know whether to laugh or cry. As she stooped down to hug the child, she did a little of both.

”Mom, every time you hold me, I sigh. When you and Daddy come home from work and hug each other, you both sigh. I knew I would find the right puppy if it sighed when I held it in my arms,” she said.

Then, holding the puppy up close to her face, she said, “Mom, he loves me. I heard the sighs of his heart!”

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the love that makes you sigh. I not only find it in the arms of my loved ones, but in the caress of a sunset, the kiss of the moonlight and the gentle brush of cool air on a hot day. Take the time to stop and listen --- you will be surprised at what you hear. “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Monday, December 1, 2008 offers free T-Shirt

Bring Fido is offering a free "official Dog Person" T-Shirt to anyone booking a pet-friendly hotel stay through their web site. The site has a host of great information for anyone interested in including their dog in their vacation plans. Check them out at

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