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Archive for July, 2008

If found this feature story –dateline July 31, Saudia Arabia– enlightening (courtesy I will avoid travelling there until my own status is clarified. Given my mystery-solving work I would hopefully be classified as a “working dog” under the new rules.

JEDDAH: The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice began enforcing a ban on the sale and escorting of cats and dogs in public places in Riyadh yesterday, a local newspaper reported.

Prince Sattam, acting governor of Riyadh province, issued a decision prohibiting the sale and escorting of cats and dogs in Riyadh in line with a fatwa issued by the Council of Senior Scholars.

The Makkah governorate in August 2006, acting on a request from the commission, prohibited the sale of pet cats and dogs.

The commission made the request after receiving several complaints that many Saudi youths, influenced by the Western culture, brought their pets into public places and caused distress to families with young children.

“The ban was based on the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) saying that it’s forbidden to give or accept any money related to the selling or buying of dogs,” said Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, head of the commission in Makkah province.

“It’s also prohibited to keep a dog inside home. A dog can be owned for purposes of hunting, police duties, guarding houses and property, and by farmers for herding cattle and sheep,” he added.

But how will people find dogs that can be used for security or hunting purposes? “Like they used to in the old days,” said Al-Ghamdi after a pause.

Laith, a 25-year old pet owner, said he bought a new cat two days ago at a famous pet store in Jeddah. “Nothing has changed. All pet stores are still selling cats and dogs. It’s just one of those regulations that are issued, yet never implemented,” he said.

Muslims are discouraged from keeping dogs inside their homes because they are not considered clean animals. However, in two separate Hadiths narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), which means the cat-loving companion, the Prophet (pbuh) told his companions of the virtue of saving the life of a dog by quenching its thirst.

He referred to a man whom Allah blessed for giving water to a thirsty dog. And the other was a prostitute who filled her shoe with water and gave it to a thirsty dog. For this deed she was granted the eternal paradise.

Nuha, a 34-year-old pet owner, said that the Qur’an while narrating the story of the People of the Cave mentions that they owned a dog.

“The Qur’an narrates in Surah Al-Kahf (The Cave) the story of some pious youths who took refuge in a cave. These people had a dog with them, and the fact that Allah mentions the dog and counts the dog among them, indicates that dogs are permitted to live among people,” said Nuha, who owns four cats and two hamsters.

Nuha was referring to the verse: “And you would have thought them awake, whereas they were asleep. And We turned them on their right and on their left sides, and their dog stretching forth his two forelegs at the entrance (of the cave as a guard).” (Holy Qur’an 18.18)

When the ban was first issued, Abeer Mishkhas, a Saudi columnist, wrote how the streets of Jeddah are full of stray cats, which are regularly run over.

“It’s interesting to note that the municipality has failed to protect animals on the streets of Jeddah as well as in the zoo. … I wonder if the officials have considered taking these stray animals to municipality-funded shelters to save their lives? No, it seems that the danger to our ‘culture and tradition’ comes from dogs and cats inside houses. Those outside are outside any rules and regulations,” Mishkhas said in her article.

July 31st, 2008
12:54 am

I was going to post on some horrendous news about fighting dogs in Colorado (that news is at or on the somewhat distressing news that my kind will soon be treated to the slap-dash culinary instincts of Dunkin Donut spokeswoman and twenty-second meal expert Rachel Ray (that news is here

No, instead I found some material from North of the Border for joggers who would rather not be mauled by their neighborhood dogs.

Q: As someone who jogs on a regular basis, I would like to get your advice on what to do when I am confronted or chased by a strange dog while jogging. From what I have read, most experts suggest that the jogger should stop running and either stand still or move away slowly by walking backwards. What is your advice?

A: Fortunately, the great majority of dogs are well-behaved and friendly. More important, their behaviour is predictable and most joggers do not really need to be concerned about getting bitten. However, a small percentage of dogs have not been trained or socialized properly or may feel threatened by what they perceive to be intruders, and these dogs are biters.

There are two groups of dogs that bite: submissive types (fear biters) and dominant types (aggression biters). The submissive types far outnumber dominant types. The submissive types will slow down or veer to one side when you approach them in an attempt to avoid a confrontation. As they get closer, they may assume a crouching position, holding their ears down and tail tucked.

Conversely, you can easily identify the dominant types by how they comport themselves: they stand proud and erect with ears and tail up, do not hesitate to approach a person, and exude an air of self-confidence.

If you should feel threatened by a dog while jogging, your approach will be determined by your evaluation of the type of dog with which you think you might be dealing.

If you feel that you are dealing with a dominant type of dog, you should immediately stop jogging or walking and avoid direct eye contact (i.e. look away, but watch from the corner of your eye). Turn your body slightly away from the dog (i.e. avoid full frontal or rear views). Allow the dog to sniff you to establish that you are not a threat. Most dominant dogs will simply leave you alone.

If you feel that you are dealing with a fear biter, you should once again stop walking, but this time, maintain a full-frontal posture, even if the dog tries to circle around you. Slowly withdraw from the dog’s “territory” so that it does not feel threatened.

It is important to remember never to approach unfamiliar dogs and, most important, never run away, since running triggers the natural instinct in dogs to give chase. Also critically important is to never stare at the dog or make direct eye contact, since this is perceived as a threat.

If you are knocked down by a large dog, it is best not to struggle or fight, but to remain motionless while tucked in a fetal position and protect your head with your arms. As a rule, an attacking dog will stop and withdraw once it feels that it has established its dominance over you and that you no longer pose a “threat.”

Dr. Bernhard Pukay is an Ottawa veterinarian and was host of the television program Pet Connection, which was aired on CTV Network. Questions and comments are welcome. Address letters to Pet Care, Ottawa Citizen, Box 5020, Ottawa K2C 3M4. E-mail:

July 28th, 2008
9:36 pm

Summer has slowed me down a bit –there was a romp on the beach (an appropriate prelude to the adventures of A Dog At Sea) and we are gearing up for a relaunch of this blog in a more friendly format for all and as a result I have been delinquent on my posts as I dream of a time when I will again be able to incorporate photographs and other elements in my online musings.
Part of my summer reading thus far has included this article from July 13th’s New York Times Magazine.  Here is the link and an excerpt below will give you an idea of what you are in for (as a mute myself this trend raises some issues –the nuances of the canine mind cannot help but be overlooked by those who do not possess one and cannot adequately communicate with one).

Here is the opening paragraph and the link (

Max retrieves Frisbees. He gobbles jelly beans. He chases deer. He is — and this should be remembered when discussions of cases like his blunder into the thickets of cognitive ethology, normative psychology and intraspecies solipsism — a good dog. A 3-year-old German shepherd, all rangy limbs and skittering paws, he patrols the hardwood floors and wall-to-wall carpets of a cul-de-sac home in Lafayette, Calif., living with Michelle Spring, a nurse, and her husband, Allan, a retired airline pilot. Max fields tennis balls with his dexterous forelegs and can stand on his hindquarters to open the front door. He loves car rides and will leap inside any available auto, even ones belonging to strangers. Housebroken, he did slip up once indoors, but everybody knows that the Turducken Incident simply wasn’t his fault. “He’s agile,” Allan says. “He’s healthy. He’s a good-looking animal.” Michelle adds, “We love him to death.” That is why they had no choice, she says. The dog simply had to go on psychoactive drugs.

July 25th, 2008
2:33 pm

This story reminds me that while I often feel quite secure in wandering the streets of my native Manhattan, the same would not hold true if I were whisked off to Beijing for the Olympics (even if the official position supports no-dog dining).

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing has asked hotels and restaurants in the city to take dog meat off the menu for the duration of next month’s Olympics and September’s Paralympics.

Dog is eaten not only by the large Korean community in China’s capital but is also popular in Yunnan and Guizhou restaurants.

A directive from the Beijing Food Safety Office issued last month ordered Olympic contractor hotels not to provide any dishes made with dog meat and said any canine material used in traditional medicated diets must be clearly labeled.

Concerned that canine dishes might offend animal rights groups and Western visitors, Beijing said restaurants expected to be popular among foreign visitors must stop serving dog meat “to respect the dining customs of different countries”.

The directive “advocated” that all restaurants serving dog suspend it during the Olympics but made no mention of the many popular establishments with donkey on the menu.

Criticism from Westerners caused the dog meat-loving South Koreans to ban canine dishes for a period of time during the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

(Reporting by Liu Zhen; Editing by Nick Mulvenney and Jeremy Laurence)

(For more stories visit our multimedia website “Road to Beijing” here; and see our blog at

July 14th, 2008
5:36 pm

This story from The New York Times makes me think we need to update Marcus Aurelius’ observation that we shouldn’t judge someone until after they are dead. Mrs. Helmsley shows that we need to hold off on that judgment until after someone’s estate becomes clear.  Helmsley it seems is a great champion of our kind.

July 2, 2008

By Stephanie Strom

Sure, the hotelier and real estate magnate Leona Helmsley left $12 million in her will to her dog, Trouble. But that, it turns out, is nothing much compared with what other dogs may receive from the charitable trust of Mrs. Helmsley, who died last August.

Her instructions, specified in a two-page “mission statement,” are that the entire trust, valued at $5 billion to $8 billion and amounting to virtually all her estate, be used for the care and welfare of dogs, according to two people who have seen the document and who described it on condition of anonymity.

It is by no means clear, however, that all the money will go to dogs. Another provision of the mission statement says Mrs. Helmsley’s trustees may use their discretion in distributing the money, and some lawyers say the statement may not mean much anyway, given that its directions were not incorporated into Mrs. Helmsley’s will or the trust documents.

“The statement is an expression of her wishes that is not necessarily legally binding,” said William Josephson, a lawyer who was the chief of the Charities Bureau in the New York State attorney general’s office from 1999 to 2004.

Still, longstanding laws favor adherence to a donor’s intent, and the mission statement is the only clear expression of Mrs. Helmsley’s charitable intentions. That will make the document difficult for her trustees, as well as the probate court and state charity regulators, to ignore.

The two people who described the statement said Mrs. Helmsley signed it in 2003 to establish goals for the multibillion-dollar trust that would disburse assets after her death.

The first goal was to help indigent people, the second to provide for the care and welfare of dogs. A year later, they said, she deleted the first goal.

Howard J. Rubenstein, a spokesman for the executors of Mrs. Helmsley’s estate, said they did not want to comment on the statement because they were still working to determine the trust’s direction.

Mrs. Helmsley, the widow of Harry B. Helmsley, who built a real estate empire in Manhattan, was best known for her sharp tongue and impatience with humanity. She became a household name when she was featured in glossy advertisements for the Helmsley hotels. “It’s the only palace in the world where the queen stands guard,” advertisements for the Helmsley Palace proclaimed.

But for many Americans, she later became a symbol of unbridled arrogance and belief in entitlement, particularly after she was convicted in 1989 of $1.2 million in federal income tax evasion, for which she was sent to prison. She was the subject of a 1990 television film, “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean,” with Suzanne Pleshette in the title role, and at least three books.

When she died last year at 87, she left all but a few million dollars of her vast estate to what will become one of the nation’s dozen largest foundations when the probate process is finished. She had $2.3 billion in liquid assets when she died, according to the probate petition, and the disposal of her real estate holdings is expected to produce an additional $3 billion to $6 billion.

Even if the resulting total is at the low end of the estimate — $5 billion or so — the trust will be worth almost 10 times the combined assets of all 7,381 animal-related nonprofit groups reporting to the Internal Revenue Service in 2005.

The five executors of her will — Mrs. Helmsley’s brother, Alvin Rosenthal; two of her grandsons, Walter and David Panzirer; her lawyer, Sandor Frankel; and her longtime friend John Codey — have been preoccupied with disposing of the real estate.

They are also the trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and, according to the two people who discussed the mission statement, have fretted about the public outcry that disclosure of its terms might incite.

They have reason for concern: News last year that the biggest named beneficiary in Mrs. Helmsley’s will was Trouble, her Maltese, led to death threats against the dog, which now requires security costing $100,000 a year. But they also cannot sit on the liquid assets much longer without raising questions from the attorney general’s office, which oversees the use of charitable assets in New York State.

The trustees recently hired a philanthropic advisory service to help them figure out a way to remain true to Mrs. Helmsley’s intentions while at the same time pursuing broader charitable goals with her foundation.

Judge Renee R. Roth of Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan will also play a role. She has already demonstrated a willingness to be flexible, cutting the size of Trouble’s trust fund to $2 million, from the $12 million prescribed in Mrs. Helmsley’s will, and ordering that the difference be added to the pending charitable trust.

Judge Roth also agreed to a settlement between the trustees and two of Mrs. Helmsley’s grandchildren who were explicitly left out of her will. The agreement gave those grandchildren $6 million each.

There are many ways the trustees could spend the Helmsley money on dogs. National groups like the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have programs dedicated to dogs, and many smaller local groups rescue abandoned and abused dogs.

Or the trustees could use the trust’s money to finance veterinary schools or research on canine diseases.

Her goal of helping dogs was not Mrs. Helmsley’s only posthumous quirk. In her will, she ordered that her tomb, in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., be “acid-washed or steam-cleaned” once a year.

She also made two grandchildren’s combined $10 million inheritance contingent on their visiting their father’s grave, requiring that a registration book be placed in the mausoleum to prove that they had shown up.

July 2nd, 2008
11:29 am