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Pastor finds she can retrieve more souls with her dog, Kirby, at her side

kirby

The Rev. Arlene M. Tully jokes that there are some similarities between her dog and members of her congregation.

“He sleeps through my sermons like everyone else,” the Methodist minister said.

But there is someone that Kirby — the golden-lab retriever mix who is almost always at her side — reminds her of even more:

“Kirby is a living, breathing metaphor for God’s love,” she told the Bangor Daily News. “The way he expresses love is as unconditional as God’s love. He instantly and fully embraces every person that he meets and that is a more accurate metaphor for God’s love than human love.”

Kirby the Ministry Dog attends services at First United Methodist Church in Bangor, Maine. He’s present for church dinners and other functions. He accompanies her on home visits, and trips to nursing homes and hospitals. And everywhere they go together, she notes, Kirby has a way of connecting with people, and getting them to open up.

“He’s a catalyst for those kinds of conversations,” said Tully,

The 2½ -year-old dog was trained as a service dog by Canine Companions for Independence at its campus in Medford, New York.

If Tully tells him to “visit,” Kirby will put his head in the lap of a person. If she says “lap,” he’ll gently place his paw on the leg of the person he’s visiting. When she say’s “push,” he’ll open an automatic door by pushing the button.

Tully, 57, became the church’s pastor in July. While she grew up a Roman Catholic, she left the church as a college student. She worked in restaurant management for 25 years before attending Andover Newton Theological Seminary in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.

Kirby, her second “ministry dog,” came to live with Tully in February while she was pastor of Pleasant Street United Methodist Church in Waterville, and he’s been helping her reach out to people ever since.

“Together, we have an instant bridge to people that I alone might not have otherwise,” she said.

(Photo: Ashley L. Conti / Bangor Daily News)

Susie named 2014′s “American Hero Dog”

susie

Susie, the abused North Carolina dog who inspired a law, a movie, and a nonprofit organization, has been named the American Humane Association’s 2014 American Hero Dog.

Susie, found with burns over most of her body in 2009, received a standing ovation at the AHA‘s black-tie awards gala Saturday night in Beverly Hills, where she was one of eight finalists competing for the prize.

“I’m just blown away,” Donna Lawrence told TODAY.com after learning her dog had won. “There were so many amazing dogs with great stories. When they called Susie, I just wanted to cry.”

In 2009, Susie was found with severe second and third-degree burns over most of her body in Greenfield Park in south Greensboro. Her ears were burned off and she had a broken jaw and teeth. She was taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter and eventually nursed back to health.

She was adopted by Donna and Roy Lawrence — just 10 months after Donna was attacked while trying to help a neglected pit bull that had spent much of its life tied to a tree in her neighbor’s yard in High Point, North Carolina.

When the man who was convicted of setting Susie on fire was sentenced to probation, outraged dog lovers launched a campaign for tougher penalties for animal cruelty and abuse.

“Susie’s Law,” which made animal cruelty a felony in North Carolina, went into effect in 2010, signed by then-governor Bev Perdue.

Donna Lawrence went on to establish Susie’s Hope, a nonprofit organization that fosters awareness of animal abuse. In 2013, the story was made into a movie, also called “Susie’s Hope.”

Susie is now a certified therapy dog and visits schools, hospitals and churches to bring messages of kindness, respect and responsibility to children and adults.

Other finalists in the Hero Dog Awards, included:

Bretagne, one of the last known surviving search dogs who worked at Ground Zero in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

Kai, an arson dog who has worked more than 200 fire investigations in San Antonio

JJ, a little dog with a powerful nose that can detect when his human, ther  a girl named KK Krawczyk, is about to have a life-threatening reaction due to a rare illness

Kota, a law-enforcement K9 who sustained multiple fractures while responding to a burglary in progress but who kept trying to help his police officer partner apprehend a suspect

Xena the Warrior Puppy, a dog rescued from extreme abuse who went on to help a little boy with autism in profound ways

Chaney, a military dog who served multiple tours sniffing out explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan

Xxon, a guide dog who helped an Air Force sergeant continue to serve active duty and regain independence after being blinded by explosives in Afghanistan.

The Hallmark Channel will air the awards show on Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. (Eastern Time).

(Photo: American Humane Association)

Dog dragger apologizes after being exposed

dragged

Photos of a dog being dragged by a car in China led to an online campaign to track the driver down, his identity being unveiled, and enough harassment to bring him to apologize for what he did.

The photos of the dragging, and some videos, were posted starting Saturday on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging site similar to Twitter, and quickly went viral.

An online manhunt — or what’s sometimes called a “human flesh search” — for the driver led to him being identified, likely through his license plate number.

His name, address and telephone number were shared on Sina Weibo, where there was also talk among users of visiting him and administering their own justice.

Before that could happen, the driver appeared on a Shantou Television news program on Monday admitting responsibility for the incident and apologizing.

He said the dog is a watchdog at his factory, and had bitten people. He wanted to get rid of the dog, but couldn’t kill it with his own hands, according to China Daily.

“I couldn’t see the dog in my rear-view mirror so I wasn’t aware that it was bleeding badly,” the man, identified only as Zheng, said in his public apology. “I apologize for my actions and hope Sina Weibo users would not to reveal or share any more of my personal information,” he said.

Witnesses said that after the dragging  Zheng untied the dog — bleeding and near death — and threw it into some bushes on the side of a busy road in Shantou, in China’s Guangdong province.

An animal rights group has organized a campaign to find the missing dog, a spokesperson for the group told BBC Trending. The driver claims the dog was still alive when left at the side of the road, but volunteers have been unable to find it.

(Photo from Sina Weibo)

Woof in Advertising: Friends are waiting

Budweiser’s new public service message encouraging responsible drinking lets a dog make the point:

“Next time you go out, be sure to make a plan to get home safely, because friends are waiting.”

Sure, they could have used a worried spouse, or a cute child, but somehow a dog drives the point home even better. Nobody waits for you like a dog does, and no one seems happier to see you come through the front door.

By using a dog, and making the ad’s ending happy, this public service message avoids becoming heavy-handed, sanctimonious, preachy and blatantly tear-jerking (unlike some of those PSA’s animal welfare organizations produce).

That, and being so on point, are what make it so effective.

In a decade of writing about dogs, and their people, I’ve had many people tell me how their dogs have changed their lives, and made their lives worth living. Some go so far to say their dog helped them move out of a criminal lifestyle or kept them from committing suicide. Dogs give us a reason to live, and a reason to live responsibly.

Dogs make us do the right thing.

Beer does the opposite.

WIAGiven alcohol is a factor in nearly a third of all traffic related deaths, there will be those who see some hypocrisy in a company simultaneously bombarding us with beer ads and telling us to drink responsibly.

Some accused the company of just that last week, when Anheuser-Busch, the official sponsor of the NFL season, issued its statement expressing concern about domestic abuse among NFL players, given alcohol and substance abuse play a role in nearly two out of three domestic violence cases, according to some studies.

“We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season,” Anheuser-Busch said in the statement — not directly threatening to end its $194 million relationship with the NFL, but, between the lines, raising that possibility. “We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and code.”

Both the domestic abuse statement and the responsible drinking PSA came out last week. The latter was posted on YouTube Friday.

Maybe Anheuser-Busch is becoming more socially conscious, or maybe it’s just buffing up its image.

Some may think Anheuser-Busch, both with its domestic violence statement and its responsible drinking PSA, is getting on a high horse it has no right to mount (Clydesdale, maybe?).

“How crazy is this?” Jon Stewart noted last week on The Daily Show. “A company that sells alcohol is the moral touchstone of the NFL.”

That’s one way to look at it:  A beer company shouldn’t try to set our moral compass — and has no right to do so.

One could also say — given the social problems its products tend to spawn and exacerbate —  that a beer company has every duty to take such actions, and produce such ads.

In any event, we’re glad they  made this one, and we hope to see it on television at least as often as we do the Clydesdales.

(Woof in Advertising is an occasional feature on ohmidog! that looks at how dogs are used in advertising. For more Woof in Advertising posts, click here.)

Getting the “F — k” off Felicity

A dog with the “F” word branded into her side isn’t too likely to get adopted — at least not by anyone who would make for a good doggie parent — so a Kentucky shelter took steps to obscure the profanity with cosmetic surgery.

The young female pit bull mix was found tied to a fence in August, and taken in by the Lexington Humane Society, which named her Felicity.

felicityThe four-letter word had been burned into her side, likely with a chemical paste or liquid that penetrated her hide, leaving her branded for life.

Cosmetic surgery was performed last week by a staff veterinarian to try to hide the four-letter word.

Lexington Humane Society officials say they have an adoptive home lined up for Felicity, but wanted to do surgery before releasing her.

Thanks to donations from the public, a $3,500 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the dog’s abuser or abusers, according to an Associated Press article.

Wouldn’t it be nice — felicitous, even — if there were a stiff mandatory sentence for disfiguring or mutilating dogs, say 15 years in prison, with no possibility of parole.

That might dissuade some from using dogs for graffiti.

If nothing else, it would forestall those who got caught and convicted from entering their likely future careers as serial murderers.

(Photo: Lexington Humane Society)

Please help my sick, dying, fat, abused dog

obiethen

It’s no secret that a sad dog story, properly promoted on social media, can bring in some pretty huge donations — for an animal shelter, a rescue organization, or an individual.

Whether your dog needs life-saving surgery, or even an intense diet regimen, you don’t have to be a nonprofit organization to ask the public for help — and you shouldn’t have to be.

But with the rise of social media, and online fundraising tools like GoFundMe, IndieGogo, and all those other I-would-like- some-of-your-money-please websites, there are likely more bucks than ever before being donated directly to individual dogs in need.

With all that unmonitored money pouring in, what ensures that it’s going to the rightful place — namely, helping the dog in question? What ensures any surplus won’t end up going to the dog owner’s kitchen remodel? What’s to guarantee that the sad dog story is even true in the first place?

In a word, nothing.

Just as the Internet has made us all published journalists, photographers and autobiographers, it has given us an easy route to becoming professional fund-raisers.

What gets lost in that transition is knowing who we can trust.

We can only cross our fingers and hope that those engaging in outright fraud get caught, that those soliciting funds to help a dog don’t get too greedy, and that money sent in by good-hearted people seeking to help a dog actually goes to helping a dog.

It’s a fuzzy area — legally and morally. What accounting, if any, does a private citizen raising money to help a dog owe those who contribute?

In Oregon, at least, the answer seems to be some, at least in the view of the state  Attorney General’s Office.

Since January, the office’s charitable activities section has been looking into how Nora Vanatta spent, and is spending, all the money sent in to help Obie — the 77-pound dachshund she adopted and whose weight loss program became a much-followed story.

obienowVanatta, a veterinary technician who lives in Portland, never purported to be affiliated with a nonprofit, but she did seek and accept thousands of dollars from people around the world who were inspired by Obie’s story.

Vanatta initially fostered Obie, after reading about him on the Facebook page of Oregon Dachshund Rescue.

After Obie’s story went viral, the rescue sought to get the dog back, and filed a lawsuit. The case was later settled, and Vanatta was awarded permanent custody. (Obie is down to 22 pounds.)

Meanwhile, money — Vanatta won’t say how much — continued to come in, $15,000 of which Vanatta says was spent on lawyers she hired to fight the custody battle. Some of it went to pay for $80 bags of specialty food Obie required, and a $1,500 skin-reduction surgery.

Since January, Vanatta has been answering questions from the Attorney General’s office, which began looking into the matter after receiving complaints about how she was spending the funds, and is now in the process of working out an agreement with her.

“They wanted everything – copies of every penny in, every penny out,” she told the Oregonian.

The Attorney General’s office won’t identify the source of the complaint, and it says no wrongdoing was found in how Vanatta has spent the funds so far. (Apparently, nobody in that office full of lawyers had any problem with all the money that went to lawyers.)

But the office does disagree with how she plans to spend the rest. (Obie’s PayPal account was closed last year.)

Vanatta says the office objects to her using the money to help individual  dogs with medical needs, which is maybe a little ironic given the money was raised to help an individual dog with medical needs. The Attorney General’s office frowned upon her giving $2,000 to a family she met at the Tualatin veterinary clinic where she works to help them pay for their dog’s back surgery. Instead, the office wants her to give the money away to established nonprofits, and wants to set a deadline.

The case raises lots of interesting questions, and some disturbing ones.

We’re all for the attorney general keeping an eye on such fundraising drives; slightly less for that office dictating what good causes should receive the remainder of the money, and when.

We agree with Vanatta’s reasoning on that: “I strongly believe you do not have to be a nonprofit to do good,” she said.

What bothers us most, though, next  to Obie’s previous owners letting him get so morbidly obese, is how much of the money donated has gone to lawyers — $15,000 on the custody case, another $11,800 for lawyers to represent Vanatta in the attorney general’s investigation.

Obie may be becoming a slimmer dog, thanks in part to donations from the public, but, as always, lawyers — gobbling up the bulk of the donations — just keep getting fatter.

Poop & Pooches: A magazine for dog haters

beleites

It began as a joke, and maybe sorta still is, but there’s now a real magazine in Germany devoted to dog haters.

Started by a frustrated freelance journalist who was bitten by a spitz as child, “Kot & Köter,” which translates to “Poop & Pooches” in English, has just produced its second issue.

It’s 48 pages long and include articles about how excessive and obsessive we humans can get when it comes to our dogs’ deaths, and their wardrobes; three poems devoted to the evils of dog poop; and a piece of fiction about a serial dog murderer.

“There are two types of people in Germany,”the magazine’s founder and editor, Wulf Beleites, tells the Wall Street Journal. “One type loves dogs. Another type doesn’t. These are my readers.”

As Beleites tells it, the idea started as a joke, way back in 1992, when he and three fellow journalists were sitting at a pub trying to think up absurd titles for magazines. As a joke, he trademarked the name “Kot & Köter,” and later a friend who publishes a newsletter of trademarked and copyrighted names available for purchase slipped the title into a listing.

A newspaper reporter spotted the unusual magazine title and published an article about it. After that, Beleites was interviewed on the radio and, in the ensuing 6 years, 18 more times by media outlets who didn’t realize his magazine didn’t exist. Beleites would go on air and talk about the downside of dogs — from barking and biting to smelling and shedding.

For some of the appearances, he was paid. At some of them, he was booed.

kotkoterThis year, Beleites — 67 and struggling to make a living as a freelance journalist — resuscitated the joke, only this time for real.

The new magazine is described as “satirical.” It pokes fun at how dog-crazy many of us become. But it’s a little mean and hateful as well.

The first issue came out in July, after Beleites launched an online fundraising campaign.

Poop & Pooches joins the ranks of at least a dozen magazines for dog lovers in Germany,  including Modern Dog, City Dog, Dog Avenue, Woof and SitzPlatzFuss, (which translates to SitStayHeel).

The first issue featured an article about Hitler and his dog; another looked at “slutty poodles.”

Beleites says he gets a lot of  hate mail, and angry phone calls, and he was chased out of a doggie boutique (by a human) when he stopped by in an effort to get it to sell his publication.

(Top photo: Associated Press)


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