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Freed from trash can, an abandoned collie mix named Fawna finds some love

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A 9-month-old collie mix found last week in a garbage can in New Stanton, Pa., is now enjoying the things her former owner failed to provide — food, shelter and kindness among them.

She’s less frightened, spunkier and has gained 8 pounds since she was discovered by a garbage truck driver on his route on Oct. 30, with her head sticking out of a trash bag.

State police say the dog’s former owner, Nicole L. Baker, 50, of Hempfield, tortured the dog by withholding food for about six weeks before leaving the dog in the trash can on Oct. 27, when she moved to Texas to be with her boyfriend.

She has been charged with a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty and a summary count of disorderly conduct.

Police say text messages sent by Baker indicate her actions went beyond neglect.

“Yeah, I am a bad person,” Baker wrote in a text-message response to a relative’s inquiry about the dog, who she called Mia, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

fawna2“By reading through the messages and things of that nature, she had intentionally misled people that were offering to help when it came to taking care of Mia, the dog,” Trooper Stephen Limani said. “She acknowledged the fact that at some point in time, she realized what she was doing, she fully knew it was wrong, and still she put a dog, her dog, in a garbage can,”

Fawna was taken to the Humane Society of Westmoreland County and is now in foster care, TribLive.com reported.

“She’ll grab my hand with her mouth and play,” said veterinary technician Megan Fritz, who is fostering Fawna. “She’s finally starting to act like a dog.”

At first, Fawna was fed beef and rice every three to four hours, then graduated to lamb and rice dog food. She weighed 17 pounds when found, instead of a normal weight of about 50. She’s living with a Great Dane and three cats, and was recently taken on a shopping spree at Burton’s Total Pet in Greensburg, and went home with donated toys, sweaters and treats.

“She needs to feel safe and secure for a little while,” Fritz said. “I’m blown away by the amount of support and love that people are sending her way.”

Among those horrified by the dog’s condition was Baker’s daughter, Brittany Prinkey, who lives next door to the trailer where her mother lived before moving to Texas.

“I’m super upset with her. I just don’t understand how someone could do that,” Prinkey  said in an interview with WTAE.  ”I was so upset, I felt like I was going to throw up. I was so sick to my stomach about everything. I couldn’t believe it. That garbage can is right over there. I didn’t hear anything. No one heard anything. No one knew. It’s disgusting.”

Prinkey said she seldom sees her mother, and that the dog was healthy when she last saw her in July.

Prinkey said she has been subjected to harassment and threats since the dog was found. ”People have been throwing stuff at my house, at my car, threatening me, telling me I should die. I should be put in a trash bag and left to suffocate without food and water,” she said.

Humane Society officials said it will probably be two months before Fawna becomes eligible for adoption.

Donations to Fawna’s care can be mailed to the Westmoreland Humane Society: PO Box 1552, Greensburg, PA 15601.

(Photos: At top, State Trooper Steve Limani comforts Fawna at the Humane Society of Westmoreland County in Greensburg, by Steph Chambers /  Trib Total Media; lower photo from Humane Society of Westmoreland County)

Haute dog! Company that caters to teens introduces line of canine couture

americanbeagleAmerican Eagle Outfitters Inc. (AEO), a clothing retailer that has always taken aim  at human teens, is trying to dig up some new business.

Amid declining clothing sales to human customers, it’s turning to dog clothes, and releasing a new line of canine couture today called American Beagle Outfitters, Bloomberg reports.

No joke.

But it did start out that way.

The American Beagle assortment began as an April Fool’s Day joke to raise money for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

But there was so much interest, the retailer decided to release a real line of canine clothing, including knit sweaters, puffer jackets and hats for dogs that match its holiday collection for people.

“Just in time for the holidays, you’ll be able to dress just like your best friend — man’s best friend that is,” Preston Konrad, style director at Pittsburgh-based American Eagle, said in a statement. “This fun collection reflects the iconic elements of the American Eagle Outfitters brand reimagined for our favorite furry friends.”

Like its peers in the teen-clothing business, American Eagle has seen slow sales — a phenomenon dog products seem to avoid. As the Bloomberg article points out, Americans were expected to fork over a whopping $350 million for pet costumes this Halloween.

And that’s in addition to normal everyday sales of doggie garb, now being pitched by everyone from Martha Stewart to Brett Michaels.

With winter and Christmas on the way, pitching puffer jackets to pooch owners makes sense, at least from a business perspective.

Items in the limited-edition doggie collection will be available online and in select American Eagle stores, with prices ranging from  $12.95 to $39.95.

(Photos: American Eagle Outfitters)

An artful remembrance of Soviet space dogs

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Landing on the moon may have been a giant step for mankind, but, before man deemed it safe enough to venture into outer space, four-legged creatures paved the way.

spacedogs1The first earth creature to reach outer space was a Soviet dog named Laika, who died during the 1957 Sputnik 2 mission.

And, while the race to space heated up, with the U.S. opting to use mice and monkeys to test the effects of zero gravity, dogs continued to be the hand-picked pioneers of choice for the Soviets.

They  – Mishka, Belka, Strelka and more — were literally picked off the streets of Moscow as strays, trained and sent into space both before and after 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.

The contribution of those dogs — both to the Soviet space program and, through that, to Soviet popular culture — is artfully depicted in  ”Soviet Space Dogs,” a new book by  Olesya Turkina, a research fellow at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

spacedogs“The Soviet public couldn’t get enough of photographs of their beloved dogs, in rockets, oxygen masks and space helmets,” a New York Times review of the book notes. “But even in that citadel of communism, quick-buck artists made money off Laika, Belka and Strelka, putting the dogs’ heroic images on anything that couldn’t move, including candy bars, postcards, stamps, pins and the inevitable commemorative plates.”

As the author of the book writes, “These dogs are the characters in a fairy tale that was created in the U.S.S.R.: They are the martyrs and saints of communism.” (You can sample the book here.)

Laika, who led the way, didn’t survive her space mission, dying from the heat. Other cosmonaut dogs died as well, and most of those who lived spent the rest of their lives in laboratories, suffering ill effects from space travel.

“The lucky ones lived out their days in the laboratory, where devoted attendants would chew bits of (hard-to-find) sausage before feeding it to the dogs who had lost their teeth in the battle to colonize space,” Turkina writes.

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But they’d become revered in Soviet society, and served as symbols of patriotic sacrifice.

After Belka and Strelka returned alive from a day in orbit in 1960, they joined Laika as celebrities, appearing on radio and television. Their portraits were featured in newspapers, on stamps and in magazines, Turkina writes. One could smoke Laika cigarettes, or buy a Belka and Strelka storybook for their children.

“Soviet Space Dogs, while full of images, is a book for all ages — fascinating for its insights into early space travel, but also for what it says about popular culture and patriotism, and the mutts who, through no choice of their own, were catapulted first into space, then into lasting fame.

(Photos from “Soviet Space Dogs”)

A drug to make your dog live longer?

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Two University of Washington scientists think it might be possible to slow the aging process in canines and are launching a pilot study with 30 dogs to see if the drug rapamycin significantly extends their lifespans.

The researchers, using $200,000 in seed money from the University of Washington, plan to use pets, not laboratory animals, for the initial study, and recruit volunteer dogs — or at least dogs whose owners volunteer them — for larger scale studies in the future.

Daniel Promislow, an evolutionary geneticist, and Matthew Kaeberlein, a molecular biologist, say the study is aimed at determining whether rapamycin could lead to longer lives for dogs — as studies have shown is the case when it’s used on yeast, fruit flies, worms and mice.

“We’re not talking about doubling the healthy life spans of pets,” said Kaeberlein. “But at a minimum I would predict that you would get a 10 to 15 percent increase in average life span, and I think bigger effects are possible.”

In the pilot study, 30 large, middle-aged dogs will be involved — half receiving low doses of rapamycin, half receiving placebos.

The researchers say that subsequent studies will seek to enroll pet dogs from across the country.

Kaeberlein and Promislow hosted a meeting in Seattle last week where experts from across the country discussed the drug rapamycin and its possible effects on the health and longevity of dogs, the Seattle Times reported.

Currently used along with other medications to prevent rejection in organ-transplant patients, rapamycin has been called a promising anti-aging drug — though there have been no studies involving humans.

But almost 50 laboratory studies have shown that the compound can delay the onset of some diseases and degenerative processes and restore vigor to elderly animals, extending life spans by 9 to 40 percent.

Rapamycin functions, in part, by inactivating a protein that promotes cell growth. As a result, cells grow more slowly, which retards the spread of cancer.

Promislow, who has two elderly dogs of his own, noted that even if the drug doesn’t increase the life span of dogs, it could serve to keep them healthy longer. “We’re trying to understand why some dogs age better than others, and help all dogs age in a better way,” he said.

The drug has been shown to have serious side effects, including poor wound healing and an increased risk of diabetes, when used at the high doses required for organ transplant patients.

But the low doses used in anti-aging research with mice and other lab animals cause few side effects.

There have been no large-scale human trials. Studying how the drug affects dogs — who suffer many of the same old-age ailments as their masters — makes it possible to explore the possible benefits of rapamycin both more quickly and at a lesser cost.

If it does turn out to be a sort of  fountain of youth — for dogs, humans, or both — the potential profits would be enormous.

“I think it’s worth a go, not just from what it can teach us about humans, but for the sake of the animals themselves,” said University of Alabama Biology Department Chairman Steven Austad, an expert in aging research who is not involved in the project. “It may not work in dogs, but if it did, boy, it’s going to be huge.”

According to the Seattle Times article, drug companies aren’t very interested in rapamycin because it’s no longer under patent.

But the researchers are hoping dog lovers, dog-food companies and some foundations might be willing to contribute to further research.

They’ve set up a website, dogagingproject.com,where people can donate and sign their dogs up to take part in the research.

“Given how I feel about my pets, I see this as a unique project where there’s a real potential for citizen science,” Kaeberlein said. “I think it would be great if pet owners who are really interested in improving the health of their animals would help fund this work.”

(Photos: UW scientists Matt Kaeberlein, with his dog Dobby, and Dan Promislow, with his dog Frisbee; by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Thailand’s new military government taking steps to crack down on dog meat trade

(Warning: The videos accompanying this article are graphic and disturbing)

Street dogs in Thailand can end up in stew, served as jerky, and even worn as golf gloves (made from the skin of their testicles), but those behind Thailand’s brutal dog trade could be finding it harder to conduct their business.

Thailand’s military government, which seized power from an elected government in May, is considering a law that would ban the dog meat trade, and it has intensified enforcement of laws that ban slaughtering and transporting dogs without a license, the New York Times reported yesterday.

The change comes partly as a result of changing attitudes, partly at the encouragement of animal rights activists, partly from increased scrutiny from news media inside and outside the country, and partly, the Times suggests, for political reasons.

The newly installed military government may see cracking down on the dog trade as a way to enhance its image internationally.

National police have intensified a crackdown begun two years ago on the dog trade, setting up sting operations in the forests where dogs are slaughtered and shipped, often to Vietnam and China, where dog eating is more prevalent.

While most of the dogs are strays, family pets often end up among the mix.

Police have stopped trucks carrying as many as 1,000 dogs bound for Laos, Vietnam and China, where, in addition to selling the meat, dog traders sell dog skin, which is used to make drum skins and gloves.

Inside the country, members of Watchdog Thailand recently met with senior military officers in the junta and urged them to pass an animal rights law that would outlaw killing dogs for meat.

Foreigners are playing an important role in trying to eradicate the dog meat trade, the Times article notes.

British celebrities like Ricky Gervais and Judi Dench were featured in a video posted on the Internet last month condemning it. And the animal welfare group Soi Dog receives much of its funding from the United States and Europe.

“It’s not about cultural difference or anything else,” said John Dalley, a co-founder of Soi Dog. “It’s a horrendously cruel business from start to finish. The dogs are crammed into cages, and it’s not unusual that live dogs are thrown into pots of boiling water.”

Cured Ebola victim and her dog reunite

Bentley and Nina are together again.

Dallas nurse Nina Pham reunited with her dog, Bentley, Saturday — after her successful treatment for Ebola and Bentley’s 21-day quarantine, during which the Cavalier King Charles spaniel repeatedly tested negative for the disease.

Pham was diagnosed with Ebola and hospitalized after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan — the first person to die of Ebola in the United States — at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

She was later transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where she was declared free of the virus and released on Oct. 24.

bentleyandninaBentley’s quarantine ended at 2 a.m. Saturday and he was in Pham’s arms by 8:30 a.m., according to the Dallas Morning News.

“I join everyone in Dallas in welcoming Nina and Bentley back to the community,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a news conference at Hensley Field in southwest Dallas.

Unlike in Spain, where the first dog of an Ebola patient was exterminated, officials in Dallas showed a more compassionate response — and, given there have been no reports of dogs and cats getting sick with the disease, a more reasonable one — deciding to hold the dog in seclusion and monitor him.

During Bentley’s 21-day confinement at the decommissioned naval air base, vets wearing full protective suits brought him food and water and collected feces, urine and blood samples for tests as a lab in Dallas.

“I’d like to take a moment to thank people from all around the world who have sent their best wishes and prayers to me and Mr. Bentley,” Pham, 26, said.

“After I was diagnosed with Ebola, I didn’t know what would happen to Bentley or if he would have the virus,” she said. “I was frightened that I could possibly not know what would happen to one of my best friends.”

Pham thanked the Dallas Animal Services staff, Texas A&M University and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and state and county health workers.

“Thank you again for helping taking care of Bentley over the last 21 days, caring for him as if he was your own and showing America that passion and love is abundant and alive,” she said.

“I feel like Bentley reentering my life is yet another reminder of hope and encouragement for me moving forward,” she added.

Bentley will turn two later this month.

(Photo: Andy Jacobsohn / Dallas Morning News)

The DNA results are in on Pig

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They say everything has a beginning, a middle and an end, but when it comes to an Alabama dog named Pig, she seems to have gotten short-changed on that middle part.

Between her sizable head and her rear end, there’s not much real estate, and as a result of her abbreviated torso, taking her out in public has always led to a lot of stares, and a lot of questions — chief among them, “What kind of dog is that?”

What accounts for Pig’s unusual appearance is called short spine syndrome, a birth defect that prevents the spine from fully forming and often makes everyday tasks — like running, jumping and eating — difficult.

Dogs with the disorder — though it can compress their organs and lead to health problems as they grow — generally can lead normal lives, and reach their full life expectancy.

They can also, as in Pig’s case, become international celebrities.

Pig developed a large following after appearing at this year’s Do Dah Day festival in Birmingham. She was featured in a story on AL.com, and her Facebook page, “Pig the Unusual Dog,” created in June, has more than 76,500 followers.

pig2Now, following up on just what it is that makes Pig Pig, AL.com reports that her owner, Kim Dillenbeck of Helena, has received the results of a DNA test she had conducted on the dog to determine what breeds are in her.

A Wisdom Panel test says Pig is a Boxer, Chow Chow, American Staffordshire Terrier mix.

Dillenbeck who has heard guesses ranging from her dog being half rabbit to half not there, was surprised by the results.

“Everybody thought Akita,” Dillenbeck said. “I was was thinking something like a smaller dog, but I was wide open … Pig has all these interesting traits, and there are so many breeds out there.”

Other breeds showing up in the test results as possibilities include Portuguese Water Dog, Alaskan Klee Kai, Scottish deerhound, Lakeland terrier and Maltese.

Pig weighs in at just 16 pounds, much less than one of her siblings, who doesn’t have the disorder and weighs just under 40 pounds.

Dillenbeck’s experience with Pig led her to form the nonprofit Pig’s Foundation to help raise funds for people and organizations rescuing animals. Another mission of the foundation is to raise awareness that animals who look unusual can still have a happy life.

“Pig is her own breed,” Dillenbeck said. “To me, she is just one in a million. As much as I can see her potential in all these breeds, she is still just Pig.”

(Photos: Mark Almond / AL.com)


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