Category Archives: all about dogs

Watch This: Cause For Paws

photo credit - FOX CT

photo source – FOX CT

Happy Two-Days-Before-Thanksgiving, guys! I came across this post (from FOX CT) in the “dogs” tag on the Reader this morning, and I thought some of you would be interested. Or, more likely, you already knew about it. I must be shockingly out of touch, because I just heard about this today.

But in case any of you didn’t know, Fox (Network, not News) will be airing a benefit for rescue dogs called “Cause For Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular” on Thanksgiving night, from 8:00 – 10:00 Eastern time. You can read all about it here. I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch it live, but I’ll record it so I can watch it and cry later (there’s no way I won’t cry – nothing triggers my waterworks faster than dogs).

And if I don’t get a chance to say it on Thursday, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you and your pets have a good one!

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Read This: Inside of a Dog

book cover

Many dog owners tend to anthropomorphize their dogs – ascribe them human thoughts and feelings, often even treating them like furry little humans. Others do the opposite – attribute no human emotions to dogs, treating them as absolutely and unalterably animal, barely tamed from their wild instincts.

(For the record, I am one of the former.)

But this book, Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, strikes a good balance between the two views. It seeks to explain how dogs really see the world, based on their senses, their history, their morphology. But in doing so, Horowitz does not reduce the dog to its mere physiology and status as an animal so different from us. Humans are animals too, after all. Does this mean we do not also have thoughts and feelings?

Of course not.

No, what Horowitz does is give us a little insight into why dogs do the things they do: why they play, lick our faces, or disobey the commands they have obeyed 100 times. These insights are based in research and science, but they do nothing to lessen the bond between people and dogs. This is because Horowitz understands something that those who coldly dismiss dogs as wild animals do not; that there is something about dogs that is not going to be explained by a sterile science experiment. When you endeavor to understand the dog, you can’t always rely on hard data – there’s got to be a human element, too.

“We do no disservice to dogs by stepping away from the leash and considering them scientifically.”

My favorite parts, by far, were the accounts of the human-dog bond. The author respects this relationship, unlike some scientific examinations that claim “they only act like they love us because we feed them.” Not only does Horowitz understand that that is not true, she explains the bond between people and dogs in a way that is science done properly – science that does not reduce dogs to a set of needs, and adaptations to fulfill those needs.

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michga approves

For example, one of the aspects of this bond Horowitz discusses is the mutual gaze.

Dogs do something that is rare among animals: they use eye contact non-threateningly. In most other species, including wolves, prolonged eye contact is avoided, but not dogs! Horowitz explains that dogs not only make eye contact with us in a friendly manner, but that they also follow our gazes. She describes an experiment in which a treat was hidden under one of two buckets. There was a human who knew where the treat was, and this human would do any number of things to indicate its location. Unlike other animals who were also tested, dogs followed the human’s indication – even when that indication was a mere glance! Not even Chimpanzees, one of our closest relatives, performed so well.

Horowitz uses this to show how deep the human-dog bond flows, and how highly dogs regard their humans (they followed their human’s gazes to a bucket even when they had seen the treat being put under the other bucket).

“The fact that dogs will look us in the eyes allows us to treat them as a little more human.”

There are numerous other examples of this bond in the book. But the reason the gaze is my favorite is because, even more than the descriptions of our bond through touch, through greetings, through the dog licking our faces and hands, the example of the gaze articulated an aspect of my bond with Michga I could never before explain. When I look at her, I am not just seeing her; I am seeing her seeing me. That is why I loved this book.

That being said… while this and the (many, many) other aspects of dogs discussed in the book are very interesting, there is one small issue I had with it: it didn’t come to many conclusions. While there was a wealth of very detailed information, sometimes a section would end and I found myself thinking, “That’s it?” I felt like I was left hanging a bit.

How dogs communicate, for instance. I found myself interested in the section on how the dog’s inability to speak does not mean they do not communicate. Horowitz tells us that dogs communicate in so many other ways, such as with their tails, barks, and posture. I was a bit disappointed, then, when she failed to further explore the significance of these doggy communications. What impact does this have on their interaction with other species, like humans? Is their communicative ability a sign of advanced evolution? How can it be explained in the context of their evolution alongside humans? I also found myself wondering how their communication style differs from that of wolves.

To be fair, I suppose a lot of what Horowitz discusses is difficult or impossible to verify. I wish she would have explained a couple of the theories a bit more, though, even if she could not draw concrete conclusions from them.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book. Even though I did already know a lot of the information, it was presented in such a way that it did not feel like I was being taught something I had already learned. Instead, when Horowitz synthesizes the information into one book, she gives the reader a new, or renewed, sense of gratitude for everything that makes dogs who they are.

Finally, what you find at the end of the book is a better understanding – and appreciation, and compassion – of what the world might be like from inside your dog’s head.

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P.S. You can probably get this book lots of places, but I got mine on Amazon. If you’re interested.

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Three Dogs Who Saved Lives This Past Week

“Dogs aren’t our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”

Not only that; they save our lives…

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1… Like this dog, who alerted neighbors that his owner had taken a fall.

When his owner, a disabled veteran, suffered a fall that knocked him unconscious, his dog sprang into action. The brave dog, Chance, ran to alert the neighbors – while covered in his human’s blood. The humans Chance alerted were able to get his owner to the emergency room in time to save his life.

2… And this London dog, who alerted his family to a fire.

picture credit - London Fire

picture credit – London Fire

The smoke alarm didn’t do its job that night, but this pet (Moo) sure did. Nicknamed “Smokey” by firefighters, this brave little pooch woke his owners with enough time to call the fire department before the building was completely engulfed in flames.

Thanks to Moo and the fast-acting firefighters, everyone – including the people in the apartments above – got out okay.

3… And finally, the Staffordshire Terrier who saved his owner from a freezing river.

Philip Skirving was walking his dog, Corbin, on the path along the river when he tripped and fell in. The frigid water paralyzed his owner, but Corbin wasted no time and jumped in after him, dragging him by the shirt over to the bank.

“If he wasn’t there to help me, I would have drowned.”

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And this was only one week, guys; there are so many heroic dogs in the world. Personally, I think every dog is a hero. Maybe all of our dogs don’t pull us out of freezing rivers, but their loyalty and love save our lives every day.  A dog’s love is pure and unwavering. What other species would put our welfare about their own?

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

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Watch This: Cute Overload

OH. MY. GOD. Have you guys seen this? It’s a little pitbull pup who is very intent on sleeping.

Michga’s sister, Molly, used to be like this when she was a puppy.

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Watch This: Inside Animal Minds

Do you ever wonder why your dogs do some of the things they do? Why they roll around in the grass or how they can seem to sense when someone is about to come home?

Well, this documentary does not have the answers. But it’s got some interesting theories.

It’s called Inside Animal Minds; Dogs and Super Senses, and the basic premise is that to understand how animals think about and experience the world, we have to examine how they sense it. For instance, it posits the idea that perhaps dog can use their amazing sense of smell as a sort of clock. It’s not a fully formed theory or anything, and they admit that, but it’s a fun idea.

The documentary does not focus solely on dogs; it also talks about dolphins and their echolocation ability, sharks’ magnetic sense, and birds’ sight, all of which I also found pretty cool. And if that kind of stuff sounds interesting to you, I recommend the entire documentary.

But if you are only interested in the dog parts, the sense of smell is explored from the beginning until 12:26. And then it picks back up with talking about wolves, and some similarities and differences between wolves and dogs, at minute 32:52.

It’s really a very compelling and informative video, and if you like learning about dogs – their history, evolution, science, behavior – I highly recommend watching this!

Plus, it’s got some pretty cute footage.

dogcap

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STOP DRAGGING YOUR DOG

I can’t stand people who don’t treat their dogs right. I mean, who can, really? Unless you’re one of them.

“Them” includes people who leave their dogs tied up outside all day like a lawn ornament. And people who scream at their dog for every apparent wrong doing.

And especially people who drag their poor dog around on its leash.

The latter is a disturbingly common occurrence. I see it all the time; people who don’t have the patience or kindness to get their dog to move any other way besides yanking them by the collar around their neck.

Don’t get me wrong – I know there are times when you really don’t have any choice but to give the leash a little pull. Sometimes you just need to get your dog to move along from that blade of grass they’ve been sniffing for the last three minutes. Or, you know, keep them from chasing a squirrel into oncoming traffic.

But to drag your dog by the neck because you’re too lazy to train them is just wrong. And you usually find that the person is giving their dog about 3% of their total attention – because they’re too busy (talking or texting or taking an artistic picture of a fallen leaf on the ground) to pay attention to the living creature at the end of that rope.

The other day, I was walking Michga and we saw another woman with her dog coming at us from the opposite direction. I should make it clear that this was a small dog, barely bigger than Michga and posing absolutely no threat to her. It was a fluffy little thing; looked like a Maltese with a puppy cut.

When this other little dog saw Michga, it tried to bound forward as fast as it could, tail wagging. You could practically see the inner dialogue of “friend, friend, friend, friend” running through its mind.

This other woman, who was talking on her cell phone, suddenly yanked the leash back and stopped the dog so violently that it nearly fell backwards. I stopped walking, preparing to go back the other way lest I get this poor dog any more excited. But it kept trying to get forward. The lady continued to yank on the leash, the next time actually succeeding in tumbling her dog backwards.

I just wanted to scream at this woman.

What the hell, lady? Are you consciously abusing your dog?

Did you try to verbally call you dog back? No. Did you simply hold the leash still so your dog couldn’t advance further? No. Did you try picking your dog up? Walking the other way? Even just telling your dog ‘stop’? Nope. You just stood in the same spot, talking on you cell phone and ripping you dog back, either not caring or not considering that that’s a living thing you’re tearing around by the neck.

I’m not saying she shouldn’t have stopped her dog from running forward, but there are less harmful ways. If she must stop the leash, okay, but to yank it back so violently that her dog topples over – twice – is just cruel.

I just – I do not understand how someone could think this is an acceptable way to walk their dog. They act like it’s a doll or a puppet or a pet rock. I guess they either don’t think it can feel pain or they just plain don’t care.

michga is exasperated with this lady

michga is exasperated with this lady

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