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Bear dogs once roamed Texas, or, why it’s important to check that miscellany drawer


Every home has at least one — that drawer in which you place things that have no assigned place: rubber bands, soy sauce packets, take-out menus, the owner’s manual to that extinct VHS player you bought in the 1980s.

Such drawers become a crypt for things you mostly didn’t need to keep in the first place, but often there are some forgotten treasure mixed in with them.

The importance of revisiting the miscellany drawer from time to time is displayed in this story — about a researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago, new on the job, whose opening of a drawer of miscellaneous and not fully identified carnivore fossils led to the establishment of not just one new genus, but two and, in doing so, a better understanding of the evolution of dogs and other mammals.

“I had just started at the Field, and I was getting the lay of the land, exploring our collections,” Susumu Tomiya said. “In one room of type specimens, the fossils used as a standard to describe their species, I stumbled across something that looked unusual.

“There were beautiful jaws of a small carnivore, but the genus the specimen had been assigned to didn’t seem to fit some of the features on the teeth. It made me suspect that it belonged to a very different group of carnivores.”

That specimen, and a similar one Tomiya came across, had both been found 30 years ago in southwest Texas.

beardog-jawBoth had been labeled as belonging to a genus called Miacis, but Tomiya’s suspicions — based on the apparent sharpness of their teeth — turned out to be right.

The findings were revealed last week in a paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Tomiya and his coauthor used a computed tomography (CT) scanner to create 3D visualizations, and determined the specimens were those of amphicyonids, and the oldest known members of that family, which went extinct 2 million years ago.

Amphicyonids, commonly called bear dogs, are believed to be the ancestors of both bears and dogs.

“Ever since amphicyonids were given their common name, they have been overshadowed by the bear and dog families, which are more widespread, better known today, and less extinct! Our study provides a renewed sense of identity to a group that left their own mark during their 38-million-year history,” Tseng said.

Amphicyonids ranged from the size of a Chihuahua to the size of a brown bear.

They tended to get larger throughout their evolutionary history, which might have contributed to their extinction.

(At top, artist’s reconstruction of a 38 million year old amphicyonid, by Monika Jurik; lower photo, the jawbone of an amphicyonid; both provided by The Field Museum)

Hotel manager saves dog from elevator

A hotel manager in South Carolina saved a small dog from being hung by its leash after the dog’s owner failed to make sure his dog was aboard the elevator before the doors closed.

A security camera captured the incident — and Ben Duke, general manager at the Roadway Inn in Greenville, posted it on his Facebook page and YouTube, with this description:

“Dog wandered off elevator. I happened to walk out at the right time and save the dogs life.”

Duke said he was coming out of a storage area just as the elevator doors closed and saw a guest’s small dog being dragged by its leash as the elevator car went up.

“The doors closed, and I guess he didn’t realize that his dog had wandered off,” Duke told WYFF.

He managed to snap the leash just as the dog was pulled to the top of the elevator doors.

“I just grabbed it, and struggled with it, then I guess adrenaline set in or something, and I snapped the leash right above my hand,” Duke said.

He said the dog’s owner, who is a regular guest at the hotel, came back downstairs in tears and was grateful to find Boo Boo alive.

“I was just reacting and doing what I was supposed to do in that situation,” Duke said.

Duke said he was “blown away” when he watched what happen on the motel’s surveillance tape. He posted the video on his Facebook page, where it has been viewed more than 10,000 times and on YouTube, where it has been viewed close to 75,000 times.

Off the menu and into your hearts: 31 Korean farm dogs come to NC for adoption


(Second of two parts)

Their eyes said yes, their feet said no.

All four of the dogs at the Watauga Humane Society — each being held in individual quarantined kennels after their trip from Korea — initially reacted the same when I stepped inside.

They’d take one step forward, their bright eyes shining with what seemed to be excitement, anticipation or maybe curiosity; then they’d take three steps back.

It was understandable. They’d come from a farm in South Korea — one of more than 1,000 such farms there where dogs are raised as livestock and sold as meat, where they’re often mistreated and neglected and have little human contact.



In the weeks since they were rescued from a farm in Jongju, quarantined and, along with 27 others, shipped to the U.S., the four dogs have grown a little more sociable by the day.

Yet clearly, they were still torn between the fear they had learned from experience and that innate something — call it resilience, goodness of spirit, or that seemingly limitless and often unexplainable love for our species — that all dogs are born with.

With dogs, that innate something, given a chance, almost always wins out.

That has been the case with rescued fighting dogs, puppy mill dogs, and those raised as meat. They’re willing, despite whatever mistreatment they endured at our hands, to give our species a second chance.

We sometimes return the favor.

Since the beginning of 2015, Humane Society International has worked with Korean animal activists to remove 525 dogs from Korean dog farms and ship them to the U.S. and Canada to find new homes as pets.

The organization works to persuade dog farmers to forfeit their canine livestock and move on to new careers, often providing financial incentives for them to do so.

The latest shipment was a smaller one — 31 dogs from Jonju, and they’ve been distributed among five different North Carolina humane societies and shelters that serve as emergency placement partners for HSI and HSUS.



All four of the dogs who came to Watauga Humane Society were Jindos, a breed known for their loyalty that originated on the island of Jindo, off the southern coast of South Korea.

The breed has been designated by the Korean government as a national treasure.

Yet they — especially the white and yellow ones — are commonly seen in cages at outdoor meat markets, waiting to be sold, slaughtered and butchered.

At the farms, the dogs spend most of their lives in cages, treated like livestock, at best — and sometimes worse than that.

How does a dog raised in those conditions go on to be a family pet?

In small and hesitant steps, not overnight, and not without some work and patience.

But the proven fact is, they do.

That has been the case with the the four previous batches of farm dogs who have been rescued from Korea and gone on to find adoptive homes in the U.S. and Canada.

“I can give you hundreds of stories of wonderful adoptions that have taken place with them,” said Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for HSI.

The four Korean dogs that came to the Watauga Humane Society had been there three days when I visited. In the quarantine area, I walked into each of their kennels and took a seat on the floor.



One sat in the outside section of his kennel and — no matter how much I gently coaxed — would take more than a step or two inside.

Another trembled in the corner, venturing a little closer after 10 minutes passed, but only close enough for a quick sniff.

One came within a few feet of me and retreated, before lingering long enough to allow herself to be petted.

The fourth would come close, then fall back, finally coming close enough to sniff my hand, and allow it to pet him. He decided he liked it.



“Every day gets a little better,” said the HSI’s O’Meara. “You’ll hear from the shelters, ‘He gets closer, he sniffed me today.’ It’s a big deal for a dog that wouldn’t come within five feet, and now its coming up and licking your hands.

“Some take months but they do get there and when they do, they’re wonderful companion dogs,” she added.

The four are expected to get out of quarantine next week. Then they’ll be taken to Asheville to be spayed and neutered. Depending on how the dogs react to that, the Watauga Humane Society could start taking applications from people interested in adopting them the last week in October.

Details will be announced on their Facebook page.

At the Cashiers Highlands Humane Society, applications are already being taken for the 11 Korean dogs they took in, though the dogs won’t be able to be taken home until after Nov. 7 when they are spayed or neutered.

Other dogs that were rescued from the farm in Jonju — an illegal one because the farmer didn’t own the land he was using — are at Paws of Bryson City, Moore Humane Society in Carthage, and Outer Banks SPCA in Manteo

Laurie Vierheller, executive director of the Watauga Humane Society, said helping the dogs find a home is rewarding in itself, but the benefits to a shelter go beyond that.

Taking in the dogs strikes a chord with the dog-loving community members whose contributions keep local humane societies afloat. It brings traffic to a shelter, and often those who come to see the dogs rescued in a high-profile case end up going home with one, or adopting another resident of the shelter.

The HSI’s O’Meara says some shelters and humane societies avoid getting involved as emergency placement partners because they want to focus on finding homes for local dogs in need.

But those who do take part, she said, have noted “a spike in adoptions, for all dogs, when they receive these dogs…One shelter, within two weeks of the dogs arriving, every dog in facility was adopted out.”

“It highlights the work they do in their communities. These homeless animals come with an incredible story. That brings in traffic, and brings in people who would provide wonderful homes.”

(Part one of this series can be found here)

(Photos: Jindol, at top, and the other Korean farm dogs soon to be available for adoption at the Watauga Humane Society; by John Woestendiek)

A funny — and life-saving — thing happened on the way to the slaughterhouse

jindolThe four new arrivals at the Watauga Humane Society, a no-kill shelter nestled in the hills outside Boone, N.C., started adapting to their new lives not long after they were removed from a farm south of Seoul, Korea.

They continued to grow a little less timid and fearful of humans while they were quarantined in a sanctuary there, flown to the U.S., driven hundreds of miles to five different shelters and quarantined again.

Soon, they’ll be making the final step on the way to becoming pets, instead of meat.

twopartsThe four are among 31 dogs from Korea who arrived at no-kill shelters in North Carolina last week to be put up for adoption.

And those 31 are among 525 who have come to the U.S. and Canada since the beginning of last year, when Humane Society International added a new strategy to its campaign to bring an end to dog farms in Korea — closing them down one farm at a time.

Representatives of HSI, working with local animal activists in South Korea, have succeeded in shutting down five farms since then — usually by negotiating deals with the farmers and persuading them to pursue new, less brutal livelihoods.

One dog farm became a blueberry farm. Another switched from raising dogs to growing chili peppers. One dog farmer agreed to stop dog farming and, with help from HSI, started a water delivery business.

It’s only a small dent, given there are thousands of dog farms in South Korea, some with 1,000 dogs or more, all being raised to be sold for their meat.


They are commonly abused and neglected and spend their lives in crates before being sold to markets, where things get even crueler.

Farm dogs are sometimes boiled alive, sometimes beaten before slaughter under the belief that it makes their meat more flavorful. Their meat is sold to individuals and restaurants at open air markets, where you can pick a live one for butchering.

It’s all a perfectly legal tradition under laws in Korea, where a minority of the population still eats dogs, and many believe the meat offers health benefits, particularly in the summer months.

That minority is shrinking more as younger Koreans turn away from the practice, a fledgling animal welfare movement grows and the perception of dogs as family members becomes more widespread.

Perhaps, South Korea will, in time, outgrow the practice. Perhaps the Olympics coming to Seoul in 2018 — as it did in 1988 — will lead government officials, who did their best to hide it then, to take more meaningful steps.

Until then, animal activists — locally and globally — do what they can.

My first exposure to dog farms was seven years ago, when I went to South Korea to research a book I was writing on dog cloning. On the road to achieving that “feat,” researchers regularly bought and borrowed meat dogs from farms, using them for experiments, to help clone the first canine and to clone the dogs of pet-owning customers once the practice hit the marketplace.

I ended up at Moran Market — and quickly wished I hadn’t.

Images of what I saw then still pop up in my head, unasked. I’ll spare you the graphic details.


It is estimated that more than 2 million dogs are slaughtered for human consumption in South Korea each year.

Add in those consumed in China, Vietnam and other Asian countries, and as many as 30 million dogs a year are killed for their meat.

South Korea is the only country where the practice has been industrialized. The New York Times reported in May that government data show there are more than 17,000 dog farms.

The Humane Society program is an attempt to shine a light on the issue, while also giving at least a few of the dogs a chance. On top of that, it strives to show that farm dogs, stigmatized in Korea and often perceived as different from pet dogs, are one and the same.

In one of the largest agreements brokered so far, this past May, a dog farmer in Wonju turned over all 260 of the dogs he was raising — mostly on discarded scraps he collected from restaurants — in exchange for certain considerations.

The particulars of the deal weren’t announced, but HSI offers incentives to farmers — $2,000 to $60,000 depending on the number of dogs involved — who agree to forfeit their dogs and get out of the business.

That farmer, Gong In-young, told the New York Times that many of the dogs were just weeks away from being sent to the slaughterhouse.

Gong, in addition to his farm dogs, had a pet dog, too. Asked about the difference in the lives of his farm dogs and his own dog, a spitz named Snow White, he described it as “the difference between heaven and hell.”

The most recent batch of dogs transported to the U.S. by HSI was small by comparison.

The dogs lived on a small farm in Jeonju, about 120 miles south of Seoul. A Canadian organization, Free Korean Dogs, was tipped off about it by local activists and, upon further investigation, learned it was an illegal operation.

While dog farms are legal, this farmer and his dogs were squatters, occupying land that didn’t belong to him. Law enforcement authorities were contacted and ordered the farmer and the dogs off the land.

That left the farmer willing to negotiate, and he eventually agreed to turn all 30-plus dogs over to a sanctuary at the end of July.

HSI, working with Free Korean Dogs, then took steps to have them shipped to the U.S., making arrangements for them to be taken in and adopted out by no-kill shelters who participate in the Humane Society’s Emergency Placement Partners program.

Those who participate in the program accept dogs the Humane Society has rescued — from everything from puppy mills to natural disasters.

All 31 farm dogs, after their flight and a few days in Maryland, were brought to shelters in North Carolina.

In the parking lot of a shopping center in Cary, the dogs were turned over to volunteers from local humane societies and shelters in the state, the News & Observer reported.

Those shelters included Cashiers Highlands Humane Society, Paws of Bryson City, Moore Humane Society in Carthage, Outer Banks SPCA in Manteo, and the Watauga Humane Society in Boone.

I visited the four who went to Boone last week.

I wanted to take some photos. I wanted to see how anti-social and fearful of humans they might be, or if that resilience dogs are famous for was already becoming apparent.

I wanted to understand how hard it might be for them to shake the past. Many who have adopted them say they’ve gone on to make greats pets — as has been the case with many of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs, puppy mill dogs and other dogs who have seen and suffered from the worst in humans.

And in the back of my head, which is also where those images of meat market dogs linger, I was thinking I might like to have one.

(Tomorrow: Visiting four Jindos in Boone)

(Photos: From top to bottom, Jindol, one of the four Korean dogs now at the Watauga Humane Society, by John Woestendiek; caged dogs at a South Korean dog farm, by Jean Chung for The New York Times; dogs awaiting butchering at Moran Market in Seoul, by John Woestendiek)

A full-body leotard for shedding dogs


This is not a Halloween costume for your dog, though it could work for one.

And it’s not a full body version of the ThunderShirt, though it could work as that, too.

It’s not made for dogs with body issues, or to hide embarrassing skin conditions, or to keep them from delving nose first into regions of their body that are best left alone in polite company — though it could work for all those things, too.

harleyNo, this doggie leotard, sort of a combination between onesie and Snuggie, is called the Shed Defender, invented by a man who got tired of cleaning up hair shed by his dog, Harley.

According to the website for the Shed Defender, Tyson Walters was inspired to make it after he moved back home after studying at San Diego State University.

“I needed a solution to control Harley’s hair; it was everywhere,” he says on the website. “I had tumbleweeds of her hair on my hardwood floors. My car was close to ruined because of all the hair intertwined in the fabric. There was nothing I could do, just brush and brush and brush, and yet that still wasn’t enough.”

sheddefender2At first he had his mother start sewing a prototype. Then he turned to a professional seamstress.

The outcome, he says on the website, is a “flawless design that is not only effective, but also allows for a comfortable fit for the dog.”

It is made of a “lightweight, breathable, stretchy athletic mesh that does NOT make the dog hot.”

The Shed Defender is priced at $44.99 for a small, up to $59.99 for an XXL.

A video on the website shows how easily it can be put on a dog, and advises one to take special care when zipping it up, especially in the groin area.

“Once you take it off just shake it out or throw it in the dryer to remove the hair.”

The outfit leaves the dogs tail and rear exposed, and it can be partially unzipped when the dog goes out to pee.

They come in a choice of vibrant colors, and Walters is reported to be contemplating adding a line fashioned like sports team jerseys.

(Photos and video from Shed Defender website)

Dog reunited with his Syrian refugee family

A family who fled from Aleppo after a missile hit their home has been reunited with the dog they had to leave behind.

The reunion in Montreal, where the family now lives, came after a family member sent an email to SPCA International seeking help.

“I left Syria urgently with my mom and my brother, but we left our lovely dog, Fox, in Aleppo, Syria. We left him with our dad in a very dangerous area named Syrian El-Jadideh. Please help us bring our Fox [to Montreal]. Mom [is] always crying. She is extremely worried about Fox.”

In addition to the disabled father, an elderly grandmother and the dog remained in Syria when the mother and her two sons left the country, not long after a missile struck their home in 2015.

Fox was taken from Aleppo to Damascus and across the border to Lebanon by car, before being flown to Germany, and finally to Canada’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on Sept. 26, where his family was waiting for him.

“It was a great feeling seeing Fox again. He was in our thoughts for so long and it felt like something was missing,” said Gaby Andrawos, one of the sons. “It felt like a very important part of our lives was missing for a long time and we finally got him back.”

Dig this: Uncovered tooth shows Mesolithic man took road trips — and with dogs


Archaeologists say they have uncovered evidence that dogs weren’t just already domesticated by man 7,000 years ago, but they were taking road trips with him as well.

They say a dog’s tooth found one mile from Stonehenge is the earliest evidence of people traveling to the site of the prehistoric monument — even before its famous rock formation was constructed, believed to be 5,000 years ago.

An isotope analysis of the tooth’s enamel at Durham University showed the dog originally hailed from York, or at least had consumed water there. Bones found near the site suggest the dog feasted on salmon, trout, pike, wild pig and red deer.

toothThe dog most likely resembled a German shepherd, but with a more distinctly wolf-like appearance.

Researchers believe the dog made the 250-mile trip from York to Wiltshire 7,000 years ago with a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer.

Possibly, they say, he was taking it there to trade.

Archaeologist David Jacques, who leads the team digging at an encampment site called Blick Mead, said the findings show that dogs were domesticated by Mesolithic times, and that, contrary to popular thought, man was doing some long distance travel back then.

And it shows that what’s now the world’s most famous prehistoric monument was drawing people from afar even before whoever arranged those rocks arranged those rocks.

“The fact that a dog and a group of people were coming to the area from such a long distance away further underlines just how important the place was four millennia before the circle was built,” said Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham.

As the decade-long dig continues, The Guardian reported, evidence is accumulating that Stonehenge — as long as 7,000 years ago — was a gathering place.

“It makes us wonder if this place is a hub point, a really important place for the spread of ideas, new technologies and probably genes,” Jacques said.

Our guess? It was a flea market.