Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hunting and Dogs

Well-known novelist Thomas McGuane recently wrote a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal entitled A Novelist Takes Aim. For those of you who know Billy and Jill personally, you may be surprised to learn that the article is about the joys of hunting with your dog.

Yes, hunting with your dog. You read that correctly.

Now as some of you know, here at Happy Dog Land we have an ambivalent relationship with hunting, to say the least. On the one hand, you are unlikely to find Jill or Billy out in a duck blind (though Billy would look divine in this get-up). The idea of hurting another animal is difficult for either of us to fathom. That said, it is clear that hunting for food is at the root of the formative relationship between man and dog.

It has not gone unnoticed (even to Jill, the mostly-vegetarian) that a significant percentage of the dogs currently alive are the descendants of hunting dogs of one sort or another. Humans have hunted with their dogs for centuries, and many of the closest dog-human relationships (even today) are between hunters and their dogs. Dogs and people running around together outside is almost always a positive thing, after all. Moreover, people who hunt the food they eat (rather than just for sport) are also engaging in a far less cruel endeavor than the factory farms which fill our pantries. And there's no question that the dogs love doing what they were bred to do. So, as you can tell, we're torn.

That said, the joy described by McGuane at the experience of being outside with his dogs, hunting food for his table, is both powerful and genuine. Besides, you've just got to respect a guy that nicknames his two female Pointers "the Pointer Sisters."

So while you will not find either of us hunting for our next meal (though The Omnivore's Dilemma has almost convinced Jill's husband to take up hunting wild pigs), it is a worthwhile exercise to read about how dogs and humans still cooperate to create a meal -- whether you would eat it or not.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Go Hollywood and Make Fido A Star

Regardless of whether you feed your pooch Beggin' Strips, the product's new viral ad campaign is a blast. Upload two photos and make a hilarious video staring you and your pooch or your pooch and his four-legged pal. Here's the the video we made with Zeke and Arthur.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Food Safety Information

Do you leave Fido's food in his bowl until he's eaten it? Does the kibble sit around for a few days? Is this safe? Is it OK to give Fido your dinner leftovers that have been sitting on the table for a few hours?

Whether you're feeding your family or your pet, food safety is critical. Some food-safety rules seem obvious, but it's always good to have a refresher.

Read the FDA's pet food safety tips here and general food-safety tips here

For the FDA's current list of food recalls. Click here.

We suggest that you sign up for the FDA's email alerts for all food recalls. Sign up here.

Even though stilltasty.com doesn't specifically discuss pet food, it's worth a look. This website is written by a retired Canadian government food expert. Most of the food-safety rules discussed on the site also apply to what you put in your precious pet's bowl. For instance do you know whether it's OK to store unused canned food in the can? Here's the answer

If you suspect that your pet is sick or has eaten some tainted food, please call your vet or the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 IMMEDIATELY. Warning signs include: loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea or changes in water intake or urination.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month

The ASPCA is kicking off Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month beginning April 7th. The ASPCA is asking everyone to "go orange" to help protect animals by raising awareness about the proper way to care for animals and prevent cruelty.

Everyone can help out. People are organizing community events to raise money and awareness, such as parades and fun runs. Many buildings and landmarks around the country will be illuminated in orange lights too. Last year even Niagara Falls went orange! Here's the current list of buildings participating. If you don't see one nearby, start making some calls so your hometown can be a part of the action.

Whether you are 8 or 108, everyone can do his or her part to help animals. The ASPCA has a slew of ideas to get you started. Click here for suggestions. Kids can hold bake sales and sell orange cookies, adults can talk to lawmakers about protecting animals through legislation and we can all don an orange bow. Here are even more ways to help.

We'll be wearing orange in Happy Dog Land and hope you will too!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nominate a Kind Kid for Be Kind to Animals Week

The American Humane Association has been celebrating Be Kind to Animals Week since 1915. The annual event "commemorate(s) the role animals play in our lives, promote(s) ways to continue to treat them humanely, and encourage(s) others, especially children, to do the same."

As part of the festivities, American Humane recognizes a kid and a teen who has demonstarted extraordinary kindness to animals. Last year, Jill's son Ian won for his work with Ian's Bead Company, which has raised $18,000 for Chicago animal shelters.

Find out how to nominate a kid or teen here. Nominations must be postmarked by April 15, 2009.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dogs of the 1850s...

Via Andrew Sullivan, we refer you to this amazing photo taken in the 1850s (of course, Jill notes, of a poodle!) that will shortly be auctioned off by Sotheby's. This daguerreotype is one of the oldest photographs of a dog ever discovered. What is remarkable about this photo is how similar this photo is to so many images we see today of our fine furry friends. In fact, if you walk into the home of many a proud pet owner, you will see photographs with that same tone, and dogs who might have been littermates of the fluffy pooch in the photo. However, we wonder if dogs of the 1850s wore little pink dresses and jean jackets like their modern counterparts.

Friday, March 20, 2009

National Poison Prevention Week

March 15-March 21 is National Poison Prevention Week.

The ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center should be your go-to source for information about pet poisons and hazards.  Sign up for email updates such as this one about a puppy that died after eating a Sago Palm, a common houseplant.

Many poisons are not obvious. Please take a few minutes and review these poison prevention tips. Knowing what to avoid and what to do if your pet is poisoned can save her life.

If you think that your dog (or cat) has ingested or contacted something poisonous, call your veterinarian immediately! Time is of the essence. The Animal Poison Control Center has staff available 24/7 to answer questions and give advice. Call 1-888-426-4435. A $60 fee applies.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More Before and After Shots from the Shelter

Sheri Berliner of Petraits Pet Photography is not only a talented photographer, she has a heart of gold too. Sheri regularly photographs adoptable dogs at Chicago Animal Care and Control and helps place many, many dogs, cats and other critters into loving homes. Sheri also photographed the cover of our book, the author shot and a smiley Golden Retriever who will be introducing a chapter.

Here are some of the before and after shots Sheri took of the dogs Billy and his crew groomed at Chicago Animal Care and Control last Sunday.

Shy Guy was shy because he was sooooo stinky and full of dead coat. Once he was bathed, brushed and pampered he was ready to find a home and he did that same day! Here is Shy Guy with his new mom and dad. We are certain Shy Guy's new family will make him a happy, confident dog so he won't be shy for much longer!

Tina was so sad because she was such a matted and scraggly mess. The poor girl was so uncomfortable! Tina loved the attention and pampering while she was made over. Once her matted coat came off and she was hand stripped, massaged and cuddled, we could finally see what a stunning girl she really is. And, she has personalty plus and loved to be handled and cuddled. We hope Tina finds her forever home soon-she deserves it!

Lucky Foxy got the full treatment from Billy: wash, brush, pedicure and hand-scissored haircut. Foxy's whole underbelly was covered in burs and mats--ouch. She loved being groomed and was especially fond of Sue who held her while Billy worked his magic. Foxy was adopted by the lovely couple pictured here with Billy. We know Doris and Michael are providing Foxy with a loving and happy home. It's certainly a match made in heaven!

Sam could hardly see through his mats. Billy and his crew worked hard on this sweet Bichon mix. After 5 hours of brushing, bathing and pampering, Sam was ready for his close up and a new home. He was all kisses and tail wagging while he was with us. We hope he ends up in a wonderful home with a family who will love and care for him. Psst--we know of a really good groomer to keep Sam's coat looking so fine.

This energetic guy was all wound up because he smelled and had never had proper grooming. Spartan had so much dirt and dead fur on him that he actually changed color while he was groomed! He loved being pampered and even calmed down in his crate after a nice long bath. This little guy looks so spiffy now that we know he'll find a home right away!

It's hard to tell from the photos, but Baker desperately needed a bath and nail trim, not to mention some TLC. His favorite part of grooming was the long massage he received from Jus. Baker fell right asleep when she rubbed his neck and shoulders! He was so sweet and charming that we know he'll find a wonderful forever home.

For information on adopting any of the dogs here (Other than Shy Guy and Foxy), please click here.

Now that you can see what a difference a bit of grooming makes in the life of a homeless or down on his luck pooch, we hope you will lend a hand. Many shelters and rescues would love to have volunteers come in and bathe, brush and pamper the animals.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shelter Dog Makeovers

Here are a few examples of the dogs Billy and his helpers groomed over the weekend at Chicago Animal Care and Control, which is the city pound. This shelter cares for Chicago's neediest animals.

At least 3 of dogs were adopted after their transformation. Some of the dogs needed only a bath, brushing and a nail trim and without smell-o-vision, it is hard to see the change, which was significant--many of the dogs clearly were enjoying their first bath ever and loved the pampering! (Click here to see more dogs available for adoption from CACC).

Sam is a Bishon mix. His coat was matted to the skin and we filled a garbage bag with the fur that came off of him. He must have lost 20 pounds! Sam was a trooper and sweet as can be even though his makeover took well over over 5 hours. Everyone in the room felt Sam relax as soon as the mats were shaved off and he was so proud to wear his beautiful new hairdo! What a difference grooming makes--not only physically, but emotionally.

This little guy (above) was so scruffy that everyone thought he was a girl. Once Billy started working on the pooch, he corrected the mistake and changed his name from Honey Bun to Harry B. Harry loved the personal attention and pranced out of the grooming area. He is in his new home today.

More photos to come soon!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why Groom: Before and After Photos

As part of our continuing effort to improve your dog's body, mind and spirit, we wanted to show you some real-life examples of how grooming can change a dog's life.

A few years ago, Jill was searching Petfinder to find a new dog to adopt. She came across this dog, a Miniature Poodle named Shadow, at Small Dog Adoption in Plantation, FL a small rescue run by a loving and dedicated couple Barbara and Bob Malina. Like any shelter/rescue dog, Shadow desperately needed a hair cut and some grooming TLC. As you can imagine, most shelters and rescues have little money to allocate to grooming, and instead rely on volunteers.

Luckily for Jill and Shadow, Billy had already taught her that all a shelter/rescue dog usually needs is one grooming session to bring out the true essence of that pooch. With this is mind, Jill fell in love and brought Shadow home, scraggly coat at all. (Shadow's foster mom had brushed him regularly so he had no mats, which is unusual for a rescued pooch). The photo on the top shows Shadow on his first day with Jill's family. After a day of pampering at Uncle Billy's salon, Shadow looked mah-velous. (See photo on the bottom).
In our book, Happy Dog: Caring for your Dog's Body Mind and Spirit (coming 9/1/09), we teach you how to groom and care for your pooch. Once you learn how, we are counting on our readers to visit local shelters and spiff up the dogs there too. After all, a dog that looks like a pet instead of a stray is more likely to be adopted.

Today, Billy along with his able-bodied assistant Jill, friend Sue Naiden, grooming students including Jus Erickson and some of the wonderful volunteers from Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control spent the afternoon at Chicago Animal Care and Control to groom the shelter's dogs. We hope we made the dogs feel better and more adoptable, since they'll be beautiful and smell nice. Sheri Berliner of Petraits, an extremely talented pet photographer and friend of the shelter, was on hand photographing the dogs, so we'll post many before and after pictures. Maybe you'll fall in love and adopt one of the dogs! At the very least, we hope you'll be inspired to spend some time helping dogs in need.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Cat

Dogs and cats don't always see eye to eye, but this cat story made us smile so we wanted to share. Watch the video too, it's heartwarming.

A couple in Washington bought a second-hand couch and discovered a stowaway cat inside. The cat's owner had donated the couch and had been frantically looking for his lost furry friend for 3 weeks. Although hungry and scared, the cat is back with his family.

We love happy endings here in Happy Dog Land -- even if they involve cats.

Friday, March 13, 2009

One very well trained pooch!

One of our Happy Dog Land readers sent us this link to a very well trained Australian Shepherd. We were relieved that the owner also taught his dog how to save energy by closing the fridge door.

If only we could teach Zeke or Shadow how to type....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rescue Story: Stray Makes His Mark on a Mountain

Todd Stuart's life changed when he heard about a stray dog hanging around his mom's neighborhood. Todd writes:

"I first met Buddy on a sun baked frontage road next to I-10 near Palm Springs, California. My mother Velora, lived in an old folks trailer park in a little town called Yucaipa. It was filled with old folks who couldn't afford Palm Springs or San Diego or Beverly Hills, but loved the weather none the less.

My mother's neighbor had parked her Suzuki Samurai out on the frontage road for sale, and when she noticed a beautiful dog hiding in the shade underneath it, she began to feed it.

The other old folks, who were in the habit of walking their little poodles past this little jeep for sale, were afraid that this 'big' dog would eat their little friends. They asked the managers of the trailer park to call the pound. The managers of the park were dog lovers themselves, and didn't want to call, but were increasingly pressured to do so.

One day, as I was leaving the park, I saw Woody the manager trying to coax this beautiful dog over to him with a beef stick. The dog was tempted, but resisted. I parked my little truck, and asked Woody what was up.

-Todd, can you take this dog? You've got a nice place up in the mountains, don't you? Could you give him a home?

-I do Woody. But I can't just be bringing home stray dogs to the Christian Camp for kids. There's a hundred and twenty new kids every week, and it takes a special dog to deal with that kind of attention. He's obviously a good dog, though...look at that face....

-I know, I hate to have the pound come, but the poodle owners are hassling me to do something.

-Well, I'm headed up to the Kern River right now, for a few days of kayaking, but maybe when I get back.

-Think about it would you? See, he's got a swollen right leg. I bet somebody dumped him on the freeway, not wanting to pay a vet to fix his leg. Happens here all the time.

-Well, I'm a nomad, and can't be hauling a dog around with me because half the time I'm on a bicycle anyway, and well, I do love dogs, and this looks like a good one, but what if it isn't good with little kids? My boss would kill me if I brought a stray dog home, and it bit a camper.
After a long weekend kayaking the wild whitewater of the Kern, I stopped by to say hi to my mom. Woody saw me and came over to talk.
-Hey Todd, I've had to call the pound, because I can't find a home for that dog, and they're on their way. Do you think you can take it?

-No, I haven't talked to my boss.

-My mom chimed in, slugging my arm, 'Yes he can take it!! You better take it!! You can't let that beautiful animal be killed just because you haven't talked to your boss yet. You've got a fenced yard. Just take him home and let his leg heal up while we try to find a real home for him. He's such a beautiful dog.'"
So, Todd's mom convinced him to give Buddy a chance. Todd recounts that he,"went out to where the dog was hiding, and opened the back of my little pickup. I sat on the pavement and called him. 'Hey Buddy...c'mere Buddy...I won't hurt ya...c'mon up in the mountains with me and heal up.'

The dog inched close and sniffed me. I think he could tell that I was a chef who lived in the mountains, and that he may never get an offer this good again. He hopped in the back of my truck, and we've been the best of friends ever since."

Everyone at the camp loved Buddy, especially all the kids, so Buddy found his forever home.

After Buddy's leg healed, Buddy and Todd moved to ski country in Utah. They live at 9800 feet elevation and Buddy can't get enough of the snow. A few years back, Todd was featured in the ski mobie PWO5 - Powderwhore 2005 and guess who co-stars? That's right Buddy! Buddy loves to ski with Todd, especially in the deep snow. Buddy follows along in Todd's ski tracks. Both Todd and Buddy live life to the fullest, together in the wilderness. Clearly, this pair was a match made in heaven.

Todd recently published his first book, Nobody Owes You Tomorrow, which tell the story of how truth, beauty and wilderness can heal the human soul. We're sure that Buddy is happy to be a part of the tale.

Please send us your rescue stories and we'll share them with everyone in Happy Dog Land. Your story may encourage others to save a life and in the process bring meaning into their own.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Top Dogs: Inspirational Canines

In the process of complementing ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons on his moving dog story One Final Toss For the Dooze this reader comment asks an amusing question for all of us to contemplate:
Q: Thanks for making me choke up at work with the column about your dog. I decided to move The Dooze immediately into my greatest dog rankings, just ahead of the dog from "Amityville Horror" that saved the dad from falling into the gate of hell. Powerful column. Thanks.
-- Andy, Decatur, Texas
SG: As much as the Simmons family misses her -- to the point that I joked we should get training wheels put on the Dooze's urn so we could walk the Dooze's ashes with Rufus, only my wife had a brief look on her face that said "Can we do that?"-- even my wife would admit The Dooze didn't top the "Amityville Horror" dog. I mean, we're talking about a black lab rescuing a master from the gates of hell here. The Dooze only would have toyed with the gates of hell if a tennis ball rolled near it. I still have the "Amityville Horror" dog ranked first, the Dooze second, Hooch third, Scooby-Doo fourth, Marley fifth, Cujo sixth (just because he came soooooooo close to mauling the annoying little kid from "Who's the Boss?"), Dino Flintstone seventh … and Paris Hilton's chihuahua last.
Jill is still so traumatized by her childhood viewing of The Amityville Horror that she can't even step inside a house shaped like a barn, let alone think about these particular doggy heroics. But for all of the canine craft displayed by that particular pooch, Bill is forgetting Lassie, Benji, and many other "Greatest Dog" candidates (and we won't even comment about the placement of Marley or Hooch on this list).

Here at Happy Dog Land, we have a soft spot for Astro (nee Tralfaz) from The Jetsons, but perhaps even better is Faith, a two-legged pooch who walks on her hind legs. Faith visits with and inspires soldiers who have lost limbs in battle. Read her incredibly moving and uplifting story here in the current issue of Modern Dog Magazine. Check out this site,which chronicles civilian and military canine heroes. If you want to read more, check out this book about the canine search and rescue teams that assisted during the 9/11 tragedy.

Dogs perform heroic deeds every day. Some deeds are small, like when your pooch nuzzles you after a rough day at work. Some feats are big, like when a K9 Search and Rescue Dog finds someone trapped in rubble. Regardless of the size of the deed, we owe our canine companions love, respect and kindness. And, oh yes, a piece of steak once in a while too.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rescue Stories: Who says you can't rescue a fancy dog?

If you want a specific type or breed of dog, if you look hard enough, often times you'll find one in need of a new home.

Petfinder is an excellent place to begin your search. This site is a clearinghouse for thousands of shelters, rescues and animal welfare organizations. The site is easy to navigate and allows you to search by breed, age, size, gender and location. Jill found Shadow, a purebred Miniature Poodle, on Petfinder. Morever, many shelters are teeming with purebred or designer dogs right now since so people are losing their homes. Breeders often have dogs that are retired show dogs (like Billy's dog Arthur) or returns and breed specific rescues abound. Veterinarians and dog businesses often have leads on dogs too.

Recently, a family in Michigan found this Golden Doodle up for adoption at RetroDoggy Rescue.

Top: Harley's first day with her new family. Bottom: Harley enjoying a receny snowy day.

Karen and Ted wanted to adopt a non-allergic dog after their German Shepherd died. During their search, Karen used Petfinder. One day, Karen came across a listing for a Golden Doodle at a Yorkshire Terrier rescue. The rescue specialized in helping small dogs removed from puppy mills and the Doodle ended up there as a fluke. He was bought from a breeder by a woman suffering from Bipolar Disease. The woman couldn't care for the Doodle, but the breeder wouldn't take him back. So, the Doodle found himself at the rescue. Karen and Ted saw him and it was love at first sight. Harley was 10 lbs and 8 weeks old when they brought him home. Karen and Ted are thrilled and Harley is too! Harley even has his own Facebook page! Karen reports, "I'm SO glad it worked out for us! Harley is a huge ray of sunshine :-)!"

When you're ready for a new pet, consider adopting rather than buying. There are so many wonderful animals who desperately need a home. You'll gain a new best friend and save a life.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Canine Car Safety: Dogs Don't Come with Automatic Restraints

Ann from Chicago writes: Yesterday, I was picking up some cat food at Petco. As I was getting into my car, a woman drove up with a small dog in her lap. Having been schooled in the "Jill Cahr school of Pet Confrontation," I asked her if she also drove with a baby in her lap?!! It really does amaze me how irresponsible people can be when taking their dog in a car. An air bag deploying would have killed that dog! Or, when you see someone having to stop suddenly and their dog flies across the car.

Ann, you bring up an extremely important point. Dogs should always be restrained while in the car. Holding Fido in your lap does not count.

You wear a seat belt and so should your furry friend. A loose dog in a moving vehicle is a danger to himself and to people inside and outside the car. The dog can distract the driver, block her vision or interfere with her ability to steer or use the pedals. An unrestrained dog may even randomly decide jump out an open window. 

In an accident, an unrestrained dog will be thrown around the car or through the windshield at life-threatening velocity. According to Bark Buckle Up, a national pet safety program, an unrestrained 60 pound dog in a car traveling at 30-35 mph will cause an impact of 2,700 pounds. The dog probably won’t survive and the driver and passengers can be harmed if they collide with the dog. If the dog survives, he’ll be injured and scared and, thus, more likely to bite rescue workers or interfere with their work. Moreover, Fido could escape from the wreck and be hit by another vehicle or cause another crash.

A variety of dog restraints are available and easily attach to your vehicle (and your dog). The size of your dog will determine the best style of restraint. Doggie car seats raise small dogs up so they can see outside while they are safely attached to the car’s seat belt. Harnesses that attach directly to the seat belt are more comfortable for medium and large dogs.  

Crates and pet carriers are fine as long as they’re well ventilated and firmly attached to the vehicle. Otherwise, the crate will become a dangerous projectile in a crash. Purchase a restraint specifically designed for this purpose rather than making your own. Built-in vehicle barriers are available from the factory on many cars. These gadgets form a cage-like structure in the back of the vehicle.  

Which ever restraint you choose, practice installing it in the vehicle and on your dog before you rev the engine. Never restrain Fido in the front seat. If the airbag deploys, the impact can kill him.

Here's to safe travels!