Your Dog Loves You (It’s a Scientific Fact)

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Did you hear?  It is a scientific fact that your dog loves you!

How can that be proven?  Before we get into that, let me refresh your memory on what oxytocin is.  Oxytocin is known as the love hormone….it is basically what makes you happy, relieves your stress, and causes you to care about other people.  It is also associated with nurturing and caring for your own children.  When you are being social, your oxytocin levels increase somewhere between 10%-50% depending on whether you are interacting with a stranger or your own son.

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Good to know the feeling is mutual!

I’m sure you (you dog lover, you!) will not be surprised to learn that when you are petting your believed pup (or kitty cat!) your oxytocin levels increase.  I don’t think you need an official laboratory study to know that you think of your pets as children…but the fact your body biologically reacts with that same oxytocin rush whether you and loving on your human child or your canine one scientifically proves it!   This is easily tested by taking a blood sample, playing with a dog, taking another blood sample…and then comparing the different levels of oxytocin in the two separate samples.  (Technology today!)

With me so far?  Ok – here is where it gets really cool.  Paul Zak wanted to see if the same thing happened in “cross-species animals”.  So he found this dog who had a goat for a friend. (Seriously, I would love to read an article just on that!)  Anyway….he did the same tests that he had done on humans – take blood samples, let the two friends play, and then take more blood.

The pooch had a 48% increase in oxytocin – scientifically proving that the goat and dog were indeed friends.  The goat had a 210% increase!  This scientifically proves that the goat was, in fact, in love with the dog!  I love it!

While this may not sound like a big deal – it TOTALLY is.  I personally am sick and tired of people telling me that dogs do not feel emotions like we do.  I don’t care what scientific jargon you spew at me – I will never believe this!  Maybe Buffy doesn’t feel “guilt” like I feel “guilt”….but I do not believe that she is incapable of complex feelings.  If scientists have used the presents of oxytocin in humans to explain things like love (it helps couples feel intimacy and encourages attachment), motherhood (it helps moms bond with new babies), and generosity (it helps us feel compassion and the need to help other people)…they cannot deny that the presences of this same molecule in our canine counterparts proves dogs (any domesticated animal, really)  have a deeper feelings when they look at us humans. 

So the next time you tell someone your dog loves you, and they give you some snarky comeback like “He loves that you feed him every night” or “Those treats that you give her…that’s what she REALLY loves”…you can condescendingly roll your eyes as you chuckle and explain that they must not have read the most recently scientific studies pertaining to oxytocin levels in cross-species interactions.

“My dog loves me.  It’s a scientific fact.”

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I don’t need a scientific study of molecules to tell me Amigo loves his dad!

 

Read Paul Zak’s article in The Atlantic here.  Read about another study involving dogs and oxytocin here.

 

Houston – 2nd Annual Rockets Dog Walk – Saturday April 5

The Dog Walk

Houstonians – looking for something to do this weekend?  Why don’t you head on down to Hermann Park with your pooch!

The Rockets are sponsoring a Dog Walk though the park to raise money for the Hermann Park Conservatory.  Funds raised will be used to set up a dog park…so it’s a great cause!  Just $30 will buy you admission to the walk (around the scenic McGovern Lake and the Jones Reflection Pool), a t-shirt for the humans, and bandana for the dogs, and a FREE TICKET to a Rockets game! So you are getting all this stuff – PLUS taking your pup to do something fun – PLUS the satisfaction that you helped make Houston a little more dog-friendly by helping raise money for a beautiful new dog park!

Details are on the picture below…or you can check out the official Dog Walk Brochure …or you can visit the official Rockets website here.

 

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Iditaroid Trail Sled Dog Race – The History, The Route, and Amazing Photos from this Year

Even the non-canine obsessed have dogs on their mind at this time of year, thanks to the Iditarod race currently taking place up in Alaska.  For an event that gets so much media coverage every single year…I’m surprised at how little people (myself included) actually know about this historical race.

The Iditarod Trail itself was used by native Alaskans hundreds of years before Russians even arrived in the 1880s.   Between the 1880s and 1920, mining KnikAlaskacamps, trading posts, and settlements popped up along the trail…due to the gold rush.  There was only one way to quickly (and relatively safely!) travel this land…and that was by dog sled.

In 1967 (the 100th anniversary of Alaska being purchased from Russia) Dorothy Page – the chairman of a committee formed to oversee historical events in Alaska – got the idea to organize a sled dog race along the Iditarod Trail.  After generating some excitement, she was able to hold short races in 1967 and 1969, but general interest soon fizzled.  A few Alaskans (including some mushers) struggled to keep the dream alive – both to save the sled dog culture and to preserve the Iditarod Trail itself.  They persevered, and in 1973 the first long distance Iditarod race was held.

Alaska_iditarod_routeWhile the race always starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome…the route used for the race actually changes depending on the year – a northern route (a whopping 1,112 miles) is run in even numbered years and an southern route (a just as daunting 1,131 miles) in odd numbered years.  There are currently 26 checkpoints on the northern route and 27 on the southern route.

Each team is made up of 12-16 dogs, at least 6 of which are required to be harnessed when crossing the finish line.  Microchips and collar tags are both used to keep track of racing dogs.  There are three mandatory rests that must be taken during the race – a 24 hour layover (which can be taken at any checkpoint) an 8 hour layover (which can be taken at any checkpoint on the Yukon River), and an 8 hour layover at White Mountain.  Injured or exhausted dogs (surely they all are exhausted by the end!) are carried to the next checkpoint – where they are cared for until picked up or flown the the finish line for transport home.  Just to give you an idea of how amazingly athletic these dogs are – an Alaskan husky running the Iditarod will burn about 5,000 calories a day.  Based on body/weight ratio, that is 3.5 times more than a human Tour de France cyclist.

Obviously, the athletic ability, incredible skill, and hours of practice that go into making these amazing human/dog sled teams could fill a book…so I don’t have time to expand on them here.  What is incredible to me…and I definitely think is worth mentioning…is that for all the race’s fame and media coverage it gets annually – the prize for the winner is $50,400 and a new 2013 Dodge Ram pick up.  That is for the biggest race in the sport!  (Compare that to the $1.5 million Jimmie Johnson earned for winning the Daytona 500.)  To put it in perspective – the prize money covers about half of a team’s dog food bill for the year.  Luckily, some teams are able to pull in a few major sponsors which can help cover the costs of kibble, clothing, and kennels.  In other words – these racers are not doing it for money, but for true love of the sport and the dogs who participate along side them.

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March 5, 2013 – team crossing the ice between the Rohn and Nikolai checkpoints

 

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March 5, 2013 – Angie Taggart tends to her dog, Carmack. (Easy to see the love there!)

 

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March 5, 2013 – Christine Roalofs arriving at the Rohn checkpoint

Stray Dogs of Taiwan – Who’s helping and what you can do

Our post Stray Dogs of Taiwan – Their Story Through Pictures quickly became one of the most popular stories on the blog this year!  While the story itself is heartbreaking, the response is heartwarming.  The tragic story of these dogs’ lives has been playing out for decades, but Tou Chih-kang has managed to bring it back to the forefront of animal rights news.  If a picture is worth a thousand words…his pictures are worth a thousand lives saved.

Unfortunately, we all know how the media works.  A story makes headlines.  Bloggers blog.  Tweeters tweet. People discuss….and two days later something else happens and we all forget about the headline-making story.

…so let’s try NOT to forget about these dogs (or any dogs living in shelters right now.)  It’s really hard, I know.  To put it succinctly – you have a life.  Every now and then, though, a just a few minutes/dollars of yours could really help.

***omitting rant about how we should all help animal shelters more here***

Right now…let’s focus on the shelters and organizations that are actively and directly working to make a difference to the dogs of Taiwan.  If you have money (ha!) give.  I think helping the cause can be as easy as “liking” rescue organizations on Facebook – social media has become a powerful tool.  With one click, you show that the organization has a strong following, you stay current with local/global news…and who knows?  Maybe your rich Facebook friend was looking for a legit tax write off.

As cheeseball as it sounds – you CAN make a difference.

So, now that I’ve got you all fired up…here are a few places to start:

(Countless shelters are working tirelessly to find homes for these abused pups from Taiwan.  Please let me know who I have left out and where to find information on them.  I will update this post as new groups are brought to my attention.) 

U.S. Shelters

Most rescue groups have tried/are trying to get dogs adopted locally in Taiwan. It’s not really working out.  As crazy as it seems, cross-ocean adoption programs are much more successful.

The Collared Scholar – Poway, CA – In an interview with Fox 5 news San Diego, The Collard Scholar president Megan Karnes says of the Taiwanese dogs – “To stay in our shelters would be like staying in the Hilton compared to where they are coming from.”

Golden Retriever Club of Golden Los Angeles Rescue – Los Angeles, CA – Found these guys through an article on the China Post Website.  Through the Golden Retriever Club’s own website I found the Project Taiwan blog.  Looking forward to reading future posts about happy endings and what they are doing to help the homeless pups abroad.

Hopeful Hearts Dog Rescue– Wilmington, DE – Focusing specifically on dogs from Taiwan, this rescue group (no shelter…all fosters)

Here is Jazz! Saved on the day he was to be put down, he’s had Ehrlichia and distemper…but now in the the care of Hopeful Hearts Dog Rescue he is healthy and HAPPY! (He’s still searching for his forever home!!)

uses Petfinder to get dogs placed in forever homes.

Salty Dog Rescue – Seattle, WA –  Their mission statement: “From dogs saved on the streets of Taiwan to local dogs in need, regardless of breed, our foster based non-profit organization cares passionately and will work endlessly to rescue, rehabilitate and responsibly match dogs with their forever families.” says it all.  They have a page on their website devoted to educating people on the stray dog problem in Taiwan.

Sweet Home Rescue – Los Angeles/Orange County, CA – A page with lots of (upsetting!) pictures and informative links to rescue websites, blogs, and articles.

Organizations

Animal Rescue Team TAIWAN – www.savedogs.org – Tirelessly working to save the dogs of Taiwan through cross-ocean adoption.  (Be sure to check out their Rescue Missions page…amazing detailed stories with pictures.)

Taichung PAWS – www.taichungpaws.org – A volunteer organization with an interesting website covering information, events, shelter programs, adoption profiles, and even information on government subsidies for spay/neutering dogs and cats.

Stray Dogs of Taiwan – Their Story Through Pictures

I must admit, before yesterday I hadn’t given much thought to the stray dog population of Taiwan.

Then I read an article about Tou Chih-kang.  Tou is a photographer who, for the past two years, has spent his days taking pictures of the stray dogs at Taoyuna Animal Shelter.  The pictures…portraits is a better way to describe them…are absolutely stunning.  (Please take the time to view them here.)  They are incredibly moving – even more so when you learn that each image was captured minutes before the subject was euthanized.

Ironically, Tou Chih-kang says he “doesn’t believe in having pets” (seriously, what does that even mean?!?), but he does realize that there is a huge problem with stray dogs in Taiwan.  The Taiwanese media is simply not paying enough attention to this problem, and Tou hopes to bring awareness…and hopefully eductation…to the general public.

I was captivated with this story – both Tou’s mission and the artistic, soulful way each dog was captured.  But how bad could the stray dog population in Taiwan really be?  Let me tell you, people, it is APPALLING.

So how did it get to be so bad?  In the 1980s, Taiwanese economy was booming.  Everyone had disposable income, and tons of people went out and bought themselves cute, purebred puppies.  Unfortunately, these people didn’t realize that tiny little pups grown into big hungry dogs.  With a government unprepared (or unwilling) to assist with unwanted pets…and a society that didn’t really believe in animal rights…dogs were driven to rural areas and dumped.  Thousands of dogs abandoned at relatively the same time – and as their population increased, they began to take of rural and urban areas alike.

Generally speaking, the Taiwanese weren’t too keen on dogs (I am not trying to be steriotypical…just trying to simplify.  I am sure there are many dog loving people in Taiwan!) and most believed that these stray dogs were mean, aggressive creatures that would attack for no reason.  The government assigned the task of rounding up these unwanted pooches to the Rubbish Collection Squad.  (Yes, garbage man…with no training or love for animals…were told to collect them however they could.)  The dogs were then taken to pounds – which were often just fenced in areas of garbage dumps.

Then…it gets really horrible.  I don’t want to go into detail, but lets just say they didn’t try to adopt them out or even humanly euthanize them.  If the dogs weren’t killed in torturous ways, they were left to die “natural” deaths.  (Meaning – they were left alone with no food or water.)  The stories I have read are horrifying.

With the help of the Animal Protection Law of 1998 and activists like Tou, things are a bit better for Taiwanese dogs.  Still, 900,000 dogs were sent to government pounds between 1998-2008.  (Doesn’t sound too bad…until you realize the human population of Taiwan is only 23 million.)  70 % of these pups will be euthanized after a mere 12 day waiting period.  

Through the power of art, Tou Chih-kang is trying to spread an important message.  Whether in the United States, Taiwan, or Timbuktu – a pet is a commitment for life, and we should all thing twice about how we treat all nonhuman animals with whom we share this planet.  

Military Working Dogs need your HELP!

I have such a respect for the men and women who serve in our country’s armed forces.  Not only can I not imagine what life is like once deployed to far away places – I CANNOT imagine making the sacrifice voluntarily.  They truly are heroes.

Military working dogs (MWD) serve their country as well…except they were never given a choice.  They undergo insane amounts of training, they get shipped off to foreign places, and they see things that most of us cannot even fathom.  Yet somehow the U.S. Department of Defense officially classifies them as “equipment.”  Yes, equipment.

If you are anything like me –  when reading that last sentence, your emotions took over.  You probably wondered how living animals could every be categorized with inanimate objects….how classifying these dogs (who risk their lives) as equipment trivialize their important role in our military.  While all this is true, we (we being those “crazy dog people”) have to think about this practically.  You do not transport dogs the same way as equipment is transported.  It costs more money to get a dog overseas than a pair of boots.  Legislation MUST be passed in our government to protect these dogs and make sure that – once they have loyally served our country – they can get back home easily and safely…and live out the rest of their days enjoying civilian life.

The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act will change MWD classification from “equipment” to “canine members of the armed forces.”  Federal funds will not be used to cover any additional costs this may incur.

As you can probably imagine, this is not at the top of most of our senator’s to-cosponsor list.  (A big shout out to Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut for sponsoring the legislation!) The ASPCA has made it super easy to show your senators you support U.S. S. 2134 – Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act.  Click here for quick and simple instructions.

Literally one minute of your time will vastly increase the quality of life for thousands of military dogs.

(If you needed another reason to email your senator…look at these pictures of military dogs in action.)

The Woof Report – Dogs in the News

As you all know by now, I’m a fan of the pit bull.  While most media tend to run stories that perpetuate the stereotype of aggression and ferocity in the breed, I was thrilled to find CNN publishing a story about heroic Lily.  Officer David Lanteigne rescued Lily to be a companion for his alcoholic mother.  When Lanteigne’s mom passed out on the tracks of an oncoming train, Lily not only struggled to push and pull her off the tracks….she actually threw herself between the woman and the oncoming train.  The woman was unhurt, but Lily lost one of her front legs playing the role of protector.  (Watch the clip and an interview with Officer Lanteigne here.)

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Seriously…how does any woman (or dog for that matter!) look so perfect in the middle of the woods on a camping trip?

The world just can’t get enough of Lupo!  As if you needed any more reason to love the Duchess of Cambridge, this week Kate took her adorable cocker spaniel puppy camping with a group of lucky scouts.  The Duchess let the scouts hold Lupo’s leash…but later let the pup run through the woods of Scotland untethered.  (Cuddling was also reported – as seen in the pic above!)

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The newly renamed Bronx (who is now around 2 years old.) Damn you, Tim Tebow, for giving us a reason to like you!

I definitely consider myself a bit of a pop culture buff.  My guilty pleasure is celebrity gossip…and when my two obsessions (dogs & celebs) combine, I find that I cannot get enough.  This week’s top dog story, though, had me cringing.  Tim Tebow (because this is a pet related blog, I will exclude the rant where I write my true Tim Tebow feelings) changed his Rhodesian Ridgeback pup’s name from Bronco to Bronx.  First of all…does this guy like the Bronx enough to name his dog after it?  (I’m assuming he’s never actually been to the Bronx.)  Second, what’s going to happen if (let’s be real…WHEN) he changes teams again?  I feel like poor Broc…I mean Bronx…is being used as a flimsy excuse to keep everyone talking about Tim Tebow (…and it worked.  That dog is super cute!)

Why does the Houston Chronicle want me to hate Pit Bulls?

I’m old enough to know by now not to believe everything I read.  I also know that all media is slightly bias in some way or another, but what I read in the Houston Chronicle a few weeks ago was simply ridiculous.  (I expect more from a newspaper!)  On the front page of the Sunday paper was an article:

Man’s best friend?  Beware

Another picture of the same "vicious" pit bull featured on the front page of the paper.

Below that was a picture of a pit bull (of course!) with his front paws resting on the bars of his crate.  I think he was suppose to look mean, but he actually just looked like there was an unfamiliar man in front of his cage (which there was!) holding a foreign object in his face (a camera!)

The first sentence of the article (in big print) read: 70% of 12,000 bites by animals here were unprovoked, with kids most often targeted.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!  So right there, I knew that this article was going to throw a bunch of random statistics at me that no one can back up.  I would like to know who decides which bites are “unprovoked.”  As we dog lovers know, 99% of the human population doesn’t know the first thing about what messages our body language is saying to members of the canine persuasion.

Yang Wang, what the heck were you thinking when you wrote this?!?  I’m thinking that she must have been traumatized by a dog when he was a child, because the article feels like it’s trying to create fear with little facts to back it up.  For instance: the 12,000 bites the article is referring to happened over the span of 5 years and all the statics cited are based not on any animal affiliated organization, but on “a Houston Chronicle analysis of data.”  And those bites include cats….and skunks….and beetles?  Wow, even monkeys.  Then why are there pictures of pit bulls throughout the article??  After explaining about the “dangerous dog” list that Houston has (and you BETTER be careful, because there are lots of pit bulls on that list!)…there are only 5 dogs in the entire Houston area that have been declared “dangerous”.

Oh, but wait….it gets better.

“Just Monday, a missing 4 year old boy was found dead….the prelimiary autopsy report indicated the cause of death was canine mauling.”  OH MY GOSH!  I’m thinking.  That is horrible!  Reading further into the paragraph, the child had been “left unsupervised” and “wandered away from his home” into a “FENCED-IN yard filled with pit bulls.”  Then the real hard-hitting reporting starts.  An animal control supervisor gives us some valuable information – “Kids should never be left alone with dogs.”  I thought kids were never supposed to be left alone, period.

If you cannot tell, this article really rubbed me the wrong way.  I feel like the media is trying to get everyone all worked up over something that is a non-issue.  I’m sorry, but if you go up and get up in any dogs face (be it cocker spaniel, a chihuahua, or a pit bull) you are asking to get bit.  I would also like to know how the Houston Chronicle can be so confident in the fact that the bites were “unprovoked” when apparently a majority of them happened to children who were left unattended.  Shame on the Chronicle and shame on Yang Wang.

There is a little humor in all of this, though.  The article was printed with some “Dog saftey tips.”  Would you like to hear some?  They will make you chuckle:

**DO NOT chase dogs
**DO NOT leave a child alone with a dog
**DO NOT challenge a stray dog
**DO NOT break up a fight with your hands

You can email Yang Wang at yang.wang@chron.com to let her know what you think about her bias story.

New Editions to Old Traditions (New breeds & how they get recognized by the AKC)

As a dog lover, you would have to be living under a rock to not know that Malachy, the Pekingese, took the coveted Best in Show title at this years Westminster Dog Show.  I must admit, I’m not the biggest Pekingese fan.  (In all fairness, though, I haven’t met too many of them!)

You have to love the tradition of the dog show!  This year was  the 136th Westminster Dog Show…which means it’s the second longest continuously held sporting event in America.  (The Kentucky Derby holds the top spot; it was first held in 1875.)  Way back in its first year, the Westminster Dog show drew 1200 entries.  (Now held at Madison Square Garden, 2500 dogs are able to participate. )

All pup participants must be registered with the American Kennel Club.  The AKC now recognizes an incredible 185 unique breeds.  How does a breed become recognized by the AKC?  That’s a very good question!

First of all – you have to prove people are interested in your new breed.  That means you must have a breed club with at least 100 members.  Then you have to prove that there are at least 300 dogs with a three generation pedigree in your shiny new breed.  THEN you have to prove that your new breed (and its fans) are spread over at least 20 states.  Once the AKC reviews all this info – along with the breed’s standards AND all the details about your breed’s club – you still aren’t even recognized!  Now your breed is allowed to compete in the Miscellaneous Class.

Dogs of new breeds usually complete in the Miscellaneous Class for one to three years.  After the first year, the AKC follows up with the breed club and makes sure they are still hosting events and adding new members.  Once the AKC is confident the long list of criteria has been met, the breed is presented to the Board of Directors to be officially recognized.

Xoloitzcuintli - We suspect they are behind the phrase "so ugly they're cute"!

This year, six new breeds made their debut at the Westminster Dog Show: the American English Coonhound, the Cesky Terrier, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, the Finnish Lapphund, the Norwegian Lundenund, and the Xoloitzcuintli.  Over the next week or so, we are going to be exploring these new (and strangely named!) breeds to find out what makes them different from the other 179 already established.  Stay tuned!