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Archive for May 4th, 2009

Steiner show to discuss city’s leash law issue

Mark Steiner will dedicate an hour of his radio program tomorrow (Tuesday) to the controversy over Baltimore’s leash law, new fines and the lack — at least I hope he sees it as a lack — of dog parks in the city.

The Steiner Show airs from 5 to 7 p.m. on WEAA (88.9 on your radio dial).

Among those on hand to discuss the issue wll be Judith Kunst, a Hampden dog owner; a representative of the city Recreation and Parks Department; and City Councilman Bill Cole, sponsor of an amendment to reduce the newly imposed $1,000 off-leash fine and a proposal to allow parks to establish off leash hours. Also scheduled to appear is Rob Joyce, a local attorney who has offered to represent anyone cited under the new penalty.

To comment on the show, call 410-319-8888, or email questions to steinershow@gmail.com.

A City Council subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on revisions to the leash law May 12 at 9 a.m. in City Hall.

Steiner, a fixture at radio station WYPR for 15 years, started a show on WEAA, Morgan State University’s radio station, last summer.

Dog that won cloning contest passes away

Trakr, the German Shepherd search and rescue dog whose owner won an an essay contest to have him cloned, died last week at his home. He was 16.

Trakr was credited with hundreds of arrests and recovered more than one million dollars in stolen goods while serving the police department of Halifax, Nova Scotia. After the dog retired, his owner, and police department handler, James Symington, took TrakR to the World Trade Center after 9/11 to assist in search efforts.

There, according to Symington, Trakr, in addition to finding several casualties, found the last survivor in the rubble of 9/11 — Genelle Guzman.

Afterwards, Trakr was presented with the Extraordinary Service to Humanity Award by Dr. Jane Goodall, and was featured in books and magazines dedicated to 9/11 heroes including, “Dog World” and “In the Line of Duty.”

After his 9/11 work, Trakr collapsed from smoke and chemical inhalation, burns and exhaustion. Likely a result of this exposure, the press release announcing his death says, Trakr was disabled for the past two years.

Symington, whose trip to the World Trade Center was considered an unauthorized absence by his police department, left the department and moved to California afterwards to pursue an acting career. He took Trakr with him. Symington says the police department was considering a policy to euthanize retiring K9 dogs.

Commenting on Trakr’s life, Symington said, “I am honored to have been Trakr’s partner, best friend and lifelong companion. He possessed a rare combination of uncanny intuition, pure heart, and relentless courage and has been an inspiration to so many. He’ll live in my heart forever.”

In 2008, Trakr received international attention again when BioArts International named him the “World’s Most Cloneworthy Dog.” This honor enables Trakr’s DNA to be used to clone a puppy, which Symington, now head of entertainment talent management firm Prodigy Talent Group, plans to name Prodigy.

The press release makes no mention of the status of the cloning.

Symington is not paying for the cloning of Trakr; it was awarded to him for winning a BioArts essay contest last summer.

Symington and his wife, who live in Los Angeles, have been approached by various Hollywood executives and best-selling authors to turn Trakr’s story into a book and movie, according to the press release.

Karma and the angel in a paramedic’s uniform

Back in October, a registered nurse at a Memphis hospital handed a paramedic a folded-up note she had removed from the wallet of a patient whose identity she was trying to learn.

The patient had been hit by a car and was unconscious.

The note said: “I have two dogs that need to be taken care of. You will need animal control because one of the dogs is a Rottweiler. She is a good girl. Her name is Karma, six years old. The other dog’s name is Jasmine, 10 years old.”

The note also listed three contact names, and had a hand-drawn map showing how to get to his house. It concluded: “Thank you. Someone please take care of my babies.”

The patient’s name was Michael Short, a loner with no family in Memphis. His coma would last for weeks. And as it turned out, the note he scrawled on notebook paper and stuffed in his wallet couldn’t have landed in better hands.

Paramedic Pamey Hunter, 46, an animal lover, worked the nightshift at The Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

When her shift ended at 7 a.m., Hunter found Short’s home. She was greeted by Karma, the Rottweiler, who barked, snarled and lunged at the chain-link fence. Hunter left, returning a few minutes later with dog treats. At first she tossed them to Karma. Before too long, she had Karma eating out of her hand.

Then she ran out of treats and went to get some more food.

Karma greeted her with a wag of the nubby tail when she returned, let her in, and permitted her to go check on the other dog, Jasmine.

Hunter found the older dog in the hallway. She fed both dogs and promised to return that evening before she went to work.

And that’s exactly what she did — for two months.

She also  bought them dog beds, fresh hay for a doghouse and treats, took Jasmine to the vet for an ear infection, and gave her arthritis medicine every day. Hunter checked several times on Short, the 34-year-old man who spent weeks in a coma. It turned out to be his second major head injury, the first occuring when he was hit by a van at age 17. He couldn’t hear her, but Hunter assured him the dogs were being cared for.

When Short awoke from his coma, he asked about his dogs right away, and Hunter told him she’d bring them for a visit.

After Short went home, Hunter stayed in touch, and on Christmas, Short told her that Karma and Jasmine had been shopping and bought her a gift. She stopped by and Short handed her a small wrapped box. Inside was a necklace and a cross.

Hunter said she cared for Short’s dogs because didn’t want to call animal control. That’s what she told Cindy Wolff, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reporter who unearthed this story — the kind we don’t hear about nearly often enough.  

“I knew because of the note that these dogs were the most important things to this man,” Hunter explained. “These dogs were all he had in the world and he wasn’t going to lose them if I could help it.”

Only 1 in 6 distinguish dog from human food

The American Association of Wine Economists has reported that a blind taste test it conducted shows most people can’t distinguish a certain brand of high-end, canned organic dog food from human food.

So the good news is, should the recession force you to turn to dog food, it will be both palatable and good for you. The bad news is you probably won’t be able to afford it, either.

Researchers provided 18 volunteers five food samples to try in a blind taste test – all blended to the same pate-like consistency and topped with parsley: duck liver mousse, pork liver pate, liverwurst, spam and Newman’s Own-brand organic Canned Turkey & Chicken Formula (for Puppies/Active Dogs).

Only three testers were able to identify the canine food. Eight participants believed the liverwurst was the dog food, and four picked Spam as the culprit. Two people identified the pork liver pate as dog food, and one identified the duck liver mousse as dog food.

Given what’s gone on with dog food in recent years, the test results aren’t really that surprising. In the last few years, organic dog food made with human-grade free range meat and fresh vegetables has jumped in popularity, and some dog food companies have humans taste test them. There are lots of dog foods on the market that are probably better for you than some of the stuff on the human food shelves. Paul Newman himself took a big bite of his dog food on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2006 to demonstrate its wholesome goodness.

The far weirder part of this story is what the wine industry is doing running dog food tests.

“We have this idea in our head that dog food won’t taste good and that we would be able to identify it, but it turns out that is not the case,” said Robin Goldstein, a co-author of the study.

Goldstein said the tasting demonstrated that “context plays a huge role in taste and value judgment,” even though researchers warned the participants that one of the five foods they were going to taste was dog food.

Which is a fancy way of saying, with proper packaging and marketing, and if you charge way too much for it, a product will sell no matter how crappy it really is.

The authors of the report conclude that: “Although human beings do not enjoy eating dog food, they are also not able to distinguish its flavor profile from other meat-based products that are intended for human consumption.” Even though most couldn’t identify it, 72 percent of those in the study rated the dog food the worst-tasting of the five.

The study didn’t look at what wine goes best with dog food, but I would recommend a nice merlot with canned, and perhaps a sauvignon blanc with kibble.

Donor helps teen girl get her dog back

A teenager in Michigan got her dog, Blackie, back — thanks to an anonymous donor who footed her bill at the pound after reading of her plight.

Tia Schidler, 14, was swarmed with emails after TV station WNDU first aired the story of how she was unable to come up with the $200 she needed get her dog from the St. Joseph County Humane Society.

Humane Society officials weren’t all that thrilled with the happy ending, because it was the third time the dog had been picked up for running loose.

“I think everyone needs to understand this is rewarding bad behavior,” said Carol Ecker, humane society director. “If the dog continues to get loose it’s going to die.”

On Friday morning, Tia’s $200 bill — a  $100 pick-up fee, a $75 fine as a third offender, a $20 vaccination fee, and a $10 charge for food and care —  was paid in full by one of many people who offered to help the Michiana teen.

Tia’s mom was unable to help her with the bill because she’s disabled, the TV station reported in its first story.

Tia promised her rescuer that she wouldn’t let the dog run loose again, and said she was ecstatic to get her dog back. “Wow. That is like so amazing,” she said. “I didn’t think anyone would actually do that because of the way the economy is now.”