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Archive for September 1st, 2010

Roadside Encounters: Gus and Pete

Names: Gus and Pete

Breed: Bouvier des Flandres

Encountered: At a jazz concert in Baltimore’s Riverside Park over the weekend

Backstory: Gus and Pete are father and son and live with their owners in Dundalk. Sunday night, they made the trip to the city, where — despite the heat and their heavy coats — both seemed happy to sit in the shade and listen to some jazz.

(Roadside Encounters is a regular feature of “Dog’s Country,” the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)

Did absence make his heart grow fonder?

He didn’t bring her flowers, but when Ace met up again this week with his old friend Fanny, he did tolerate her — and to a far greater extent than ever before.

The behavior he once found so annoying that he would go upstairs to avoid her — where Fanny feared to tread — Ace seems to now find mostly endearing.

Fanny was a rescue dog, fostered by my ex-girlfriend, adopted by a family, then returned for being overly rambunctious, at which point the ex-girlfriend became her forever mom. If you ever want to pry them apart, I suggest dynamite and bulldozers, but I’m pretty sure not even that would work.

Highly spirited, we’ll call her — the dog, I mean —  and Ace, back then, would only put up with her in small doses. He’d be excited when she visited, and they’d romp for 15 minutes or so, at which point he would want a rest. Fanny is not familiar with that notion.

So she’d stay in his face, and follow him wherever he went, even into his crate, and bark at him when he wouldn’t play, and Ace would eventually head for the second floor.

This time around — the ex is putting me up for a few days in her sunflower surrounded home in Dundalk — he just keeps playing, and he has even added a bark to his repertoire, something he never did before. He’d make growly lion-like noises, but never would he bark.

Now he barks right back at her, sometimes instigates the play, and doesn’t seem to quickly tire of it — at least not yet. He hasn’t been seeking refuge on the second floor, but then again the second floor isn’t air conditioned.

I’m not sure if he’s just happy to see her again, or if he realizes he’s a house guest and therefore shouldn’t be selfish or surly. He is being both more playfully assertive and more tolerant, and I can only conclude that absence — as it visibly does with dogs, sometimes less visibly so with humans — did indeed make his heart grow fonder.

Funny thing, relationships.

Pit bulls may provide clues to brain disease

Scientists have discovered a gene mutation that causes a fatal neurodegenerative disease in American Staffordshire terriers, and they say the same gene may also be linked to a fatal brain disease in humans.

The discovery of the gene may lead to improved screening and diagnosis of the disease in dogs, and could be a first step in developing a cure for NCLs (neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses) in humans, Business Week reports.

NCLs are a family of diseases that lead to mental and motor deterioration and death.

Adult-onset NCL affects one of every 400 registered American Staffordshire terriers, according to research team member Dr. Natasha Olby, an associate professor of neurology at North Carolina State University.

Genetic analysis revealed the location of the specific gene and an entirely new mutation that has not been reported in people.

In humans, NCLs such as Batten disease mostly affect children, but there is an adult-onset form called Kufs’ disease that causes gradual death of brain neurons, resulting in vision loss, epilepsy, loss of coordination and dementia, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The findings mean that researchers can now conduct tests to determine if the same mutation is responsible for Kufs’ disease in humans.