Thursday, March 31, 2011

Borrow a Dog at the Library

Yale Law lets students “check out” the resident therapy pup

Last week, Yale Law School’s library started offering therapy dog services on a trial basis. Interest has been high, so it’s hopeful that the program will continue.

Students can sign up at the circulation desk to “check out” Monty, a certified therapy dog, for 30-minute sessions of stress busting. The Border Terrier-mix belongs to librarian Julian Aiken, so he’s well loved even when he’s “off duty.”

As you can imagine, it’s easy for students’ stress levels to rise at the nation’s top-ranked law school, so the librarians are always looking for new services to offer. After reading about the benefits of therapy dogs, they contemplated the idea for some time.

To keep the peace among any non-dog lovers, Monty is hypoallergenic and visits are confined to a non-public space in the library.

The idea of therapy dogs and college students isn’t quite new. Other schools, which include Tufts University, New York University (where my therapy group, The Good Dog Foundation, visits), Oberlin College, and the University of California, invite dogs to campus during finals, but Yale is the first I’ve heard of that lets students “check out” a therapy dog.

A little one-on-one time with a friendly pup sounds like the perfect way to beat stress!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dachshund Survives for Weeks Inside Burned Down House

Miracle pup Lola is on the mend
The miracle dog of Boston who survived for nearly a month inside the charred ruins of her owner’s burned down home is expected to make a full recovery.

Terisa Acevedo found Lola, her one-year-old longhaired dachshund, on Monday when she returned to her fire-ravaged duplex to silence the alarm on a Ford Explorer she’d left parked in the driveway.

“I was standing on the porch and I heard Lola scratching on the door,” Acevedo told Bark. “My boyfriend was with me and he pried the wood off the front door. When I saw her, I fell to my knees and started screaming and crying. I was so happy.”

Acevedo wasn’t home when the February 23 blaze engulfed her duplex, which is located in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood. When she arrived, the 24-year-old emergency medical technician (EMT) asked firefighters if they’d seen her dog. They hadn’t.

“A couple days after the fire, police officers took sniffing dogs through the house and they didn’t pick up (the scent of) any remains of animals,” Acevedo said. “I thought Lola had run away. I made flyers and gave them to all the vets in the area and posted them all over Hyde Park.”

Acevedo also went back to the duplex several times, but never found any signs of the tiny dachshund.

“I cried for her every day,” Acevedo said. “I was so devastated. But I never gave up hope.”

Acevedo’s tears of sadness turned to joy on Monday when she discovered the much thinner Lola trapped inside the remains of her fire-damaged home. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Veterinarians at Boston’s Angell Animal Medical Center, who treated the malnourished and dehydrated dachshund, released the “incredibly lucky” pooch on Thursday afternoon.

“She’d lost a tremendous amount of weight when she came here on Monday,” spokesman Brian Adams said. “She might not have survived much longer. But she’s a trooper, a true survivor. And her story of survival is simply amazing.”

Lola, however, still has one more health issue to overcome. Veterinarians discovered she had a condition called refeeding syndrome.

“If she was fed too quickly or improperly she could face life-threatening results,” Adams said. “She was given her first bit of food on Wednesday and will remain on a restricted diet at home. She will receive 16 grams of wet food, which is the equivalent to one teaspoon, every six hours as her body once again becomes accustomed to nourishment.”

Acevedo is confident that her best friend will make a complete recovery. “She’ll be okay,” she said. “She’s playful like always. She’s still Lola.”

But how did the little dog survive this ordeal? What did she do for food and water? “The police investigators said there was a refrigerator on the other side of the duplex that tipped over during the fire,” Acevedo said. “They think maybe she ran over there looking for food. They saw some chicken by that refrigerator. She might have eaten some cat food, too.”

What about water? “It might have come from the firemen who were trying to put out the fire,” Acevedo said. “The house was soaked.”

Acevedo hopes Lola’s story of survival will inspire others who’ve lost a pet. “Don’t give up hope when times are rough or when you’re down,” she said. “You just never know what will happen.

“I’m just so happy and excited that’s she’s here…next to me. And now I don’t plan to let her out of my sight.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Dog Days are Over

Doree Shafrir, a gifted writer, shares this entry about the loss of her dog.

I was in a rush that morning and so our walk was shorter than usual. As I brought Lee back inside our building and fed her and put water in her bowl and put her pills between two slices of salami, I told myself that her dog walker was coming in the afternoon and, in any case, the day before we had gone to Fort Greene Park and I had let her off her leash and she had scampered around.

It was the beginning of November and when I got home that night, it was dark and getting cold and I was tired, and I had to take Lee out for another walk. She ran up to me and barked as I came through the door, but then, when I went to get her leash, all of a sudden she couldn’t get up at all.

Lee was everyone’s favorite dog in part because she didn’t make it easy for you to like her. She was stubborn and needy and scared of almost everything: kids, loud noises, basketballs and footballs, dancing — any sudden movement, really — and cats. She wouldn’t fetch. She barked, loudly, when people were having sex. When friends came over she would insist on being petted and if they stopped she would nudge them with her head, sometimes so hard that people who were holding glasses of wine spilled it on themselves.

But she was also silly and loyal and had a perfect round tan spot on her white back, and she wiggled her behind when she walked, and when you let her off the leash in the park she would bound toward the dogs who still hadn’t been neutered and flirt shamelessly with them, even if they were a fraction of her size. When she finally trusted people she would let them play with her and rub her tummy. She once stole a carrot cake off the back of a kitchen counter and ate the whole thing.

In the eight years I had her, Lee was my only constant: I lived in seven apartments in two cities; I am on my fourth job, not counting internships and freelance work; I went to two graduate programs, one of which I finished, one of which I didn’t; I dated a bunch of guys, some for a while; I made and lost friends. And knowing I had to take care of her meant I couldn’t do certain things that people do in their 20s, like take spontaneous trips or stay out until dawn.

Even though I knew on a rational level that she wouldn’t always be there, I sort of assumed that she would be. I couldn’t picture a world of mine in which she wasn’t.

The first thing I did when it seemed like Lee couldn’t get up was try to make her get up. Maybe, I thought, she just needed a little help. She was almost 14, after all, and she had had arthritis for the last three years. Lately her feet had been dragging on her walks, and sometimes she would collapse on the sidewalk, or fall as she went up or down the four steps leading into our building. But she had always managed to make it back up, and so I assumed this time would be no different: I put her collar and leash on and tried lifting her hind legs while simultaneously pulling up her front half with her leash. She just stared at me. She didn’t seem aware that her back half wasn’t working.

I didn’t know what to do, so I called Sam. We had broken up over the summer — I’d moved out of the Carroll Gardens apartment we shared and back to Fort Greene — and we were friendly, but distant. He hadn’t seen Lee since the breakup, but a few weeks before I had run into him at a party and promised him that if it looked like things were getting bad he could see her one last time. I wasn’t sure if things were in fact getting that bad but I knew I wanted him there.

I got his voicemail. I left a message asking him to please call me. I called my friend Emily, who lives nearby and had dogsat for Lee many times. She seemed to know right away that something was wrong; I rarely talk on the phone, to anyone, and it was 11 on a Thursday night. “Lee can’t get up,” I blurted, and then I realized I was crying. “I don’t know what to do. She can’t get up,” I repeated.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said. “I don’t know what to do.”

Emily said she’d be right over. Then Sam called back. He was at a work party in Manhattan. He asked if I wanted him to come over. I said no. Then I said yes, and so by 11:30 the three of us were sitting in my living room. Lee didn’t seem particularly perturbed; she was happy to see two of her favorite people, and she was still able to drag herself backward around the apartment. I gave her some food and she ate it quickly, and she drank some water. “See? Maybe she’s O.K.,” I said. Sam and Emily looked at each other, then at me.

I learned that night that there is a pet ambulance service, and it is based in Astoria, Queens, and when you call them they ask what kind of animal you have and how much it weighs and what the problem is and where you want to take it, and 45 minutes or so later a burly man shows up with a bag and a muzzle and carries your pet downstairs, and you sit in a van with the back seats taken out and the driver tells you that it is illegal, in New York State, for an ambulance that does not transport humans to have a siren but that the police are usually lenient if he is forced to run a red light.

It was close to 2 a.m. when the veterinarian at the 24-hour clinic offered a prognosis. She was reasonably sure that Lee had had a spinal stroke. X-rays, she said, would at least rule out cancer; if I wanted a more definitive diagnosis, she’d have to get an M.R.I., and even then it wasn’t guaranteed they’d know exactly what was wrong. In the meantime, they were going to keep her in the hospital for two days.

When I went to pick her up that Saturday, she seemed disoriented, but happy to see me. The vet tech had to show me how to use the sling that would hold up her back half, which was basically paralyzed, and hold the leash at the same time, which was tiring and awkward; then she gave me a bag of medication and told me that I was to lie her down on her side and rotate each hind leg, backward and forward, for 20 minutes three times a day. If she was going to get better, the vet said, I would see progress in a few days.

Watching a dog age comes with its own set of daily, incremental choices and changes. Her tan spots have mostly faded; she is grizzled and gray, and her eyes have the same film over them that I remember seeing in my great-grandmother’s eyes when I was a child. One day she can get up on the bed; the next day she falls, whimpering, when she tries to leap onto it, and no amount of coaxing can get her to try again. One day she stops barking when I turn the key in the lock and that is when I realize she’s losing her hearing, and at the park, when I’m not directly in front of her, she seems panicked and lost and I know she can’t see as well as she used to. She can’t make it up three, then two, then one flight of stairs.

Lee getting old reminds me of my own mortality; in her I see what it is to become elderly, to not be able to do the things you used to be able to do, to have things happen slowly, seemingly forever, and then very and irrevocably quickly. And for this I am irrationally and deeply jealous of people whose dogs die suddenly and young, because although they feel a different kind of pain, this is something they never have to face.

The night I decided to put Lee down, I sat alone in my apartment at my computer for hours, mindlessly listening to music and reading Twitter and Tumblr, and sobbing, those deep kinds of sobs where you can’t breathe and you can’t control the tears, which just keep coming, even when you think you don’t have any left. It seemed unjust and yet fair that she had no idea what was to happen the next day, and every time I thought about that I cried more.

Lee almost never slept in my bedroom — she would usually either sleep in the living room or in the bathroom — and especially since she stopped being able to walk, getting around the apartment meant she had to drag herself. But when I woke up in the morning she was lying on the floor next to my bed.

That afternoon, when it actually came time to go, it was almost impossible to be somber because nearly everything seemed to be going comically wrong: She peed in the hallway as Sam and I, grim-faced, were trying to get her outside, and so he took her downstairs and put her in the car while I cleaned up. In the car she couldn’t get comfortable, and struggled to sit up, then lie down, then sit up again. And then we parked too far away from her vet and so we had to hustle her down Atlantic Avenue, Sam hoisting her up by the sling and me leading her with the leash.

We finally got to the vet and they led us to a cozy room that felt like a therapist’s office. Sam and I sat down on the couch while Lee lay on the floor on a blanket. Her butt was stained with urine and I noticed how red the joints on her front legs were, from where she had been licking them. We were alone in the room. We looked at each other. “What happens now?” I said. Sam shrugged. “No idea,” he said. Lee was quiet.

Her vet came in and knelt down on the floor next to her. “So what’s going to happen is a technician is going to come in and give her an injection that will make her go unconscious,” she said. “That will take a few minutes. Once we’re sure she’s unconscious, I’ll come in.”

“So you’ll actually … do it?” I said.

She nodded. “So I’m going to leave the room now — the tech should be in soon,” she said. “But we can do this as quickly or as slowly as you want.” I nodded.

I just remember certain images from the next 20 minutes: the bandage with stars on it that the vet tech put on her leg after he injected her, me caressing her head and stroking her side. The way her tongue hung out of her mouth and stuck, immobile, to the floor as she drifted off to sleep but how one ear stayed up, and how I thought that maybe this meant she was still awake and there was still time to save her. The way her vet said simply, “She’s gone.”

All this winter, when I looked outside I thought of her bounding through the snow, flakes on the end of her snout, so excited just to burrow back and forth through the drifts.

Doree Shafrir has contributed to New York Magazine, The New Yorker, The Awl and The New York Observer, where she was a reporter. She is a senior editor at

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sacramento's First Dog is on Cloud Canine

Sutter, Gov. Brown's 7-year-old Pembroke Welsh corgi, is a bona fide celebrity in the Capitol. He's even become a fixture at budget negotiations. I think I'm in love again!

Hollywood can have Schwarzenegger. Sacramento has Sutter.

In a company town with little pizzazz but lots of lawmakers squabbling over the state's financial mess, Gov. Jerry Brown's 7-year-old Pembroke Welsh corgi has become a bona fide celebrity.

For months, California's first dog has starred in feverish blog posts and front-page news stories. Legislators and lobbyists fawn over the stocky little brown-and-white canine. He's become a fixture in budget negotiations — actually sitting at the bargaining table once — and a people magnet on his daily walks.

"Everybody knows him," Brown boasted last week as he trailed his wife and Sutter in the park that surrounds the Capitol. "He's a cut above most of the other mutts he encounters."

From Nixon's Checkers to Obama's Bo, political pets have long fascinated the public. Sutter, with some help from the Brown administration, is a tech-age phenomenon, with a sizable social media following and growing chops as a political animal. Even hardened legislators melt when he's around, if only for the relief he provides from budget talks and the way he softens the sometimes-prickly governor.

The dog belonged to Brown's sister, Kathleen, a Goldman Sachs executive who moved from San Francisco to Chicago last year, and the governor had been reluctant to adopt him. Brown's longtime pet, a black Lab named Dharma, died last year — and by comparison, the governor said, Sutter resembled "half a rat."

"I don't like small dogs as a general rule," Brown said.

But Sutter has grown on him as the dog has enlivened the suite of gubernatorial offices known as the "horseshoe" because of its shape. The dog has the run of the place — literally.

When staffers eating lunch hear jingling, they know Sutter is sniffing out snacks, particularly his favorite: bacon. They've been so happy to oblige him that the Browns had to issue an internal memo: No more feeding Sutter.

Meanwhile, the Capitol press corps, hungry for news on the new administration, had started blogging about Sutter. Steve Glazer, Brown's political advisor, fed the appetite by posting Twitter updates: "No accidents — yet, good at finding old candy behind desks, only barks when people knock on doors." One post included a photo of Brown and Sutter with famed primatologist Jane Goodall.

Last month, Brown's wife, Anne, christened Sutter as California's first dog in an impromptu ceremony on the Capitol steps, attracting a throng of reporters and photographers and creating at least as much buzz as the state hiring freeze her husband declared that day.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a column written, with a wink, from the dog's perspective ("Wags say that Dad can be too cerebral …. But everyone loves me"). The Sacramento Bee ran an editorial giving Sutter advice on navigating the halls of power ("Don't be a yapper.…If he catches you barking out state secrets, it could be straight to the doghouse for you").

Not everyone appreciated the publications' humor.

"Dogs dogs dogs," one reader wrote in a letter to the Bee. "… All the newspapers had dogs on the front page today for various stupid reasons."

A recent picture on Sutter's Facebook page showed him with a completed NCAA basketball bracket (he correctly picked Gonzaga over George Mason). The site, maintained by the governor and first lady, lists his religion as Zen Jesuit, "although I am not burdened with dogma (but I do like dog bones)." His political affiliation is Whig: "practical and not carried away by the barking constituencies."

An anonymous admirer gave him an unofficial voice on Twitter, where he trades notes with Brown staffers and promotes a line of merchandise, ostensibly to help close the state's budget deficit. Among his more than 1,300 followers are the governor and his wife, legislative aides, political consultants and lawmakers — including Republicans who have little in common with Brown.

"I dig the corgi," said one of those followers, state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, a Richvale Republican. "Sutter might be a good ambassador here to keep conversations from breaking down."

The leader of the Senate's minority Republicans, Bob Dutton, is a dog-lover from Rancho Cucamonga. He's so fond of Sutter that he carried the canine to a GOP caucus meeting last month. Earlier, Sutter had parked himself at Dutton's feet while the lawmaker and Brown discussed the budget.

"He's a cute little guy," Dutton said. "These are not real pleasant times for anybody. Sutter kind of makes you feel like it will be all right."

Some lobbyists apparently agree. While Sutter was taking a walk last week, Paula Treat, an energy and tribal lobbyist, squealed at the sight of him and crouched down to pet him.

Like a seasoned politician, Sutter was unmoved until she dangled something he wanted. She broke out a bag of fat-free liver snacks, and Sutter was soon on his back, basking in a belly rub.

With Brown still seeking Republican support for his plan to put billions of dollars in tax extensions on the ballot, he joked about Sutter's early years on an Idaho farm, herding cattle.

"He likes to make sure everybody's together," Brown said. "He's a role model for more collaborative living."

The governor has also suggested other ways for the corgi to pass the time.

When the California Republican Party challenged Brown recently to debate anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist at its convention, the governor declined.

He offered to send Sutter instead.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Five Reasons to Make Your Dog's Dinner

Although it's not about to happen around our house, Donald Strombeck's book cooks up nutritious recipes for your dog.

When he wrote Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets: The Healthful Alternative, Donald R. Strombeck, DVM, PhD, created one of the first-of-its-kind pet nutrition books. It went on to become a standard reference for veterinarians and those looking for an alternative to commercial pet food.

Once again the professor emeritus at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine is breaking ground and demonstrating that his overriding concern is for the health of dogs and cats. When the first edition went out of print, the good doctor made all the information available free at

So, why DIY? Here are a few simple reasons to homeprepare your dog’s food, according to Dr. Strombeck.

  1. You can select and know the quality of the ingredients. Even when ingredients are listed on a commercial pet food label, you can’t verify the quality.
  2. When you prepare food at home, you can avoid the risks of contamination by bacteria, fungi and chemicals, including ingredients added to produce the desired color, texture, shelf life and palatability.
  3. You also avoid errors that can happen during any one of the many steps in the processing of commercial pet food including inadequate cooking and contamination from poorly cleaned equipment.
  4. You won’t be being misled by claims of formulations being balanced and complete when they are not.
  5. Doing it yourself gives you more control over special-needs diets. Commercial pet foods’ special diet claims often have no merit.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Creature Connection

Bashert is a gentle, scone-colored, 60-pound poodle, a kind of Ginger Rogers Chia Pet, and she’s clearly convinced there is no human problem so big she can’t lick it. Lost your job, or bedridden for days? Lick. Feeling depressed, incompetent, in an existential malaise? Lick.

“She draws the whole family together,” said Pamela Fields, 52, a government specialist in United States-Japan relations. “Even when we hate each other, we all agree that we love the dog.” Her husband, Michael Richards, also 52 and a media lawyer, explained that the name Bashert comes from the Yiddish word for soul mate or destiny. “We didn’t choose her,” he said. “She chose us.” Their 12-year-old daughter, Alana, said, “When I go to camp, I miss the dog a lot more than I miss my parents,” and their 14-year-old son, Aaron, said, “Life was so boring before we got Bashert.”

Yet Bashert wasn’t always adored. The Washington Animal Rescue League had retrieved her from a notoriously abusive puppy mill — the pet industry’s equivalent of a factory farm — where she had spent years encaged as a breeder, a nonstop poodle-making machine. By the time of her adoption, the dog was weak, malnourished, diseased, and caninically illiterate. “She didn’t know how to be a dog,” said Ms. Fields. “We had to teach her how to run, to play, even to bark.”

Stories like Bashert’s encapsulate the complexity and capriciousness of our longstanding love affair with animals, now our best friends and soul mates, now our laboratory Play-Doh and featured on our dinner plates. We love animals, yet we euthanize five million abandoned cats and dogs each year. We lavish some $48 billion annually on our pets and another $2 billion on animal protection and conservation causes; but that index of affection pales like so much well-cooked pork against the $300 billion we spend on meat and hunting, and the tens of billions devoted to removing or eradicating animals we consider pests.

“We’re very particular about which animals we love, and even those we dote on are at our disposal and subject to all sorts of cruelty,” said Alexandra Horowitz, an assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College. “I’m not sure this is a love to brag about.”

Dr. Horowitz, the author of a best-selling book about dog cognition, “Inside of a Dog,” belongs to a community of researchers paying ever closer attention to the nature of the human-animal bond in all its fetching dissonance, a pursuit recently accorded the chimeric title of anthrozoology. Scientists see in our love for other animals, and our unslakable curiosity about animal lives, sensations, feelings and drives, keys to the most essential aspects of our humanity. They also view animal love as a textbook case of biology and culture operating in helical collusion. Animals abound in our earliest art, suggesting that a basic fascination with the bestial community may well be innate; the cave paintings at Lascaux, for example, are an ochred zooanalia of horses, stags, bison, felines, a woolly rhinoceros, a bird, a leaping cow — and only one puny man.

Yet how our animal urges express themselves is a strongly cultural and contingent affair. Many human groups have incorporated animals into their religious ceremonies, through practices like animal sacrifice or the donning of animal masks. Others have made extensive folkloric and metaphoric use of animals, with the cast of characters tuned to suit local reality and pedagogical need.

David Aftandilian, an anthropologist at Texas Christian University, writes in “What Are the Animals to Us?” that the bear is a fixture in the stories of circumpolar cultures “because it walks on two legs and eats many of the same foods that people do,” and through hibernation and re-emergence appears to die and be reborn. “Animals with transformative life cycles,” Dr. Aftandilian writes, “often earn starring roles in the human imagination.” So, too, do crossover creatures like bats — the furred in flight — and cats, animals that are largely nocturnal yet still a part of our daylight lives, and that are marathon sleepers able to keep at least one ear ever vigilantly cocked.

Researchers trace the roots of our animal love to our distinctly human capacity to infer the mental states of others, a talent that archaeological evidence suggests emerged anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Not only did the new cognitive tool enable our ancestors to engage in increasingly sophisticated social exchanges with one another, it also allowed them to anticipate and manipulate the activities of other species: to figure out where a prey animal might be headed, or how to lure a salt-licking reindeer by impregnating a tree stump with the right sort of human waste.

Before long, humans were committing wholesale acts of anthropomorphism, attributing human characteristics and motives to anything with a face, a voice, a trajectory — bears, bats, thunderstorms, the moon.

James Serpell, president of the International Society for Anthrozoology, has proposed that the willingness to anthropomorphize was critical to the domestication of wild animals and forming bonds with them. We were particularly drawn to those species that seemed responsive to our Dr. Dolittle overtures.

Whereas wild animals like wolves will avert their eyes when spotted, dogs and cats readily return our gaze, and with an apparent emotiveness that stimulates the wistful narrative in our head. Dogs add to their soulful stare a distinctive mobility of facial musculature. “Their facial features are flexible, and they can raise their lips into a smile,” Dr. Horowitz said. “The animals we seem to love the most are the ones that make expressions at us.”

Dogs were among the first animals to be domesticated, roughly 10,000 years ago, in part for their remarkable responsiveness to such human cues as a pointed finger or a spoken command, and also for their willingness to work like dogs. They proved especially useful as hunting companions and were often buried along with their masters, right next to the spear set.

Yet the road to certification as man’s BFF has been long and pitted. Monotheism’s major religious texts have few kind words for dogs, and dogs have often been a menu item. The Aztecs bred a hairless dog just for eating, and according to Anthony L. Podberscek, an anthrozoologist at Cambridge University, street markets in South Korea sell dogs meant for meat right next to dogs meant as pets, with the latter distinguished by the cheery pink color of their cages.

As a rule, however, the elevation of an animal to pet status removes it entirely from the human food chain. Other telltale signs of petdom include bestowing a name on the animal and allowing it into the house. Pet ownership patterns have varied tremendously over time and across cultures and can resemble fads or infectious social memes.

Harold Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, describes in his book “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat” how the rapid growth of the middle class in 19th-century France gave rise to the cartoonishly pampered Fifi. “By 1890, luxury and pet ownership went hand in hand,” he writes, and the wardrobe of a fashionable Parisian dog might include “boots, a dressing gown, a bathing suit, underwear and a raincoat.”

In this country, pet keeping didn’t get serious until after World War II. “People were moving to the suburbs, ‘Lassie’ was on television, and the common wisdom was pets were good for raising kids,” said Dr. Herzog in an interview. “If you wanted a normal childhood, you had to have a pet.”

Pet ownership has climbed steadily ever since, and today about two-thirds of American households include at least one pet.

People are passionate about their companion animals: 70 percent of pet owners say they sometimes sleep with their pets; 65 percent buy Christmas gifts for their pets; 23 percent cook special meals for their pets; and 40 percent of married women with pets say they get more emotional support from their pets than from their husbands. People may even be willing to die for their pets. “In studies done on why people refused to evacuate New Orleans during Katrina,” said Dr. Herzog, “a surprising number said they could not leave their pets behind.”

Pets are reliable from one year to the next, and they’re not embarrassed or offended by you no matter what you say or how much weight you gain. You can’t talk to your teenage daughter the way you did when she was 3, but your cat will always take your squeal. And should you overinterpret the meaning of your pet’s tail flick or unflinching gaze, well, who’s going to call you on it?

“Animals can’t object if we mischaracterize them in our minds,” said Lori Gruen, an associate professor of philosophy at Wesleyan University. “There’s something very comforting about that.”

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On Route 66

Above: Ikey, a very sweet Sheltie, calls Funks Grove home.

When dad was flying back to Chicago from Palm Beach not only did he save all the chicken on his salad for Rufus, he also read about a place called Funks Grove in the American Way magazine:

Like a fine wine, maple syrup delights.

U.S. tapping seasons typically peak in March — making it a perfect time for visiting any of the country’s many sugarhouses, where sap collected from maple trees is transformed into utterly sweet (and always unique) maple syrup. For a pure taste of pleasure, try these:

Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup; Shirley, Ill. The Funks’ family-owned syrup-making enterprise dates back to the late 19th century. Today, their sugarhouse and store are a favorite stop among Route 66 buffs. Specialties include jugs of pure maple syrup, chocolate-covered maple truffles and rich maple cream.

So, sure enough, with the article in hand dad was soon getting his kicks on Route 66. You see, he learned that Funks Grove is one of the designated roadside attractions that dot Route 66, one of the original U.S. highways. Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926 -- with road signs erected the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles, covering a total of 2,448 miles

In the 1950s, Route 66 became the main highway for vacationers heading to Los Angeles. The road passed through the Painted Desert and near the Grand Canyon. Meteor Crater in Arizona was another popular stop. This sharp increase in tourism in turn gave rise to a burgeoning trade in all manner of roadside attractions, including teepee-shaped motels, frozen custard stands, Indian curio shops, and reptile farms. And, of course, the popularity of Funks Grove in Shirley, Illinois which was established long before the highway.

At Funks Grove dad met Ikey, a very affable Sheltie, and Kiko, a slightly deranged looking, but very sweet, Shih Tzu. Before leaving with two very large bottles of Maple Sirup (yes, that's how they spell it), dad learned from the owners of the small, very busy, very delicious smelling shop that many visitors on a nostalgic trip across America visit the Grove. They said that more often than not the cross -country travelers that stop in are visitors from Europe who are traveling the entire route.

As soon as he got home, dad was in the kitchen whipping up a batch of simple, but delicious pancakes. Mere vectors for maple syrup boiled down only hours before. You see it's maple syrup season. At Funk's Grove they collected the last sap for their "sirup" just the day before dad's visit.

BTW, we learned that actor Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, was just recently introduced to the charms of Maple Syrup.

“You will see me probably drink an obscene amount of maple syrup. I’ve never had maple syrup before about three weeks ago, and now I could freebase it. Pints of it.” - Daniel Radcliffe

Simply Delicious Suddie Cakes (serve with Funks Grove Maple Sirup)

1 cup flour
2 tblsp sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs beaten slightly
1.25 cups milk
3 tblsp melted butter

Mix ingredients together and cook cakes on a piping hot cast-iron skillet or griddle

Forget the Treadmill. Get a Dog.

UNLEASHED Among dog owners who went for regular walks, 60 percent met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise, a new study says.

If you’re looking for the latest in home exercise equipment, you may want to consider something with four legs and a wagging tail.

Several studies now show that dogs can be powerful motivators to get people moving. Not only are dog owners more likely to take regular walks, but new research shows that dog walkers are more active over all than people who don’t have dogs.

One study even found that older people are more likely to take regular walks if the walking companion is canine rather than human.

“You need to walk, and so does your dog,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, director of the human-animal interaction research center at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s good for both ends of the leash.”

Just last week, researchers from Michigan State University reported that among dog owners who took their pets for regular walks, 60 percent met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise. Nearly half of dog walkers exercised an average of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. By comparison, only about a third of those without dogs got that much regular exercise.

The researchers tracked the exercise habits of 5,900 people in Michigan, including 2,170 who owned dogs. They found that about two-thirds of dog owners took their pets for regular walks, defined as lasting at least 10 minutes.

Unlike other studies of dog ownership and walking, this one also tracked other forms of exercise, seeking to answer what the lead author, Mathew Reeves, called an obvious question: whether dog walking “adds significantly to the amount of exercise you do, or is it simply that it replaces exercise you would have done otherwise?”

The answers were encouraging, said Dr. Reeves, an associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan State. The dog walkers had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activity than the other subjects, and they were more likely to take part in other leisure-time physical activities like sports and gardening. On average, they exercised about 30 minutes a week more than people who didn’t have dogs.

Dr. Reeves, who owns two Labrador mixes named Cadbury and Bella, said he was not surprised.

“There is exercise that gets done in this household that wouldn’t get done otherwise,” he said. “Our dogs demand that you take them out at 10 o’clock at night, when it’s the last thing you feel like doing. They’re not going to leave you alone until they get their walk in.”

But owning a dog didn’t guarantee physical activity. Some owners in the study did not walk their dogs, and they posted far less overall exercise than dog walkers or people who didn’t have a dog.

Dog walking was highest among the young and educated, with 18-to-24-year-old owners twice as likely to walk the dog as those over 65, and college graduates more than twice as likely as those with less education. Younger dogs were more likely to be walked than older dogs; and larger dogs (45 pounds or more) were taken for longer walks than smaller dogs.

The researchers asked owners who didn’t walk their pets to explain why. About 40 percent said their dogs ran free in a yard, so they didn’t need walks; 11 percent hired dog walkers.

Nine percent said they didn’t have time to walk their dogs, while another 9 percent said their dogs were too ill behaved to take on a walk. Age of the dog or dog owner also had an effect: 9 percent said the dog was too old to go for walks, while 8 percent said the owner was too old.

“There is still a lot more dog walking that could be done among dog owners,” Dr. Reeves said.

And the question remains whether owning a dog encourages regular activity or whether active, healthy people are simply more likely to acquire dogs as walking companions.

A 2008 study in Western Australia addressed the question when it followed 773 adults who didn’t have dogs. After a year, 92 people, or 12 percent of the group, had acquired a dog. Getting a dog increased average walking by about 30 minutes a week, compared with those who didn’t own dogs.

But on closer analysis, the new dog owners had been laggards before getting a dog, walking about 24 percent less than other people without dogs.

The researchers found that one of the motivations for getting a dog was a desire to get more exercise. Before getting a dog, the new dog owners had clocked about 89 minutes of weekly walking, but dog ownership boosted that number to 130 minutes a week.

A study of 41,500 California residents also looked at walking among dog and cat owners as well as those who didn’t have pets. Dog owners were about 60 percent more likely to walk for leisure than people who owned a cat or no pet at all. That translated to an extra 19 minutes a week of walking compared with people without dogs.

A study last year from the University of Missouri showed that for getting exercise, dogs are better walking companions than humans. In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted-living home, some people selected a friend or spouse as a walking companion, while others took a bus daily to a local animal shelter, where they were assigned a dog to walk.

To the surprise of the researchers, the dog walkers showed a much greater improvement in fitness. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just 4 percent among the human walkers.

Dr. Johnson, the study’s lead author, said that human walkers often complained about the heat and talked each other out of exercise, but that people who were paired with dogs didn’t make those excuses.

“They help themselves by helping the dog,” said Dr. Johnson, co-author of the new book “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound,” to be published in May by Purdue University Press. “If we’re committed to a dog, it enables us to commit to physical activity ourselves.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Move Over Dalmatians

Rufus with his new friends from the Palm Beach Fire Department

I mean who says Tibetan Terriers can't have a little FIRE HOUSE FUN?

While Rufus was in town for the Palm Beach Dog Fanciers Show, he stopped by the Fire House for coffee with the boys. BTW, he took Best of Breed both days and a Group placement on Saturday. I hear he was the toast of Worth Avenue having lunch at Bice with his new friend Skipper, a very friendly Skye Terrier and having drinks at the Dog Bar. Yes, Palm Beach is a very friendly dog town (if you have the proper pedigree or credit rating).

It is the 1ooth anniversary of Palm Beach and dad and Rufus were in town for the festivities. From what I hear it was a very nice visit with gorgeous weather under pink skies and long walks to visit the stomping grounds of longtime friend Marjorie Merrieweather Post. Her homes, Hogarcito and Mar a Lago bring back so many fond memories of square dancing and teetotaling. Oh, early Palm Beach, those were the days. You probably know Hogarcito translates to Country Cottage, but, let me tell you, it is hardly a humble cottage. And Mar a Lago stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Worth. That's how it got its name which means From Sea to Lake.

On one of our walks, we met a very nice dog-loving lady from Lake Forest who asked us to join her table at Cafe Boulud. Turns out she lost $15 million to Bernie Madoff. "I believe in forgiveness," she said, "But I'd like to see him burn in hell. I hope he doesn't have an easy death. Isn't that terrible?"

Rufus waits in the Admiral's Club for his flight home