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Archive for August, 2008

I saw this piece on love of dog by Judith Warner in The New York Times and thought I should pass it on to my readers. The image above has nothing to do with the article other than to suggest things that should not be done to dogs.

It is easy, perhaps, to take one side or the other in the question of how much is too much to spend on my kind –and to get furiously angry at the other side … but the underlying questions are there –will always be there. How does one value a dog? Why spend extravagantly on one dog, but let millions of other dogs (and humans) go uncared for? What is a dog for in a human world (a mere accessory, something to dress like a cat, a disposable companion or a member of the family to be respected and loved)?

In any case, it is worth a read as are some of the blog comments that show the other side.

I am printing part of the column below. Enjoy:

Is it permissible to have such a hierarchy in your love? To love your children, your husband – even, perhaps, your furniture – more than you could ever love your pet?

According to the veterinary practice where we take our dog for his ruinous annual check-ups, it clearly is not.

“Like other family members, dogs and cats deserve the best health care available,” its welcome brochure (suggested title: “An Invitation to Extortion”) begins. “They may have names like Fluffy, Meathead and Trouble, but they’re every bit as loved as any other member of the family.”

What if they’re not? Is the very thought taboo?

A generation ago, I think, people allowed themselves to be “good-enough” pet parents. They didn’t routinely get their cats’ teeth cleaned. They didn’t – as a friend of mine in New York recently did – spend $10,000 on kitty chemotherapy. They didn’t take their puppies on “play dates,” as the owner of the returned puppy told me she was instructed to do: “The trainer said, if we were going to have a dog who was going to be socialized appropriately and not have any issues, we had to have her meet 100 people a week so she wouldn’t develop any phobias. Plus 25 to 50 dogs.”

And they didn’t, as a family I know in Washington recently did, spend thousands and thousands of dollars on repeated surgeries for a puppy that had dashed out in traffic and been hit by a car.

This family, sick at heart, did it because they felt they had to for their son.

“When I was a kid, if your dog was hit by a car and was badly hurt, you’d take him out back and you’d shoot him,” the father, who grew up in rural North Carolina, told me. “You wouldn’t take him to a vet to have him put down – you did it yourself. It was kind of an act of honoring the dog, an act of love.”

It seems to me that pet ownership has become – like so many other aspects of modern “parenthood” – a realm in which the goalposts have been moved to greater and greater lengths of expense and absurdity. I actually count myself lucky that I can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on my dog’s health care.

The other night, Max and I made each other a solemn promise: if the dog gets cancer we will, taking care that he experiences the least amount of pain possible, allow him to die.

I think I do love that dog well enough after all.

August 30th, 2008
4:57 pm

This is the time of year for our nation’s political conventions. I tend to find the spectacle a bit too spectacular, but will wade in with my apolitical paws to bring you this link and photo to To provide equal time I will be looking for a McCain dog next week during that party’s convention.

You will note the obamadog is wearing a nifty, if ill-fitting, t-shirt.

(A rather awkward segue follows, but JF that mercantile tyrant insists on hijacking the political process for his own commercial ends…)

Our newly designed blog is also offering nifty t-shirts as well as bags and clothes for toddlers. Phrases from my (Randolph’s) books –some eerily appropriate to your or your canine’s condition– are featured on these garments. There is a permanent link on the left side of this page and also for those of you who like to dress your dog or yourselves or both in wise, snug- or loose-fitting and funny or serious threads please click here.

August 29th, 2008
12:40 am

Town sniffs out dog as shoe thief

Associated Press

6:11 AM CDT, August 27, 2008


Residents of a small Indiana town believe a stray dog is behind a rash of shoe thefts.

Shoes left outdoors in the Montgomery County community of Waveland began disappearing one by one in June, reappearing near the town’s fire station.

Acting town marshal Rob Kiger and others have seen a stray brown and white dog, possibly a beagle, around town carrying a shoe in its mouth. Others have seen the dog lying in the sun near the fire station.

Susie Calvert, who works near the fire station, says she finds shoes in the area and places them on the ledge at the station, hoping that the owners will collect them.

Kiger says he’s tried to take the canine shoe bandit into custody, but it runs away every time he gets close.

August 28th, 2008
12:04 pm

It never fails to amaze me that humans have traditionally assumed so little about animal perceptiveness. With advances in neuro-biology as well as what seems to be a new open-ness to creative empirical work this might be changing. I have two stories today.

First, recently a group of scientists has shown that crows can recognize human faces (with extraordinary accuracy).

Here is the story. My only advice for the crows would be to try to keep a lower profile and avoid appearing too clever lest the experiments become more intrusive and they soon find electrodes wired up to their noggins.

Friend or Foe? Crows Never Forget a Face, It Seems


Crows and their relatives — among them ravens, magpies and jays — are renowned for their intelligence and for their ability to flourish in human-dominated landscapes. That ability may have to do with cross-species social skills. In the Seattle area, where rapid suburban growth has attracted a thriving crow population, researchers have found that the birds can recognize individual human faces.

John M. Marzluff, a wildlife biologist at the University of Washington, has studied crows and ravens for more than 20 years and has long wondered if the birds could identify individual researchers. Previously
trapped birds seemed more wary of particular scientists, and often were harder to catch. “I thought, ‘Well, it’s an annoyance, but it’s not really hampering our work,’ ” Dr. Marzluff said. “But then I thought we should test it directly.”

To test the birds’ recognition of faces separately from that of clothing, gait and other individual human characteristics, Dr. Marzluff and two students wore rubber masks. He designated a caveman mask as “dangerous” and, in a deliberate gesture of civic generosity, a Dick Cheney mask as “neutral.” Researchers in the dangerous mask then trapped and banded seven crows on the university’s campus in Seattle.

In the months that followed, the researchers and volunteers donned the masks on campus, this time walking prescribed routes and not bothering crows.

The crows had not forgotten. They scolded people in the dangerous mask significantly more than they did before they were trapped, even when the mask was disguised with a hat or worn upside down. The neutral mask provoked little reaction. The effect has not only persisted, but also multiplied over the past two years. Wearing the dangerous mask on one recent walk through campus, Dr. Marzluff said, he was scolded by 47 of the 53 crows he encountered, many more than had experienced or witnessed the initial trapping. The researchers hypothesize that crows learn to recognize threatening humans from both parents and others in their flock.

After their experiments on campus, Dr. Marzluff and his students tested the effect with more realistic masks. Using a half-dozen students as models, they enlisted a professional mask maker, then wore the new masks while trapping crows at several sites in and around Seattle. The researchers then gave a mix of neutral and dangerous masks to volunteer observers who, unaware of the masks’ histories, wore them at the trapping sites and recorded the crows’ responses.

The reaction to one of the dangerous masks was “quite spectacular,” said one volunteer, Bill Pochmerski, a retired telephone company manager who lives near Snohomish, Wash. “The birds were really raucous, screaming persistently,” he said, “and it was clear they weren’t upset about something in general. They were
upset with me.”

Again, crows were significantly more likely to scold observers who wore a dangerous mask, and when confronted simultaneously by observers in dangerous and neutral masks, the birds almost unerringly chose to persecute the dangerous face. In downtown Seattle, where most passersby ignore crows, angry birds
nearly touched their human foes. In rural areas, where crows are more likely to be viewed as noisy “flying rats” and shot, the birds expressed their displeasure from a distance.

Though Dr. Marzluff’s is the first formal study of human face recognition in wild birds, his preliminary findings confirm the suspicions of many other researchers who have observed similar abilities in crows, ravens, gulls and other species. The pioneering animal behaviorist Konrad Lorenz was so convinced of the perceptive capacities of crows and their relatives that he wore a devil costume when handling jackdaws. Stacia Backensto, a master’s student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who studies ravens in the oil fields on Alaska’s North Slope, has assembled an elaborate costume — including a fake beard and a potbelly made of pillows — because she believes her face and body are familiar to previously captured birds.

Kevin J. McGowan, an ornithologist at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology who has trapped and banded crows in upstate New York for 20 years, said he was regularly followed by birds who have benefited from his handouts of peanuts — and harassed by others he has trapped in the past.

Why crows and similar species are so closely attuned to humans is a matter of debate. Bernd Heinrich, a professor emeritus at the University of Vermont known for his books on raven behavior, suggested that crows’ apparent ability to distinguish among human faces is a “byproduct of their acuity,” an outgrowth of their unusually keen ability to recognize one another, even after many months of separation.

Dr. McGowan and Dr. Marzluff believe that this ability gives crows and their brethren an evolutionary edge. “If you can learn who to avoid and who to seek out, that’s a lot easier than continually getting hurt,” Dr. Marzluff said. “I think it allows these animals to survive with us — and take advantage of us — in a much
safer, more effective way.”

The second story involves another recent studio that suggests that many animals might be more socially conversant and conversant socially than was previously believed. The following is from LiveScience.

Animal Chatter More Varied Than Thought

Animals know how stand out amidst the din when ‘talking’ with peers

By LiveScience
Staff, LiveScience

Animals know how to speak up, pipe down, cut to the chase or spin a long yarn in order to stand out amidst the din when it comes to communicating with peers, a new set of studies suggests.

A special August issue of the Journal of Comparative Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association, presents a host of studies that investigate the ways that animals adapt their calls, chirps, barks and whistles to their social situation.

The special issue reports on findings from the natural world such as:

Male gray treefrogs (Hyla versicolor) give out longer but fewer calls in reaction to the calls of other males. In other words, when these frogs are chorusing full blast, a male seeking female attention will change the rhythm of his call to break out of the chorus.

Using an array of microphones to identify individual callers among wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates), scientists found that although dolphins whistle more in social situations, individuals decrease their vocal output in large groups, when their whistles are more likely to be drowned out.

Nestling tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) adjust their call output to parents when there’s more noisy competition from the brood.

Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) in larger social groups use calls with greater information than do individuals in smaller groups, and female-male interactions in opposite-sex chickadee pairs reflect the rate of male production of that distinctive chick-a-dee call.

Two different species of North American katydids synchronize calls within species, using somewhat different methods. Whereas the synchrony of N. spiza is a byproduct of signal competition between evenly matched males, that of N. nebrascensis seems to be an adaptation that allows cooperating males to make sure females can pick up critical features of their calls. These different routes to synchrony suggest different evolutionary paths that have led to the way that male katydids acoustically advertise their availability.

“Pooling data on vocal imitation, vocal convergence and compensation for noise suggests a wider [cross-species] distribution of vocal production learning among mammals than has been generally appreciated,” Peter Tyack, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution involved in one of the studies.

The results could mean that mammals have more of the neural underpinnings for learning to vocalize than has been previously thought.

“Animal communication has been a major emphasis in animal behavior and comparative psychology for many decades,” said Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, who edits the journal. “However, in recent years, we have gone beyond the straightforward analysis of dyadic interactions between two individuals. We now consider the role of eavesdropping, deception and noisy environments in shaping signals and investigate how animals deploy them in various contexts.”

August 27th, 2008
1:11 pm

What stood out for Yours Truly in this story was that bears are invading New Jersey (from there it is only a short swim or bridge crossing to my island of Manhattan).

WYCKOFF, N.J. - If only Goldilocks had had a cockapoo.

A 15-pound cocker spaniel-poodle mix named Pawlee scared off a mother bear and her two cubs Sunday morning after they strayed into his owners’ back yard.

Whether his bark was worse than his bite, Pawlee’s tactic worked just fine. These three bears got the hint and took off.

“We had just let him out for the morning and he ran into the yard and started barking his head off,” owner Fran Osiason said.

Osiason said her 9-year-old son, Jacob, went outside to see what the commotion was about and came running back in to report there were bears in the yard.

She was worried that the mother would come after Pawlee to protect her cubs, but the pugnacious pup, just 8 months old, had other plans.

His barking drove the two cubs up a tree, and they eventually climbed down and hopped over a fence with their mother and retreated into the woods.

Osiason said she, her son, husband Andrew and daughter Eden, 6, have had Pawlee since he was about 8 weeks old. She marveled at his fearlessness.

“He’s a little fur ball,” she said.

Northern New Jersey seems to breed feisty pets: In 2006, a tabby cat named Jack chased a bear up a tree in his West Milford yard.

Bears are not uncommon in Wyckoff, but Osiason said her family has lived there for about 10 years and had not seen any until Sunday.

With Pawlee on guard, they might not see another one anytime soon.

August 26th, 2008
9:44 pm

This story is from the AP, a positive development in a divisive world:

Angel the dog credited with saving kittens

1 day ago

RENO, Nev. (AP) — You’ve heard of man bites dog. What about, dog saves cats? A two-year-old dog that had been turned over to the Nevada Humane Society’s shelter in Reno is being credited with rescuing six abandoned kittens.

Shelter Director Diane Blankenburg said it happened Monday while the two-year-old Boxer/Pit Bull mix named Angel was on a walk with a pair of volunteers, Frank Gomez and his 9-year-old stepson, Joel Fontes.

They were walking on the hot day with temperatures in the 90s when the dog became obsessed with something in the bushes. When she refused to move on, Gomez investigated and discovered a box full of 3-week-old orange tabby kittens that were frightened and hungry.

One of the abandoned kittens escaped before shelter staff were summoned to the scene, but Angel tracked it down and Gomez handed it over to safety.

August 21st, 2008
10:05 pm

Yours Truly is always interested in all things culinary especially where dogs are concerned as diners not the main course. Here is a story out of Florida about the ongoing battle to get dogs to the restaurant table:


The Tampa Tribune

Published: August 20, 2008

TAMPA - Canine lovers on Davis Islands are known to run their pets down to the dog park on lazy Saturday mornings, after which many then head straight for the business district to grab some coffee or a midmorning snack.

Now some restaurants owners are realizing the long-standing tradition of allowing patrons to dine with their dogs is illegal without a city permit.

“My knee-jerk reaction was, ‘This is crazy,’” said Traci Rinoldo, owner of Java & Cream. “I had no idea prior to 2006 it was illegal to have dogs in this environment. Then it made sense.”

Last month, her shop became the first restaurant in the city to successfully receive a dog-dining permit.

Technically, all other eating establishments in Tampa that allow patrons to bring dogs into the eating areas are violating city rules.

In 2006, the Legislature passed a law allowing local governments to opt out of Food and Drug Administration codes that prohibit dogs in restaurants. Once a city adopts a “doggie-dining” ordinance, restaurants can choose whether to participate.

The city council adopted a dog-dining ordinance in November 2006. As state law requires, the ordinance mandates participating restaurants to ensure employees wash their hands after petting dogs and prohibits employees from touching dogs while serving food. Restaurants also are required to have hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies in the outdoor seating area.

The 2006 state law called for a three-year pilot program, which sunsets in July.

The doggie-dining rules were the subject of two public hearings and a council vote, but word of the new regulations seemed to spread slowly through the restaurant community. Although the council passed the ordinance almost two years ago, no one applied until this summer.

Then in May, the state Department of Business & Professional Regulation asked the city whether it had adopted a doggie-dining ordinance and how it was being implemented, said Gloria Moreda, the city’s land development manager.

The department hadn’t received any complaints, Moreda said, but the call prompted the city to distribute copies of the application and procedures to restaurants in Hyde Park, New Tampa, SoHo and Davis Islands.

That’s how Rinoldo found out about it. She filled out the application last month and became the first business in the city to receive a dog-dining permit.

She said she understands the need for the strict regulations. She also had to make sure her insurance coverage didn’t include an exemption for dog bites.

“We dog people forget he’s an animal,” said Rinoldo, owner of two great Danes. “In the food industry, people need to remember not everybody is a dog person.”

Less happy is Richard Bond, owner of Yeoman’s Road Pub, also on Davis Islands. He, too, didn’t know about the ordinance until he got the application from the city. He put up a sign at his restaurant saying that because of the “unreasonable nature” of the pet ordinance, the pub would no longer allow pets on the patio.

“There’s a money issue. You have to have a sanitary station. It’s too much for me to be dog-friendly,” Bond said. “When I got it I said, ‘Just another thing for the city of Tampa to try to make a couple of extra bucks.’”

The permit costs $120 a year. Maybe that cost can be reduced, said Councilman John Dingfelder, whose district includes Davis Islands. He brought up the issue at a council meeting this month and asked for city staff to report back on ways the permit process can be made easier for restaurants.

MacDinton’s Irish Pub & Restaurant on South Howard is the only other business that has applied for the permit, but the city rejected the application for unrelated reasons.

“I’m surprised more restaurants haven’t applied,” Dingfelder said. “Maybe they don’t know or maybe they’re concerned about patrons who don’t want to eat with their neighbors’ dogs.”

The issue is scheduled for a council discussion on Sept. 18.

August 20th, 2008
10:35 pm

I am no activist, but this seems a worthy followup to pass on (apparently action is being taken in this sad case):
PHILADELPHIA, Aug 16, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Stunned by reports that two dog breeders shot to death 80 dogs rather than seek veterinary care for them, Governor Edward G. Rendell today strongly urged the House of Representatives to pass his proposed reforms to the state dog law.
“This act disgusted and shocked citizens all over the commonwealth,” Governor Rendell said. “These violent killings were totally unnecessary, particularly considering that there are rescue societies that would have taken all of the dogs, regardless of their ages or conditions.
“Clearly, the time has come to enact legislation that would make this practice illegal and raise the standards under which the state’s commercial breeding kennel industry operates. There is simply no excuse for continued inaction,” he said.
Two weeks ago, kennel owners Elmer and Ammon Zimmerman of Berks County shot 80 dogs and closed their kennels after dog wardens ordered kennel repairs and veterinary checks for 39 dogs suffering flea and fly bites. Pennsylvania’s current dog law does not prohibit kennel owners from euthanizing their dogs with firearms, even if the dogs are healthy.
The Governor made his appeal during a news conference at the Schuylkill River Dog Park, accompanied by Maggie, one of his family’s two golden retrievers. Maggie and Ginger are former breeding dogs who were rescued and adopted by the Rendells.

August 16th, 2008
9:52 pm

The following is a sobering story from Pennsylvania as reported by the LA Times LA Unleashed feature. Here is the link

and the story:

Kennel owners shoot 80 dogs — legally
11:06 AM, August 14, 2008

Two Pennsylvania kennel owners shot and killed 80 dogs because they had fleas, and here’s the catch: it was legal. The Morning Call reports:

Rather than seek medical attention for flea-bitten dogs, two Berks County kennel owners did something drastic but legal, officials said.

They shot the dogs — 80 of them.

Elmer Zimmerman shot 70 dogs at his E&A Kennel in Maxatawny Township after a July 24 inspection by state officials, the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement said.

His brother, Ammon Zimmerman, shot 10 dogs at his neighboring business, A&J Kennel. Wardens had ordered 39 dogs checked for flea and fly bites. They also issued citations for extreme heat, insufficient bedding and floors that dogs’ feet could fall through.

Under current law, kennel owners can dispose of dogs for any reason. House Bill 2525, introduced in May and supported by Gov. Ed Rendell, would require veterinarians to euthanize dogs in commercial kennels.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a statement today condemning the kennel owners’ actions.

“This incident is a clear indicator of the need to amend current Pa. law and give qualified veterinarians sole authority to humanely euthanize animals in medical or behavioral circumstances as they see fit,” said ASPCA President and Chief Executive Ed Sayres.

More about the state’s efforts to regulate dog breeding businesses can be found here.

– Tony Barboza

August 15th, 2008
9:05 pm

In keeping with Olympic enthusiasm, here is a story on a boxing dog from Peru (reuters):

Peru’s boxing dog packs a mean punch

By Terry WadeThu Aug 14, 7:21 AM ET

She can’t float like a butterfly, or sting like a bee, but Chela the boxing dog certainly packs a punch — and a bite too.

With her red boxing gloves on, the 3- year-old German Shorthaired Pointer dodges punches and throws jabs with her front paws while standing up on her hind legs. Her trainer says she’s the only dog in Peru who knows how to box.

“Chela didn’t want to put the gloves on at first,” said Cesar Chacaliaza, a brigadier in the national police force who has been training dogs for 13 years.

“But now she likes it. She’s very playful.”

He said he taught his previous dog, who has since died, how to box as a party trick, but with Chela he has taken the training more seriously to make her an even better boxer.

Chela also jumps through rings of fire, and is part of a team of dogs trained to chase robbers or free strapped-down hostages.

For now, her only sparring partner is Chacaliaza, though she did show off her moves in a solo performance during Peru’s independence day parade last month.

“It tires her out … and it tires me out too,” Chacaliaza said as they panted together after going a few rounds.

(Editing by Dana Ford and Miral Fahmy)

August 14th, 2008
10:44 pm