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Archive for March, 2008

The photo above is from a New York Times article about pet rental in Manhattan –the dog in the bag is a rental.  Interesting and something I hope Harry will not read for my sake.  Being a therapy dog in the second book was a challenge enough, luckily it was a one-time engagement.  Here is the link: 

Also, I am pasting below –in its full glory– the original contest announcement and guidelines since tomorrow is the last day to register!  J.F. encourages everyone to do so!


With great foreboding and trepidation, Yours Truly must announce the “A Dog About Town (Randolph You’d Better Promote The Hell Out of It or Else) Contest.”  I am paraphrasing J.F.’s name for it since this is a “family” site, but the essence is clear.  J.F. is intent on spreading the word about A Dog About Town to the masses of readers who have not yet had the opportunity to plumb the book’s pages, partake in its adventures and be bathed in the illuminating glow of a certain Labrador’s intellect.   His scheme –and I must use that stark term for it— is either ingenious or absurd.  It is this:  J.F. will pay $250 U.S. Dollars to the person who manages to get this site (and url link) and the book A Dog About Town mentioned on no less than fifty websites by April 15, 2008!  According to J.F., this is a great opportunity for anyone who is interested in marketing/promotion/publishing/the Internet/or making $250 while not changing out of their pajamas.  In addition to giving the hard-working, if pajamaed, winner $250, J.F. will also make a donation of $100 to that venerable animal advocacy group Broadway Barks ( in the winner’s name.Now, this –as they say—was to be it … but I pointed out to J.F. that there might be other hard-working, deserving contestants who might go away empty-handed yet have contributed something to the overall campaign of “getting the word out.”  For example, I said, what happens if someone manages to get the fifty mentions but does so after someone else has done it but before the deadline?  Or what happens if someone gets forty-nine mentions.  “This is not to be!  Good people cannot go away empty handed!”  J.F. Englert bellowed with overly loud enthusiasm.  This is a long way of saying there will be two runners up and they will get some money also! 

So To Summarize:  1) $250 to the person who manages to get this site ( and the book “A Dog About Town” mentioned on no less than fifty sites by April 15, 2008 (an additional $100 will be donated to Broadway Barks in the winner’s name). 

2)  $150 to the first runner up (the person who manages to get the 2nd highest number of mentions by the deadline or the full fifty but after the winner);

3)  $100 to the second runner up (the person who manages to get the 3rd highest number of mentions by the deadline or the full fifty but after the second place finisher).    

Randolph, what happens if no one gets the fifty mentions?”
 Well, in this unlikely case, only the runners up prizes will be given out.  Randolph, is there anything else I should know?” 

 Yes.  To be qualified for this contest you must either enter your email address in the box on the right hand side of this page or email it to .  Alas, if we do not have your email address on file by April 1, you will not be qualified.  Everyone who does enter will receive a confirmation email from us and if you do not receive a confirmation email within three days make sure to followup.  By the way, it goes without saying that none of the sites that count toward your contest tally can be owned by you.Also, to get an idea of the kind of mentions, here are a few links.  Contestants’ mentions need not be this involved, but delivering a positive idea of A Dog About Town is most important –however, brief (J.F. will not be a stickler).  Of course, spam mentions will not be considered, but if there is some computer genius out there who discovers a way of delivering solid mentions on legitimate sites (not the Macao International Gambling Web Ring) –well, this contest will embrace such innovation! 

Above all, J.F. encourages everyone to enter even if you come to this announcement late and think you’re at a competitive disadvantage.  “The race ain’t over until it’s over (on April 15, 2008).”  No winners will be announced or decided until after April 15.  And, remember, to keep track of what sites you’ve contacted.  Total potential cash value of all the prizes  –not including the donation to Broadway Barks– is $500!  Luv Mutt Reviews  The Poodle And Dog Blog Reviews   Chocolate Reviews  Library Goddesses Review  Bookgasm Reviews  Bosco Reviews  Cold Wet Nose  Johann Reviews  Biblio Goddess Reviews  The Lipstick Chronicles  Blue Stalking Reader Reviews

March 31st, 2008
9:24 am

I thought the post on Ares, the space dog with the yellow hardhat, deserved a followup particularly since it read like propaganda without the inconvenience of history behind it.  Lay the blame on my suspicious nature, but something told me that the road to human space achievement was paved with the bodies of animals and I was right.  Alas, the situation was even worse than I imagined.  The gal above is legendary (Laika of Sputnik fame) and sitting is her space capsule didn’t know what was coming (slow death for science in orbit followed by atmosphere burnup).  Did this carefree Husky mutt wandering the streets of Moscow imagine that she was destined to die a cosmonaut?  Of course, she was not alone among animal “space martyrs.”   A brief review of the history suggests that hundreds of dogs, cats, monkeys, chimps, mice, frogs, spiders and even crickets have been blasted into orbit by several nations (apparently, the French had a fondness for rocketing cats above the clouds without much concern for the “live” recovery operation.  The Americans preferred monkeys).  A very nice breakdown of this history is to be found at and partially pasted below.  Of particular note is the steep number of animal-annihilating parachute failures.  Today, Laika has a monument in Star City outside of Moscow.  I’m sure she would be pleased.  It certainly seems a convenient trend these days to use the term “sacrifice” for suffering that isn’t one’s own (the dark side of reading into animal’s motivations, I suppose … I doubt the spider was an eager little astronaut).  As for Yours Truly, I’m sure man has come a long way in his treatment of other animals, but I’ll keep a low profile just in case I’m chosen to become a scientific hero –who knows what testing could lie in the future if I don’t.


Space Dogs (And Other Animals) 

The first men and women who traveled in space — in the 1960s — depended on the sacrifices of other animals that gave their lives for the advancement of human knoweldge about the conditions in outer space beyond this planet’s protective ozone layer, about the effects of weightlessness on living organisms, and about the effects of stress on behavior. Preparations for human space activities depended on the ability of animals that flew during and after the 1940s to survive and thrive. Let’s look at Russia’s space dogs first, then the other animals in space.

Near the end of the 1950s, the U.S.S.R. was preparing to send a dog into orbit above Earth. The Soviets used nine so-called Space Dogs to test spacesuits in the unpressurized cabins of spaceflight capsules. For practice suborbital flights, the dogs Albina and Tsyganka were blasted upward to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of 53 miles where they were ejected to ride safely down to Earth in their ejection seats.

Subsequent suborbital flights by the space dogs reached altitudes as high as 300 miles. Then came the stunning 1957 launches of Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2 to orbit. 


Scientists in the Soviet Union were sure that organisms from Earth could live in space. To demonstrate that, they sent the world’s second artificial space satellite — Sputnik 2 — to space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on November 3, 1957.

On board was a live mongrel dog named Laika (Barker in Russian) on a life-support system. Laika also was known as Kudryavka (Little Curly in Russian). The American press nicknamed the dog Muttnik.

While other animals had made suborbital flights, Laika was the first animal to go into orbit. She suffered no ill effects while she was alive in an orbit at an altitude near 2,000 miles.

Laika had been a stray dog — mostly a Siberian husky and around three years old — rounded up from the Moscow streets and trained for spaceflight. She was carried aloft in a capsule which remained attached to the converted SS-6 intercontinental ballistic missile which rocketed her to orbit.

The 1,120-lb. Sputnik 2 was outfitted with scientific gauges, life-support systems, and padded walls, but was not designed for recovery. Laika was supported inside the satellite by a harness that allowed some movement and access to food and water. Electrodes transmitted vital signs including heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing rate.

The American press nicknamed the dog Muttnik. She captured the hearts of people around the world as the batteries that operated her life-support system ran down and the capsule air ran out. Life slipped away from Laika a few days into her journey. Later, Sputnik 2 fell into the atmosphere and burned on April 14, 1958.

Today, Laika again captures the hearts of people with a monument to her erected 40 years after her spaceflight by the Russians to honor fallen cosmonauts at Star City outside Moscow. The likeness of Laika can be seen peeping out from behind the cosmonauts in the monument.

Laika also is remembered on a plaque at the Moscow research center where she was trained. 


On July 28, 1960 a test flight related to the Vostok spacecraft was launched. The booster exploded during launch and the dogs Bars (Panther or Lynx) and Lisichka ( Little Fox) on board the spacecraft were killed. 



Korabl-Sputnik-2 (Spaceship Satellite-2), also known as Sputnik 5, was launched on August 19, 1960. On board were the dogs Belka ( Squirrel) and Strelka (Little Arrow). Also on board were 40 mice, 2 rats and a variety of plants.

After a day in orbit, the spacecraft’s retrorocket was fired and the landing capsule and the dogs were safely recovered. They were the first living animals to survive orbital flight.

Strelka later gave birth to six puppies, one of which was given to Caroline Kennedy, daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Today, the bodies of Strelka and Belka remain preserved at the Memorial Museum of Astronautics in Moscow. Belka sits in a glass case in the museum while Strelka is part of a traveling exhibit that has visited the U.S., China, Australia, Israel and other countries. 


March 29th, 2008
9:02 am

The photo above is only a re-enactment of a story of survival in Florida.  A small dog escaped the clutches of a hungry alligator. The article is below and the link is here 

Small dog escapes gator’s clutches 

Published: March 25, 2008 at 5:21 PM 

LUTZ, Fla., March 25 (UPI) — The Lutz, Fla., owners of a small dog said their pet was able to escape the teeth of an alligator with no broken bones or internal bleeding.

Mike and Cathy Piendel said Gizmo, their 7-pound Maltese-toy poodle mix, suffered puncture wounds on his ear and back leg from his encounter with the gator, but a veterinarian told them the pooch is expected to make a full recovery, reported Tuesday.

The Piendels said they heard Gizmo yelping in a panicked fashion Sunday and they spotted him with his ear in the clutches of the alligator, which was attempting to pull the small dog under the water. The dog briefly escaped, but the reptile managed to take hold of one of his thighs before Cathy Piendel scared the predator off with a scream.

“Not one broken bone; no internal bleeding,” Cathy Piendel said. “His white blood cell count is 10 times the normal level, but that’s because of the infection” from the bite. 




March 28th, 2008
8:26 am

First there was the water skiing squirrel (above left).  Now there is the water skiing dog, Duma, from Chicago (above right).  J.F. seems to think this could work for Yours Truly.  As if I could become a New York attraction dragged behind the Circle Line on the way out to visit the Statue of Liberty.  Not if I can avoid it.  Duma, though, seems to enjoy himself.  His owner even lets him drive the boat.  Here’s the video:

Oh, also, J.F. has just reminded me to remind you that the deadline for entering the contest is approaching (April 1).  Please the contest post down this page (March 11, 2008) for more details.

And, finally, Publisher’s Weekly has done this nice review of the upcoming A Dog Among Diplomats (all-be-it with my name spelled in the continental, not the English, way):

A Dog Among Diplomats
J.F. Englert. Dell, $6.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-440-24364-9
Poetry-loving, bon vivant dog detective Randolf returns (after A Dog About Town) for another installment of the Bull Moose Dog Run mysteries. Imogen—mistress of Randolf, heiress of a mining fortune and partner to artist Harry—has disappeared, upsetting Randolf and Harry alike. Det. Peter Davis informs Harry that Imogen has been implicated in the murder of a foreign diplomat, whose body is discovered at one of Manhattan’s last boarding houses in red heart–laden boxer shorts, with an open parachute on his back and pictures of a scantily clad Imogen by his side. To find out more, Labrador Randolf goes undercover at the U.N. as therapy dog to a diplomat with the blues and keeps Harry in the loop by various ingenious methods. Englert’s droll mix of mystery, philosophical musing about man and beast, political doings at the U.N. and the mysteries of love make this an elegant, funny and inspiring romp in the park. (May)

March 27th, 2008
8:41 am

As I mentioned earlier, I just discovered and am combing its archives for useful and entertaining material for all of us to reflect upon.  The character above with the yellow hard hat is Aries and he works for NASA (the first article) and the second article concerns how human comfort doesn’t help when a dog is scared by thunderstorms (but medication might)… Alas, all of us mammals are now caught up in the pharmaceutical industry’s enthusiasm for medicating all woe away!  Also, I’m a bit suspicious of the thunderstorm study’s conclusions.  In my experience, humans can be a challenge to live with but also a great comfort at times.

NASA Engineer Helps Train Puppy For Future Leadership Role

Aries dons her hard hat when she visits job sites. (Credit: NASA/Sean Smith)
ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2007) — One of NASA’s newest workers is a top dog … literally. A golden retriever puppy named Aries goes to work every day at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. as part of the “Leader Dogs for the Blind” program. Her mentor is structural engineer Evan J. Horowitz.
As a child, Horowitz had seen a movie character raising a guide dog and it made a huge impression. “I’ve always wanted to give like most people do,” said Horowitz. “Lots of people give money to charity, but I wanted to do something a little more, something more hands on, more from my heart.”
Horowitz works on the rocket and capsule project that will take astronauts back to the moon. He used to be in charge of structural engineering for a research aircraft known as ARIES for Airborne Research Integrated Experiments System. That’s how he came up with a name for his canine student.  Continued at

Veterinarians Show Consoling Dogs Does Not Relieve Their Panic
June 1, 2006 — A new study shows that dogs can get very upset during thunderstorms, whether or not their owner holds them. The study measured the stress hormone cortisol to be up to three times normal levels while the dogs heard recordings of a thunderstorm. The company of other dogs did help, though vets say medications may be more effective.
PHILADELPHIA–Do thunderstorms make your dog tremble with fear with every rumble? Thunderstorm anxiety is common among dogs, sending frightened pooches shuddering under beds or even tearing up furniture. What’s really behind this pet panic?
All it takes is one rumble from a thunderstorm and Patty Nordstrom’s dog, Iko, is a nervous wreck.
“Iko starts shaking and panting and pacing and is very nervous and upset,” Nordstrom says. Many sympathetic owners like her try comforting pooches with thunderstorm anxiety. Now, a new study shows consoling your pet may not help.
Continued at

March 26th, 2008
9:26 am

I have just discovered –how wonderful!  I feel my neurons and synapses sizzling already with the new input (or, perhaps, it’s a hint of early spring here in Manhattan that’s doing it).  The article below from Science Daily sketches out a worrisome situation for those of us owned and “cared” for by humans: shared obesity.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I can lay the blame for my generous belly at Harry’s feet.  Fortunately, I’m not in the same boat as the fellow pictured above. 


Like Owner, Like Dog: One Third Of US Dogs Are Obese, Cats Also Suffer 


Dogs and cats that are overweight may be predisposed to develop diabetes mellitus. (Credit: Image courtesy of Virginia Tech) 

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2008) — Obesity in pets mirrors that of humans, as do the reasons — decreased physical activity, age, and an increased caloric intake, even genetic predisposition. Like humans, there are also many health problems associated with being obese, such as diabetes mellitus. 

It’s no secret that obesity is a problem in humans. Reality television makes millions of dollars chronicling the efforts of Americans attempting to shed excess weight. And every day, new medical research highlights the serious implications obesity has for heart disease, diabetes and other maladies. 

Now, more and more attention is being paid to the problem in our pets. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the prevalence of obesity in dogs is between 22 and 40 percent. The reasons and the remedies for the problem seem to mirror each other across species. (article continued here:




March 25th, 2008
12:00 pm

Conan, the Chihuahuah, is pictured praying with his owner above.  It’s impressive, surely, but not a posture I will be assuming any time soon –as far as the ancient prayer poses are concerned I’ve been able to master only one: yoga’s Downward Dog.  If I tried to imitate Conan, Harry would have to rush me to the vet for a slipped disc or herniated belly.  And the whole question of what a dog might need to pray for isn’t addressed here… That subject could fill several books, but I would argue –without getting too sanctimonious– that a dog can be a kind of prayer just by being itself.  Conan’s story is below:

NAHA, Japan (AP) — At a Zen Buddhist temple in southern Japan, even the dog prays. 

Mimicking his master, priest Joei Yoshikuni, a 1 1/2-year-old black-and-white Chihuahua named Conan joins in the daily prayers at Naha’s Shuri Kannondo temple, sitting up on his hind legs and putting his front paws together before the altar. 

It took him only a few days to learn the motions, and now he is the talk of the town. 

“Word has spread, and we are getting a lot more tourists,” Yoshikuni said Monday. 

Yoshikuni said Conan generally goes through his prayer routine at the temple in the capital of Japan’s southern Okinawa prefecture (state) without prompting before his morning and evening meals. 

“I think he saw me doing it all the time and got the idea to do it, too,” Yoshikuni said. 

The priest is now trying to teach him how to meditate. 

Well, sort of. 

“Basically, I am just trying to get him to sit still while I meditate,” he explained. “It’s not like we can make him cross his legs.” 

March 24th, 2008
10:39 am

Petra, the black swan in a German zoo, has broken up with a swan-shaped plastic paddle boat.  File this one under animal mysteries, animal love stories or, as is my instinct, under “Why It’s Good To Be A Dog And Depend On Your Sense of Smell So These Sorts of Things Don’t Happen.”  I am fairly confident that I would not have fallen in love with a dog-shaped paddle boat no matter how attractive.  How many times has Harry in a giddy or idiotic mood tried to get me to believe that a stuffed animal was the “real thing” by moving it around “realistically” …  Most dogs would have the same reaction I have had to the stuffed animal ploy and not react at all –unless they are just trying to make their owner feel better (very likely).  After all, a dog’s sense of smell is 100,000 times that of a humans –everything is judged by a complex set of smell factors.  So much of our “world view” depends on our schnozzes that things aren’t “real” unless we first test them with these faithful apparatuses.  Apparently, not so for Petra –either that or she is a hopeless romantic, eccentric.  Then again, I wonder as I look at the photograph above do the journalists have it all wrong and did Petra actually mistake the boat for her mother –look at the size difference…it makes Petra look like a baby swan in comparison  (is it a kind of second childhood or “cygnethood” for Petra)?  The story is below:

Swan and Swan-Shaped Boat To

Part Ways

BERLIN (AP) — A long love story is over at a German zoo: Petra the swan and her swan-shaped paddleboat are parting ways. Petra, a black swan, became a minor celebrity in 2006 when she became so attached to the boat - which is shaped like an oversized white swan - that she refused to leave its side. 

Officials in the western city of Muenster decided to let her stay with it over the winter, bringing both bird and boat into a city zoo. 

However, Petra met a live swan this winter. Zoo director Joerg Adler says she and her new mate - a white swan - are building a nest together. 

The boat is to be returned to its local owner on Thursday 

March 20th, 2008
8:01 am

Cover Image


Above in tuxedo (I held my breath for the portrait) is Yours Truly –they wanted a James Bond look … whether they achieved it will be hotly debated for generations to come.  Fortunately, through the skill of the artist I avoided a pre-painting exercise regime (though standing upright always strains the lumbar region of my back).  In the background is the United Nations building on my island’s East Side –the scene of A Dog Among Diplomats, our next (mis)adventure, several genuine scares (for me) and a few tasty delectables dropped from the tables above my head including –I’m not giving too much away by saying it– a greasy donut.

Michael Scharf over at Publishers Weekly had this enthusiastic assessment of A Dog Among Diplomats (on sale April 29, 2008 but available to pre-order at  A Bull Moose Dog Run Mystery is the series title (hence the punning title of Scharf’s entry).  Oh, and J.F. just instructed me to remind all of you who have not heard or are going back and forth on the question of whether “extra money is any good in these tough times” to check out the contest post below and enter by recording your name in the box to the right or emailing us directly at   Also, if you want to visit Scharf’s admirable blog itself, here  



Bullish on Bull Moose

“Harry could not grasp the meaning of Detective Davis’s words, because, as I mentioned above, I had not yet informed him that Imogen was alive.  There was no “after she disappeared” for Harry.  In Harry’s mind, Imogen had no “after” life that did not include him.  Harry was of two minds: Imogen was dead, but, because he loved her beyond telling, she never could be.  She haunted him but was permanently frozen as the girl who had disappeared one winter’s night going to buy bread at Zabar’s.  I should have conveyed what I knew to Harry, but, instead, I had decided to approach the revelation of her being alive in my own fashion…. I began to work my way through Great Expectations in a small-print, nose-unfriendly paperback edition, and as Pip and Estrella and Mrs. Havisham rose up from the page and began to play–not very nicely, those last two–in my imagination, I realized, once again, something that I have always known but frequently forget: literature is not a practical way to get things done.”

The exquisite turns of phrase, of punctuation, and of mind above belong to Randolph, the dog detective (he’s a Labrador) of J.F. Englert’s forthcoming latest Bull Moose Dog Run Mystery, titled A Dog Among Diplomats.  He’s describing the thoughts of the fornlorn partner of his missing master.

Bull Moose is real, by the way.  Here’s a shoutout to Fly Walsh-Prasada.

Also of note are the production values — very high for a MM title: the font is antiquarian in a crisp, non-cloying fashion, and the Labrador silhouettes that begin each chapter are at once whimsical and very classy, as every pup aspires to be.

Thank you, Mr. Scharf!


March 19th, 2008
9:00 am


I don’t typically troll our 24-hour news cycle for obituaries, but this one seemed an important one to pass on.  Mrs. Bonnie, pictured above with her husband, Michael, and a dog dressed in a funny red outfit, died in one of those tornadoes that ravaged Georgia over the weekend.  CNN took a moment in its normally breathless and voyeuristic video coverage to pluck someone out of the otherwise anonymous victim numbers on the storm mortality table (not that they didn’t post video links to “the tornado’s wake of destruction” in their memoriam … why bother exhibiting taste/restraint when you can hyperlink?).  Mrs. Bonnie loved animals –all kinds (but I suspect she had a soft spot for dogs).  She rescued them, fed them and (for better or for worse) occasionally clothed them.  Her farm in rural Georgia teemed with animals and apparently 32 dogs died with her in the tornado.  I’ve posted the entire article about Mrs. Bonnie below and here is the link:  It is people like this who help to make animals challenging lives that much better.  Thank you, Mrs. Bonnie, from a Yankee dog.


Tornado takes ‘Mrs. Bonnie,’ animal lover 


By Wynn Westmoreland




Editor’s Note: Wynn Westmoreland, a media coordinator for CNN, offers this personal remembrance of two victims from the weekend’s severe weather. 



Bonnie Turner and her husband, Michael, on their farm. 


ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — I met Bonnie Turner seven years ago when I was looking for a puppy. 

There was just simply no one better to turn to than the eccentric grandmother who loved animals so much that her 86-acre North Georgia farm was home to donkeys, goats, high-priced show dogs and even a few wayward deer. 

On Saturday, nothing was left of that bucolic sanctuary after a 130-mph tornado ravaged it. Bonnie died, thrown 50 feet from her home as her husband, Michael, cried out her name, their neighbors Joe and Jamie Wheeler said. 

Her death has shaken me. Images of the animals that died — at least 35 dogs and 100 still missing — make my voice crack when I speak about her. 

But I want her to be remembered as more than a victim, as probably does the family of the tornado’s second victim in Floyd County. 

Bonnie — whom everyone called Mrs. Bonnie — was a retired veterinarian’s assistant. Her husband, Michael, who now lies in a hospital in critical condition, built a home for them. Her “Mikey” was a man who knew that something beautiful takes time to build. 

He spent hours making ornate clocks that decorated their home, and many more helping his wife oblige the physical rigors of taking care of dozens of animals. A band of Chihuahuas and a few of her award-winning American hairless terriers nipped at her ankles as she performed her daily chores. 

On a cloudless day in April in 2001, I visited Bonnie with a friend. She told us to lie in the grass, and she went inside her house, unleashed about a dozen puppies and watched as they ran out the door toward us. They began licking our ears, noses and toes. 

I noticed that a small, black-and-brown Chihuahua was trying to get my attention. I had been looking for a white female one, but Mrs. Bonnie would have none of that. “That’s your dog, he likes you,” she told me. 

I named the 4-pound Chihuahua Jesse James. 

During the years since, I often called Bonnie with questions about Jesse or dogs in general and she was always there to help. 

I wish everyone could have met her and experienced some of the happiness she evoked in so many. She is a soul who will be deeply missed. 

Bonnie left this quote on her Web site, “Beauty such as this is a gift, and I’m often in awe of this world we’ve been given.” 

March 18th, 2008
7:49 am