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It’s getting harder to fetch this stick

quicksand

(Today’s post has nothing to do with dogs. This happens on rare occasion when I become so steamed about some non-dog issue that I must vent — today in the form of a fable.)

You are hiking down a remote jungle trail in some country where there is quicksand — that legendary kind of quicksand from which there is no escape — when you come across a woman who is hip deep and sinking slowly.

“Oh thank God,” she says when she sees you.

She looks familiar. You smile and ask her name.

“Heather Bresch,” she says.

It takes a moment to register. “Heather Bresch? The CEO of Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that makes the EpiPen?”

“Yes,” she says as she struggles against the quicksand and sinks a little deeper. “I’m vacationing in this country, and I left my luxury villa to take a little walk and this happened. I need help.”

“Clearly you do,” you say. “I’m happy to provide assistance.”

“If you could get that fallen tree limb over there and pass it to me, I think I could pull myself out,” she says, sinking up to the waist as she points.

You walk over and pick up one end of it. “This one?” you say.

“Yes,” she says. “Hurry please.”

You begin sliding the tree limb in her direction.

“This one is $10 million,” you say.

She laughs uncomfortably. “Please, hurry,” she says.

“I’m serious,” you say.

“That’s ridiculous,” she says. “It’s just a tree limb.”

epi“And the EpiPen is just a stick with, or so I’ve read, $1 worth of medicine in it — yet your company has raised the price of it to $300.”

“The EpiPen save lives,” she says.

“So might this stick, if used as directed,” you respond.

Up to her chest in quicksand, she promises to give you the money when she gets out, but you tell her you need it up front.

She struggles to dig into her pockets, causing her to sink up to her neck. As she pulls cash out of her pockets and flings it in your direction, she explains that the six-fold increase in the price of EpiPens was necessary.

“Mylan has spent millions on research and development of the product,” she says. “You can’t expect us to pay for all that ourselves.”

“Oh, so you invented Epinephrine?”

“Well, no, but we’ve spent a lot of money perfecting our sophisticated self-delivery system — in which you plunge a needle in your own leg and push down on the stopper, administering a pre-measured, life-saving dosage.”

“And if people just measured their own, and used an old fashioned syringe, what would be the actual cost?” you ask.

“Oh, maybe about $2.29, but that’s not the point. The point is much effort and significant expense went into creating that delivery system — things like shipping and handling and lobbying and designer white lab coats, all part of our noble effort to keep people from dying from allergic reactions to bee stings and such.”

She throws a final fistful of cash out of the quicksand. “There,” she says, “that’s $10 million. Now please slide that stick to me.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” you say. “The $10 million price was five minutes ago. It has gone up since then – to $20 million.”

“That’s more than I make in a year,” she protests.

bresch“Well, only 1 million more,” you point out. “The only thing that has climbed more quickly than the cost of EpiPens is your salary.”

“We are not talking about my salary,” she says. “Now, please, the stick. Anyone can hand someone a stick. It costs nothing.”

“Bear in mind,” you say, as the quicksand rises to her mouth, “you are not so much paying for the stick as you are paying for the delivery system. Just look at me as a monopoly providing a needed service. And the cool part is I just stumbled upon my monopoly. I didn’t need help from my senator-father, or to spend millions lobbying for it.”

You watch as the quicksand covers her nose, and then her eyes.

As the top of her head disappears, you plunge the stick into the muck. She grabs on and hauls herself out. Though coughing and exhausted, she manages a laugh, and you are pretty sure you hear her call you a “sucker.”

She crawls about picking up her money as you walk away — but not before noticing an anaconda is slithering up to her from behind, and an alligator is creeping towards her from the river, and a swarm of Zika-carrying mosquitoes is headed her way.

You are not worried about her. She is where she belongs:

With all the other predators.

Blind, deaf cocker spaniel rescued from well

wellA blind and deaf cocker spaniel who fell into a 40-foot-deep well in Maryland was rescued by firefighters and is reportedly doing fine.

The well had been left open by crews fixing a water line in a yard in Calvert County, and Sam stepped into it.

The 11-year-old dog fell about 40 feet before hitting water.

The home’s owner dropped a ladder down the well, allowing Sam to wedge himself between the side of the well and the ladder.

The Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department responded to the call Tuesday evening, setting set up a rope system to lower a rescuer, according to the Washington Post,

samcockerOther firefighters hoisted the rescuer up with the dog in his arms.

Sam, who firefighters estimated spent about 30 minutes in the well, was checked out by a veterinarian Wednesday.

“Very rarely do we get calls like this,” said Deputy Fire Chief Jason Sharpe.

He called Sam “very, very lucky … It could have been worse.”

(Photos: Prince Frederick County Volunteer Fire Department)

Forsyth Humane Society achieves a dream

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A dream decades in the making — one that is said to date back to the early 1900’s and a dog who rode a streetcar to deliver lunch to his owner — became a shiny new reality yesterday.

The Forsyth Humane Society opened its new shelter on Country Club Road in Winston-Salem — one with double the old shelter’s capacity, lots of space for dogs to romp and more than 10 times as much parking.

fhsopening 166Even so, the new parking lot was overflowing within an hour of the grand opening, and FHS reported on its Facebook page that 26 animals were adopted before the day ended — 21 dogs and six cats.

The landmark day began with a flag raising, and saw a non-stop stream of visitors — some there to adopt, some there to check out what, thanks to a $3.8 million fundraising drive, the humane society had turned a former seafood restaurant into.

For 75 years, the Forsyth Humane Society has acted as an advocate for unwanted and uncared for dogs and cats.

fhsopening 147

It owes its start to money left in a will by Lydia Schouler for the purposes of establishing a fund in the name of her husband, department store owner D.D. Schouler, that would help prevent cruelty to animals.

The Schoulers wanted to honor the memory of their dog, who would catch a streetcar every day to bring Mr. Schouler his lunch.

The facility is the third to house the Forsyth Humane Society, which first took up residence in an old house, then built and moved into a larger building on Miller Street in the 1980’s.

They soon found themselves cramped there, and about five years ago began looking at raising funds needed for a new shelter.

fhsopening 127“This has been a dream of the Forsyth Humane Society for decades,” Sarah Williamson, the center’s executive director, told the Winston-Salem Journal.

The new shelter has space for up to 100 animals. There’s a new, more accessible intake center, storage space for food donations and a gift shop named “Re-Tail,” that features Forsyth Humane Society labeled clothing.

It is named in honor of longtime donors Chris and Mike Morykwas, who helped fund the construction of the new building. The old building, after the family helped fund its expansion, was named in honor of their two bassett hounds, Franklin and Peabody Morykwas.

It’s intriguing how so many of the good things done for dogs can be traced back to dogs — and the inspiration they provide.

It is to me at least. That’s one of the reasons I’m teaming up with the Forsyth Humane Society, in a volunteer capacity, to serve as their historian and archivist.

As it steps into the future, I’m going to dig up what I can about its past.

You’re invited to help. Please contact me if you have any documents, memorabilia, scrapbook entries, photos, memories or reminiscences about its history — especially its early years, and that lunch-toting dog.

The email address is ohmidog@triad.rr.com.

A farewell to advertisers

advertising

If you notice ohmidog! has a slightly different look as of today, it’s because I’ve purged the site of advertising.

Except for a brief period when I first fired this website up, eight years ago, advertising has never brought in enough money to cover expenses.

That was the plan, but I never invested much effort in it. And what little effort I did put into it — much like my efforts at “search engine optimization” — was not an enjoyable use of time.

Life is too short to spend it wooing Google.

So, as of today, ohmidog! — while still planning to dazzle you daily, and remain your most trusted source of dog news — takes another step away from being a business, and another step closer to being a hobby.

That said, we are forever grateful to those advertisers that have been with us from the start and helped get us off the ground. We’re hoping the fact that we haven’t charged you for four years makes up for the abrupt break up.

I’ve come to the realization that I’m not a businessman; I’m more of a storyteller. And while the two can mix, I’m not good at mixing them.

Of course, I will still advertise myself (as any self-respecting blogger must) and tout from time to time the words I string together.

Those mentions — and who knows what else — will now move to the right side rail. (The ad for Bark magazine, as I sometimes write for them, falls under that category.)

All those shelters, humane societies, rescue organizations, animal advocates and doggy do-gooders that do what they do for something other than profit are now on the left side rail.

(There’s room for more. If your group would like its logo to appear there, write us at ohmidog@triad.rr.com.)

There is, of course no charge for that and, as promised long ago, there will continue to be no charge to read our daily posts, no registration required, no annoying pop-ups, no hidden links and no advertising disguised as editorial content.

If you’d like to donate to ohmidog’s continuing operation, I won’t stop you. But I won’t twist your arm, either, and I promise we won’t have a week-long fundraising drive — at least not yet.

You’re just the cutest little audience ever … Yes … Yes … Yes, you are!

A business professor at American University is using dogs to help students overcome their fear of public speaking and hone their oratorical skills.

Bonnie Auslander, the director of the Kogod Center for Business Communications, started the program on a trial basis last year, pairing anxiety-prone business school students with patient canine listeners.

The thinking behind it is similar to that of programs around the country in which much younger students read to dogs to gain confidence in their reading skills.

“Addressing a friendly and nonjudgmental canine can lower blood pressure, decrease stress and elevate mood — perfect for practicing your speech or team presentation,” says the program’s promotional material.

For now, evidence of the benefits is mostly anecdotal, reports the New York Times.

With therapy dogs arriving on campus regularly during finals, Auslander got the idea to use dogs as a practice audience and she recruited six dogs with calm personalities.

They included Teddy, a Jack Russell terrier, and Ellie, a Bernese mountain dog.

We think it’s a great idea — assuming the dogs are willing to put up with all those speeches. On top of gaining confidence, students can learn the importance of inflecting their voices and gesturing to hold audience attention — though treats are proving to work better than either of those.

Auslander joked about having “an audience cat program some day that will be for speakers who are overconfident and need to be taken down a peg. The cats will turn away and lick their paws.”

Although we feel a little sorry for them, we wish the best to those dogs taking part in the program. And having had our own issues with public speaking, we wish great success to those students taking part.

We’re confident they will get their MBA’s and become great orators — identifiable only by their tendency to throw Milk Bones to their audiences.

Naming your dog after an Olympic athlete

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The Olympics provide us regular folks with a lot of inspiration — whether it’s to chase a big dream, get off the couch and start exercising a little bit, or simply come up with a name for a new dog.

Meet Leah Smith, a pit bull mix at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society who has been named after the gold medal-winning swimmer from Mount Lebanon, Pa.

Leah Smith, the human, returned home this week with a gold medal for the women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay and a bronze medal for the 400-meter freestyle.

And one of the first things she did was meet Leah Smith, the dog.

leahsmithThe humane society posted these photos of the meeting — during which the dog got to try on the Olympian’s medals — on its Facebook page

KDKA in Pittsburgh reports that the one-year-old pit bull came to the humane society as a stray.

Given how often they have to name dogs, it’s not surprising that an animal shelter would turn to athletes, historical figures, or names in the headlines, for some fresh and innovative monikers.

I haven’t fully researched it — because I’m on the couch, watching the Olympics — but I’m sure that over the years plenty of dogs have been named after Olympic athletes.

There are bound to have been both canines and felines who went through life named Carl Lewis, Peggy Fleming, Greg Lougainis, Mary Lou Retton and Nadia Comaneci. There is bound to have been a spitz or two named Mark.

This year, the possibilities are pretty endless — given all the U.S. winners, and all those who captured our hearts without winning.

(On the other hand, you might want to hold off a few days on naming your dog Ryan Lochte.)

Still, there are plenty of good names available. It’s just a matter of picking the appropriate one.

Michael Phelps, or Katie Ledecky (or, if you prefer, Lickedy) would work for a water-loving dog, like a retriever or Newfoundland. Simone Biles would be a fitting name for a Jack Russell terrier or other acrobatic breed.

While it’s a lot of syllables, Dalilah Muhammad (gold medal winner for the 400 meter hurdles) might make a good name for an ultra-agile border collie; and what greyhound or whippet wouldn’t appreciate being called Usain Bolt?

Personally, my idols have more often come from the world of journalism — even though journalists, according to Donald Trump, are “the lowest form of life.”

I’m thinking of naming my next dog Morley, after Morley Safer. That would allow me to write a book called “Morley and Me.” I also have a name picked out for his sister: Leslie.

As for Leah, the pit bull mix, she goes up for adoption tomorrow.

(Photos: Western Pennsylvania Humane Society)

Which motivates more — food or praise?

kadypraise

A study at Emory University suggests that dogs aren’t strictly the food-obsessed beasts they’ve traditionally been seen as — and that many, maybe even most, prefer attention and praise over a chewy treat.

While only 13 dogs participated in the study, there were only two of them who — judging from their neural reactions — showed a distinct preference for food over praise.

The study, published in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, is one of the first to combine brain-imaging data with behavioral experiments to explore what kind of rewards canines prefer.

“We are trying to understand the basis of the dog-human bond and whether it’s mainly about food, or about the relationship itself,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory and lead author of the research.

“Out of the 13 dogs that completed the study, we found that most of them either preferred praise from their owners over food, or they appeared to like both equally. Only two of the dogs were real chowhounds, showing a strong preference for the food.”

Berns heads the Dog Project in Emory’s Department of Psychology. It was the first to train dogs to voluntarily enter a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and remain motionless during scanning, without restraint or sedation.

Their previous research using the technique identified the ventral caudate region of the canine brain as a reward center and showed that region responds more strongly to the scents of familiar humans than to the scents of other humans, or even to those of familiar dogs.

Phys.org reports that, in the new study, researchers trained the dogs to associate three different objects with different outcomes. A pink toy truck signaled a food reward; a blue toy knight signaled verbal praise from the owner; and a hairbrush signaled no reward, to serve as a control.

The dogs then were tested on the three objects while in an fMRI machine. Each dog underwent 32 trials for each of the three objects as their neural activity was recorded.

Four of the dogs showed a particularly strong activation for the stimulus that signaled praise from their owners. Nine of the dogs showed similar neural activation for both the praise stimulus and the food stimulus. And two of the dogs consistently showed more activation when shown the stimulus for food.

Berns says the findings run counter to the old view that dogs “just want food and their owners are simply the means to get it … Another, more current, view of their behavior is that dogs value human contact in and of itself.”

In another part of the study, dogs were put into a Y-shaped maze in which one path led to a bowl of food and the other path to the dog’s owner.

The dogs were repeatedly released into the room and allowed to choose one of the paths.

While most dogs alternated between the food and their owner, dogs who showed a greater response to praise in the first part of experiment chose to go to their owners 80 to 90 percent of the time.

Berns said the study “shows the importance of social reward and praise to dogs. It may be analogous to how we humans feel when someone praises us.”

ozziefood

(Photos: At top, Kady, a Lab-retriever mix in the study who preferred praise from her owner to food; at bottom, Ozzie, a shorthaired terrier mix who chose food over his owner’s praise / Emory University)