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Archive for May, 2008

Finally, I can’t wait.

FROM REUTERS;_ylt=AmiSe8Lj9.6gUGzZhZMAEQ8h2.cA


By Chang Ran-Kim

At first it was single women. Then retiring baby-boomers. Now, Honda Motor has sniffed out another growing demographic of potential car buyers in Japan: the dog-lover.

Japan’s No.2 automaker is looking to win points with canine fans using a Web site that offers information on dog-friendly cafes and hotels, dimensions for its cars’ cargo space for stashing cages, a rating system that ranks seat fabric for ease of removing dog hair, and much more.

Visitors to the Japanese-language site, called “Honda Dog” (, can also find out about events where they can test-drive Honda cars with their pups, or view a race in a section reserved for dog-accompanied guests.

“There’s definitely a need there that wasn’t being met,” said Teruhiro Murai, an Internet marketer at Honda who came up with the idea seven years ago to fulfill his own needs as the owner of a golden retriever and miniature dachshund.

Honda may be on to something.

Thanks to a recent pet boom and a declining birthrate, Japanese now have more dogs and cats than they do children under 15. Detecting a trend, Honda came up with the W.O.W. concept car at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show designed especially for dogs: detachable, easy-to-clean seats, wooden floors and a netted, built-in pup-crate in the dashboard.

The site, which can also be reached by clicking on the dog on Honda’s Japan-based home page (, gets 1.5 million page views a month. Internal surveys show that about 100 people decide to buy a Honda after visiting the site, Murai said.

“It helps to show people exactly how our cars can be canine-friendly,” said Tokio Isono, a fellow dog-lover and a chief engineer of Honda’s cars.

The new Freed minivan, launched in Japan on Thursday, is a perfect example, he said.

The vehicle has the lowest floor yet among Honda’s minivans, at just 39 cm (15.35 inches) from the ground to the rear section, while the cargo space is just 48 cm off the ground.

“It’s low enough even for my dog, May,” Isono said, commanding his short-legged, three-year-old corgi to jump in during a demonstration for reporters.


Dog-conscious car shopping also has legs outside Japan.

Independent site, with readers clicking in from the United States to Russia and beyond, provides reviews and “paw” ratings for vehicles and pet gear such as backseat restraints and de-shedding combs.

Toyota Motor has also pricked up its ears, creating a rival site to Honda Dog last year in Japan. (

Still, the Japanese juggernaut may have some way to go to catch up with Honda’s dog-friendliness:’s first-ever “DogCar of the Year” award went to the 2007 Honda Element SUV for its easy-to-clean interior and anti-noseprint windows.

“Thanks, Honda,” raves an Element owner in a user comment. “You were trying to fill a surfer dude niche and you accidentally made the most rockin’ dog-friendly vehicle ever!”

May 29th, 2008
8:02 pm

Yours Truly is once again watch where he steps carefully on the streets of New York (see my accounts in A Dog About Town for how electricity plays a role in the mortality of both man and dog). But here’s a story on a recent dog electrocution on the streets of New York.


The electric company calls it “stray voltage,” and it’s suspected in the deaths of at least four dogs in the past few years in New York.

In the latest case, Celia Sing, of Long Island City, says she was taking her 7-year-old Siberian husky, Sebastian, for a walk on Sunday when he stopped at a light pole.

Sing says her dog suddenly fell, shook uncontrollably and died.

Because of the holiday weekend, Sing said she was unable to get answers from the Department of Transportation. The light pole was replaced on Monday. A department spokesman said the area has been made safe, but the cause of the stray voltage has not yet been determined.

In June of 2007, a New York Post reporter’s dog fell victim to an electrified light pole. She was walking Mushy, a 100-pound Mastiff in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. “He stepped near the lamppost, and suddenly, he started staggering toward me. Right away I thought: “Oh, my God, he’s being electrocuted!” she wrote.

In the past, according to the website Gothamist, a Boston Terrier, a chow-chow and a human being have all met a similar fate.

May 28th, 2008
5:54 pm

After the long weekend and indulgence in barbecued delectables, Yours Truly finds it hard to get started with the daily grind. Nevertheless, this offering on CSI Death Dogs seems relevant to my part-time labors and the general question of the power of a dog’s nose. Apparently, in the CSI business there is something called the “bouquet of death,” an artful term for the rich array of scents lost on the human schnozz but so discernible by my own and those of my brethren.

By Laura Spinney - 5-28-08

At the former children’s home at Haut de la Garenne in Jersey, a sensational discovery was made in February; a fragment of what might have been human bone. It was unearthed by a dog trained to detect human remains.

Forensic experts have pored over it, but the fragment is very small, and with no DNA to go on, it has been difficult to establish whether it is animal or vegetable. On its identity rests not only the question of whether an abuse inquiry is now a murder inquiry, but also the credibility of the policeman’s best friend, the sniffer dog.

Dogs’ sense of smell is far more acute than that of humans – the nose of a German shepherd contains about 200 million olfactory cells, while a human nose has about 20 million. This superior canine sense has been put to use in criminal investigations for centuries. Dogs used in law enforcement today have an impressive range of skills, from sniffing out explosives to locating earthquake survivors – as in recent weeks in China – and matching criminal suspects to their scent trails – but the speciality in the spotlight in Jersey is the human cadaver dog.

The case has led to some criticism of the faith that police place in these dogs. Nobody really knows how they do it. The dogs don’t always get it right, yet the police regard them as a valuable search-tool, to be used alongside other, more scientific techniques such as ground-penetrating radar and aerial photography.

One of the questions surrounding human cadaver dogs is how soon after death they can recognise a corpse, and how long a “fresh” corpse must remain in one place for a dog to detect that it has been there. In a study published last year, the forensic pathologist Lars Oesterhelweg, then at the University of Bern in Switzerland, and colleagues tested the ability of three Hamburg State Police cadaver dogs to pick out – of a line-up of six new carpet squares – the one that had been exposed for no more than 10 minutes to a recently deceased person.

Several squares had been placed beneath a clothed corpse within three hours of death, when some organs and many cells of the human body are still functioning. Over the next month, the dogs did hundreds of trials in which they signalled the contaminated square with 98 per cent accuracy, falling to 94 per cent when the square had been in contact with the corpse for only two minutes. The research concluded that cadaver dogs were an “outstanding tool” for crime-scene investigation.

But how good are dogs at detecting a skeleton from which all the flesh has fallen away? The anthropologist Keith Jacobi of the University of Alabama has investigated this at a police-dog training facility, where human remains ranging from fresh to skeletonised have been buried (the remains were bequeathed by donors).

In one study involving four dogs and their handlers, Jacobi says the dogs were able to detect remains at all stages of decomposition. Performance varied between dogs, but some could locate skeletonised remains buried in an area of 300ft by 150ft. “The few single human vertebrae I used in the study were well over 25 years old, and dry bone,” Jacobi says. “This made the discovery of one of these vertebrae, which we buried in dense woods 2ft deep, by a cadaver dog pretty remarkable.”

A trained human cadaver dog will not signal a living person or an animal (except pigs), but it will signal a recently deceased, putrefying or skeletonised human corpse. That suggests that the “bouquet of death” is discernible, but attempts to identify it have so far failed. Two of the by-products of decomposition, putrescine and cadaverine, have been bottled and are commercially available as dog training aids. But they are also present in all decaying organic material, and in human saliva.

A human cadaver dog’s detection skills depend greatly on its training, and the problem is that human remains are hard to come by. Trainers often use a combination of available “pseudoscents”, and pigs. The problem with pseudoscents, says Mick Swindells, a retired police handler who works as a freelance trainer and handler in Blackpool, is that they represent a “snapshot” of death. As decomposition proceeds, the chemistry of the corpse evolves, causing its odour to change. “I’m trying to train a dog to find the whole video, not just a snapshot,” he says. Pigs decompose in similarly to humans, and when buried they disturb the ground in a similar way.

A number of research groups are searching for a more precise chemical signature of death. One approach is the “head space” technique perfumers use to identify the components of a scent in order to recreate it in the lab. In this case, small amounts of gas are collected from samples of dead flesh, or from soil in which remains have been buried. The volatile organic compounds given off by the dead flesh are analysed, using a method called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, to identify their components.

At Cranfield University in Shrivenham, Wiltshire, the forensic anthropologist Anna Williams and student Helena Rogers are involved in one such project, using pig carcasses. Their goal is to determine if there is an association between the stage of decomposition, the odour profile and the accuracy of the cadaver dogs’ detection. Synthetic versions of the different odours could also be used in training.

Belgian researchers have gone further. Using the same “head space” technique, the chemist Bart Smedts of the Royal Military Academy in Brussels and Joan de Winne of the Federal Police identified one compound, dimethyl sulphide, that is a general marker of putrefaction across a range of species, including human. Dogs trained to detect human remains will signal to dimethyl sulphide. The researchers claim to have identified other, species-specific combinations of chemicals.

De Winne says a portable “head space” device could be used instead of, or as well as, a cadaver dog to detect dimethyl sulphide. The researchers are also investigating other “biosensors”, including turkey vultures and parasitic wasps. “Each biosensor has its advantages and disadvantages,” de Winne says. “Vultures can cover a large area. Parasitic wasps can be trained in half an hour, but they live for only a few days.”

Mark Harrison, national search adviser for the UK National Policing Improvement Agency in Wyboston, Bedfordshire, is all for developing new search tools. He has advised police and rescue services on search strategy in major incidents, including the Asian tsunami of 2004. In the aftermath of that disaster, he used computers to model wave action to help guide the dogs and their handlers towards the “capture points” where victims were likely to have been washed up. But, he says: “If you ask me, ‘Will a machine replace dogs?’ I would say no.”

Swindells says: “The best thing about using a dog to detect cadavers, as opposed to machines, is that dogs have the ability to think. But that’s also the worst thing about using dogs.” This means that cadaver dogs appear to have sufficient intelligence to recognise a corpse across a range of environmental conditions. However, they can also be distracted, for example by methane produced naturally in a peat bog (corpses also produce methane).

One indisputable advantage dogs have over machines is that they can quickly narrow down a search when a large area has to be covered. Adee Schoon of Leiden University, a scientific adviser to the canine department of the Netherlands National Police Agency, sums up the attitude of many who work with human cadaver dogs: “We use dogs as intelligent samplers, to tell us where to look further.”

So, although death dogs may not always get it right, their discoveries can make the difference between solving a crime and leaving dark secrets buried for ever.

Dog nose best

In 2000, freelance dog handler Mick Swindells and his Border collie Shep, a trained human cadaver dog, were called to a 15-acre field near Nottingham to help locate the suspected grave of a murder victim. Shep signalled in one spot and the surrounding area was quickly dug, but nothing was found. Later that day, police returned with an informant, who identified the grave. Shep had been out by a metre.

It transpired that, in digging the grave, the murderer had put his spade through a field drain, causing volatile compounds from the decomposing cadaver to enter the drain. About a metre downhill of the cadaver, the drain was broken, preventing those compounds from dispersing further. The drain had, in effect, separated the body from its scent, and Shep had signalled the dislodged source of that scent – the breakage in the drain.

On another occasion, Swindells and one of his dogs were searching a house when the dog signalled. A cache of bones was found beneath the floorboards at the spot – but they were later identified as pig. Pig carcasses are used in training cadaver dogs. But why would anybody hide a dead pig? The dating of the bones gave a clue: they had probably been buried during the Second World War, when pork was rationed and penalties for dabbling in the black market were severe.

May 27th, 2008
7:56 pm

Here’s another story out of England. This one is about the world’s oldest dog: Bella.

Is Bella the mongrel the world’s oldest dog ever at 29 (that’s 169 in doggie years)?
By Chris Brooke
Last updated at 2:17 AM on 23rd May 2008

The joy of gnawing on a bone is a distant memory and these days the only walkies she can manage is a potter around the garden.

But that’s not bad going considering Bella the Labrador cross is around 29 years old.

The faithful pet is believed to be the world’s oldest living dog and could even be the oldest dog ever.

Unfortunately her owner David Richardson, 76, has no documentation to prove her precise date of birth and so Bella’s extraordinary longevity will never enter the record books.

Bella, the oldest dog in the world with owners David Richardson and Daisy Cooper

Mr Richardson bought Bella for £70 from an RSPCA rescue centre on 21st June 1982 when she was ‘about three years old.’

They have been companions ever since.

But only this week the pensioner thought he was finally going to lose his faithful old friend.

Bella suddenly fell ill and was unable to walk.

With a heavy heart Mr Richardson made an appointment with the vet to put her down and dug a grave in her favourite spot in the garden of his home in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

However, after a sleepless and tearful night Mr Richardson decided he couldn’t go through with it.

He cancelled the vet’s appointment and as if by magic Bella appeared as good as new as he filled in the grave.

Mr Richardson said: ‘I phoned to cancel the vet because I just thought it would be better if Bella died in her sleep. She couldn’t walk, but when I went out and filled in the grave she appeared behind me and was stood there watching. Since then she has been fine.

Bella is believed to be the world’s oldest dog ever but there is no written documentation to prove her exact age

‘I decided to take her to the vet to be checked and she said Bella was very fit for her age apart from a bit of arthritis in her legs.

‘Her heart is strong and she can still potter around the garden so she might have a good few years left.’

The former soldier, deep sea fisherman and chef, said he originally wanted an Alsatian but the RSPCA wouldn’t allow it because he was 50 years old.

‘My choice was between Bella and another dog. She seemed friendlier so I chose Bella,’ he recalled.

In her youth, Bella was full of energy and enjoyed going on long daily walks with Mr Richardson.

Now she quietly potters about the back garden when Mr Richardson or his partner Daisy Cooper, 81, are outside.

And with most of her teeth missing, she can no longer manage to gnaw on the remnants of a leg of lamb.

‘Bella has always had a good appetite and she only has the best. She has only got two teeth left so she can only have soft stuff now. So she has shredded chicken and fish.

She will also have boiled liver and best tinned stewing steak, mackerel and sardines.’

Bella still manages her favourite daily treat - sucking a toffee sweet while lying in her basket.

Mr Richardson, who also owns a Border collie, has won a number of prizes at dog shows during their 26 years together.

Only last year at the Dronfield show Bella competed in a team with three other ‘family’ dogs and beat younger pedigrees to the top prize.

Mr Richardson said he had suspected for some time that she could be the oldest dog in England, but never dreamt she might take the world title.

The world’s oldest ever official dog was an Australian cattle dog named Bluey. He was eventually put to sleep in 1939, aged 29 years and five months.

Until his death in 2003, the only other official Guinness World Records holder was Butch, a 28-year-old Beagle from Virginia, USA, who held the title of ‘oldest living dog’.

Gareth Deaves, records manager from Guinness World Records, said Bella would not be able to take over the titles held by Butch or Bluey ‘unless we can find some really clear evidence from the RSPCA’ to prove her age.

Find this story at

May 23rd, 2008
12:03 am

This is a strange turn of events…one comforting aspect: we dogs are difficult to clone…possibly more so than humans –not a surprise for Yours Truly who still marvels at the marvelous power of his olfactories and other aspects of his anatomy.

Apparently a biotech company is offering to clone people’s beloved dogs –but as one skeptical scientist puts it: the same Fluffy isn’t likely to come back. Here’s the story link:

and pasted here:

May 21, 2008
Biotech Company to Auction Chances to Clone a Dog

A California company is planning a string of online auctions next month to clone five dogs, with the bidding to start at $100,000.

Scientists consider dogs among the most difficult animals to clone because they have an unusual reproductive biology, more so than humans. But the company behind the auctions, BioArts International, maintains that the technology is ready, and it is calling the dog cloning project Best Friends Again. It has scheduled the auctions for June 18.

BioArts says it has licensed patents issued in the 1990s after researchers in Scotland cloned Dolly the sheep.

BioArts also arranged a partnership with the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea. BioArts says one of the principal scientists there is Hwang Woo Suk, who in 2005 was involved in cloning a male Afghan hound. He and his Korean colleagues named that dog Snuppy, for Seoul National University puppy.

A team led by Dr. Hwang reported in 2004 that it had made cloned human embryos and stem cells. But those claims were found to be fraudulent.

“I know the association with Dr. Hwang is going to be controversial,” Lou Hawthorne, the chief executive of BioArts, said in a telephone interview on Friday. “One of the contradictions of Dr. Hwang is that he made mistakes on his human stem-cell research, and he’s the first to admit that.”

But he said Dr. Hwang’s dog-cloning work had been independently verified. “Our main concern is simply he’s the best when it comes to dog cloning,” Mr. Hawthorne said, “and for that reason it behooves us to work with him.”

Mr. Hawthorne had hoped to clone a dog — a dog named Missy — since the 1990s. He was the chief executive of another company, Genetic Savings & Clone, which did extensive research on cloning dogs but concentrated on the commercial potential of cloning customers’ cats, something it offered to do for $50,000 apiece.

But he said Genetic Savings shut down in 2006 after giving “some pricey refunds” to customers who had paid to have their cats cloned.

“The technology was not refined,” Mr. Hawthorne said, “and rather than keep an operation that was burning through several million a year, keep that going, we decided, shut that down, focus on technology and launch a new company when the time seemed right.”

His new company, BioArts, began work last fall to clone Missy, he said, who was three-quarters border collie and one-quarter husky.

Missy died in 2002 at age 15. But Mr. Hawthorne had taken genetic samples from Missy in 1997, and had more taken after she died.

In December, he said, a clone was born, Mira. Two other clones of Missy, Chin-Gu and Sarang, were born in February, he said. Tests by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, indicated that the three dogs were clones, not just relatives.

As for the auctions, Mr. Hawthorne said the bidding would start at $100,000. He said that was a starting price, not a minimum, and could drop.

He said that the opening and closing times for the auctions would be staggered, to reach potential customers in different time zones, and that the starting bids for the later auctions would be higher “to steer people to participate in the earlier auctions if they can, and avoid a phenomenon of everyone waiting to see how they go.”

He said that BioArts would not spend the money “unless and until we deliver a cloned dog that they sign off on,” and that the company would guarantee the resemblance between the customer’s dog and the clone.

“We let that be subjective,” Mr. Hawthorne said. “If the client doesn’t feel it’s extremely high, comparable to identical twins,” the client can ask for his or her money back

He also said that BioArts would guarantee the cloned dog’s health for a year, and that a veterinarian would examine and approve the dog before it was delivered to its new owners.

Mr. Hawthorne said cloning techniques had become more efficient over the years. He said 25 percent of embryo transfers now result in a puppy, and the survival rate of the puppies is greater than 80 percent. “That’s within the range of what conventional dog breeders expect,” he said.

But Dr. Robert Lanza, the chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology, a biotech company with laboratories in Worcester, Mass., voiced concern when a reporter described Best Friends Again.

“If anyone thinks they’re going to get Fluffy back,” Dr. Lanza said, “they’re gravely mistaken.” A cloned dog is “likely to be a totally unknown dog, just as if you went to the pound and adopted another, unknown animal.”

May 22nd, 2008
1:39 am

An interesting wrinkle from England in the ongoing battle against owners who do not pick up after their dogs. On our block in Manhattan there is an ongoing mystery about massive Number #2s that appear overnight –Harry believes they are the product of an elephant not a dog –in any case, the delinquent owner is unknown. Perhaps a camera is in order.

Council accused of foul play to catch guilty dog owners
Helen Pidd
The Guardian, Thursday May 22 2008
Another council has been caught using surveillance laws designed to combat organised criminals - this time to catch dog owners whose pets foul the grass.

One MP accused the council of playing at “Dick Tracy” detectives. Brian Binley, Conservative MP for Northampton South, condemned his local borough council for employing the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which is intended for use “in the interests of national security”, saying “some semblance of sanity” needed to be restored.

Figures released by Northampton borough council show Ripa powers had been used five times since the act came into force in 2000 to take action against owners who failed to clear up after their dogs. All five were issued with fixed penalty notices after they were caught.

When contacted by the Guardian yesterday, a Northampton council spokeswoman said she could not say what sort of surveillance was undertaken, but that it could have been the use of CCTV cameras or simply a neighbourhood warden keeping tabs on dog walkers.

Other councils, including Derby, Bolton, Gateshead and Hartlepool, have also owned up to using the Ripa powers to fight dog mess. Last month, Gosport borough council, in Hampshire, admitted that its officers were in the middle of an undercover operation using digital cameras and binoculars to catch those failing to scoop up their dogs’ poo.

After hearing about the Northampton case, Binley said he would be lobbying the council to stop the law being used inappropriately. He said: “I just find this remarkable. If it was not so serious it would be totally laughable. But we really are turning local authorities into private detectives or the equivalent of KGB operatives.

“I am perfectly happy to give police powers in order to fight terrorism and very serious crime, but when it gets to this level you really have to question it.”

He added: “The whole thing is getting totally out of perspective and it frightens me to death. I am applying pressure to both Northamptonshire county council and Northampton borough council to put this business of surveillance into perspective and to get them to stop acting like Dick Tracy. Unless we restore some semblance of sanity then there won’t be a square inch that we as individuals can walk on that is not noted or monitored by the powers that be.”

But a spokesman for Northampton borough council said the powers were only used when appropriate and that the council had not used covert surveillance at any time in the past year.

In April, Poole borough council came under fire for using Ripa powers - designed to be used in the interests of national security or to prevent crime and disorder - to tail a family round the clock in order to check whether they had lied about their address to win a school place for their child. They had not.

May 21st, 2008
8:45 pm

Here is an article on Bilbo, a life guard going through a difficult period.

Lifeguard dog banned from beach
Bilbo, Britain’s only lifeguard dog, who patrols Sennen in west Cornwall will no longer be seen on duty.

The RNLI has taken over beach safety at Sennen from Penwith District Council this year.

And it says the 14-stone Newfoundland will be unable to patrol as a lifeguard because of a dog ban on the beach.

Bilbo’s owner said the decision to keep a lifesaving asset off the beach was a “scandal”, but Penwith council is backing the RNLI.

He is the biggest asset for beach safety and for the RNLI to disown him is a scandal
Steve Jamieson
Bilbo has been part of the lifeguard team at Sennen for the past three years and was praised for helping to prevent a swimmer getting into difficulties.
He wears a special yellow jacket and can paddle out to stricken swimmers, pulling a rescue float with him.

But his owner, Steve Jamieson, 53, has been told by the RNLI that a concession which got Bilbo round a beach ban, was no longer acceptable for safety reasons.

Bilbo had been allowed to carry out his life guarding duties in the past because he had been carried on an all terrain bike (ATB) when he was not at the lifeguard hut or in the sea.

Now that the RNLI has taken over life guarding duties, it is not allowing him on their ATBs.

Rebecca Kirk, chief environmental officer at the council, told BBC News: “If he is on the beach it is against the law.

“It puts us in a really difficult position, but we have to be consistent.”

Bilbo is not classed as a working dog, so if he goes on the beach, owner Mr Jamieson faces a £75 fine.
He said: “I was dumbstruck when I was told.

“He is the biggest asset for beach safety and for the RNLI to disown him is a scandal.”

Steve Instance, the RNLI’s lifeguard inspector the South West, said: “We have been as flexible as possible.

“But ATBs are for one person only and if a dog is 14 stone he is a passenger and that is simply not safe.

“We are not simply sticking to the rules for the sake of it. There are a lot of accidents on ATBs.”

He added: “Bilbo is a fantastic asset and we have told Mr Jamieson he can use him for PR work and safety education in schools.

“But it is not suitable for the RNLI to have him as an operational lifeguard.”

Newfoundland dogs are well adapted to swimming because they have a double coat - with the outer layer repelling water - and webbed paws.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/05/19 11:50:16 GMT


May 19th, 2008
3:11 pm

Dear readers, I’m not given to PSAs or, as a New York dog, used to riding in cars, but apparently dogs should be buckled up in the car lest they become projectiles.

Road trip! Get that dog buckled up

Evelyn Kanter
Friday, May 16, 2008
The drivers who make sure passengers, especially children, are safely buckled up before pulling out of the driveway, are the same drivers who are likely to ignore another member of the family: the family dog.

Less than two percent of American pet “parents” actually use a pet restraint system, according to Christina Selter, founder of BarkBuckleUp, an organization whose goal is to educate pet owners about the dangers and consequences of letting Lucy or Max roam free in the back seat or cargo area.

In a 35-mile-per-hour accident, a 60-pound dog can turn into some 2,700 pounds of deadly force - a projectile that can injure or kill the vehicle’s occupants, the dog or both.

The next danger is when first responders try to access a vehicle involved an accident. The family dog is likely to become overly protective and aggressive, making entry difficult, perhaps delaying life-saving actions to critically injured passengers.

Another danger occurs when police, fire department personnel or EMS technicians open the door and the confused, frightened, agitated pet bolts into traffic. That can cause yet another accident, including fatal injury to the pet, according to Selter.

A good pet restraint offers protection in the event of an accident, just as a car seat does for children, and seat belts for adults.

Volvo prides itself on its safety record, including an innovative bolster seat system for young passengers. So it is no surprise that the Swedish car company is partnering with BarkBuckleUp to raise awareness for the need for pet passenger safety, and save lives, at the start of the peak summer travel season, when families take more frequent and longer road trips.

Volvo offers a steel cargo barrier for its wagons and SUV models, installed behind the rear seats, and a sturdy nylon netting for the smaller hatchback model. Both are ideal for large, energetic dogs.

Smaller dogs can ride safely and comfortably in a canine seat-belt system that allows enough freedom to sit or lie. These doggie seat belts attach to the same hooks manufacturers place in the backseat for infant and toddler car seats.

Travel crates, carriers and restraint systems for dogs of all sizes, including harnesses designed specifically for dogs riding in the bed of pickup trucks can be found at Farnam Pet Products ( also offers a variety of canine restraint systems, including crates with cushioned floors.

Whichever pet protection device you choose, be sure to get your dog used to it before a long family trip. Start with short trips that end with something playful, such as a ball toss in the park, so your pet associates the car with positive experiences.

Besides buckling your pet up, there are other safety measures to consider before you embark on a long road trip. You would not think about leaving home without snacks, toys and water for your children. Treat your four-legged child the same way. Pets should have access to water and a chew toy to reduce anxiety and keep the dog entertained. A water bowl can be placed easily inside a travel crate.

On a long trip, stop often, every hour or so, to give the driver and all passengers, including the four-legged one, a chance to stretch their legs. Regular stops are especially important for the driver, to help maintain concentration, and thereby safety.

Be aware of the temperature in the back of your vehicle. Open a window or adjust the air conditioning to prevent overheating or dehydration.

Add a local telephone number or your cell phone number to the dog’s tags. If the dog gets loose, your home phone number is not much help to whoever finds your pet.

It takes just a few minutes to safeguard a pet, both before and during a family car trip. Says BarkBuckleUp’s Selter, if your pet could talk, he’d probably thank you.

courtesy © Motor Matters, 2008

May 16th, 2008
10:20 pm

I post the following article from the Baltimore Sun in its entirety. More food is always good food. Here is the link:

Dog beer: hooch for your pooch

Had I known this product was in development, I would have tried to get them to use a photo on the label of my dog Ace (who loves licking beer bottles).

Then, instead of having to pronounce “Kwispelbeer” (which, granted, somebody named Woestendiek should be able to do), I could have just called it “the beer that made my doggie famous.”

Alas, we’ll just have to wait for that, and for the beef-flavored doggie beer, too. Produced in Holland, it’s only now made it as far as Great Britain.

What’s in it? According to the company website: Water, Beef Extract, Malt Barley Extract, Lactic Acid, and Potassium Sorbate. It does not contain alcohol, and it is not carbonated.

They recommend, for a small to medium dog, one-half bottle per day (served at room temperature), while a large dog can handle a full bottle.

According to the company’s website, “Kwispelbeer has been brewed with ingredients which are also used in products for human consumption. It has the very high quality which your best friend deserves.”

Despite the lack of carbonation, it can still be served frothy by shaking the bottle.

“The great taste of Kwispelbeer comes from high-quality beef,” the website says.

The dog beer recently hit the shelves at the Meteor Centre store in England, where manager Mike Hall said, “We’ve had quite a lot of repeat business - people coming back for more because their pets really enjoyed it.”

“People are going to sit and watch the football and have a beer with the dog.”

The Derby store was chosen as the place to test the drink’s popularity before the retailing company Pets at Home launched it countrywide.

Kwispelbier - or “tail-wagging beer” - is being sold at £1.99 a bottle, which translates into almost four U.S. bucks.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, a spokesman for Pets at Home, said: “While initially people may think of the drink as a novelty, it makes a delicious treat for a thirsty dog. “It also encourages drinking, which is good for the kidneys, and is a great source of vitamin B.

“It means pets are even more a part of family life as they can enjoy a beer, too.”

May 15th, 2008
1:09 pm

Ah, the critics. Who are they and what do they want from me? Well, apparently, one critic doesn’t want anything at all from Yours Truly. She calls me “annoying” and is looking for the exit.

Of course, any sentient creature with an ounce of introspection and humility will upon looking at him or herself in the mirror consider this “annoying” possibility about themselves. But on balance I think I am more genial than annoying, more helpful than hindrance and more open to the wonders of being alive than not. I also wag my tail quit a bit and seem happy whether it is a black Monday in my soul or not.

Yet my critic is right. Being a dog is a handicap and I have other qualities that do not make me an optimal detective, but really I was thrust into this role by events rather than having hung a shingle on the door as a coke-enthused Sherlockian equipped with an Oxbridge education. Certainly my critic is also correct that far more happens to me than is affected by me. Of course, it seems to me that this is a better reflection of how things actually work in this universe of accident, happenstance, incompetence and long stretches of non-events with dramatic climaxes and disappointing anti-climaxes and fires to put out not of our own making.

I post an excerpt of her scathing indictment on this Labrador below and re-reading it realize that, in fact, it is one of the highest (unintentional) compliments. I almost wish this could be the new back jacket blurb for A Dog Among Diplomats since it captures many of the virtues of the book. My critic wishes to return with delight to her world of police procedurals with their slick doses of action-hero realism. All the best. Meanwhile I will remain here in the imperfect but often delightful world where we are fat, flawed and soulful, loyal but not sugary, and a true and firm companion to my readers who ‘get me’.

“Being a dog seems to be much more of a handicap than an advantage. He did very little to discover facts or influence events, became a victim several times over, and kept annoying me. He talked about ways to communicate with his owner by spelling words with alphabet cereal, or using a laptop computer, but he never actually did it, missing several important opportunities to convey information or ask for help. He did use the computer to order books online, and was delighted about that, but it was irrelevant to the plot. The crime plot is very complex and far-fetched, with various spies trying to kill somebody and deceive each other, a possible bomb attack at the UN, and the dog’s owner missing since the last book, but perhaps still alive and about to reappear. More attacks occur and Randolph is in danger, but he has to depend on others for rescue, and does not really solve the crime.”

For the rest of this review and many others, please visit

May 14th, 2008
1:16 pm