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Who killed Evie: Dog dies while being trained in Ohio prison program


A rescue group’s German shepherd has died while participating in a prison program intended to bring out the best in both the dogs in need of adoption and the inmates who are caring for and training them.

Members of the dog rescue group Joseph’s Legacy said one of its dogs, Evie, died from blunt force trauma, while housed at the Warren Correctional Institution, a state prison in Ohio.

The program — similar to many operating successfully and without incidents across the country — was operated for years in partnership with 4Paws for Ability, whose primary mission is to train and provide service dogs to the disabled.

But in a comment sent to ohmidog!, officials of that organization say the have not been involved in the program at Warren Correctional for several years.

“4 Paws For Ability is not associated with WCI at all …. We pulled out of WCI a year ago due to a change in the prison inmate population. They simply have not removed us from their website. We are not involved in this incident in any way,” the comment )below) reads.

Joseph’s Legacy had been sending dogs for about a year to the program, which is one of more than 30 operated in conjunction with different nonprofits in the Ohio state prison system.

The rescue told WLWT none of their dogs will return after this incident.

Authorities are questioning the two inmates Evie shared a cell with.

Similar programs are up and running in at least 159 prisons in 36 states — most house the dogs they are working with in kennels, some let the dogs share cells with inmates. Most, like the one at Warren Correctional, require that inmates not have a violent past.

In a Facebook post, Joseph’s Legacy wrote:

“We have lost one of our own animals who we feel needs justice and her story told…

“These programs are meant to be great for the dogs and the inmates. These programs are supposed to be closely monitored by the prison staff. We were invited to join this program at Warren Correctional institution. Like most, we were excited to have our troubled dogs get their training and excited to help the program. Many dogs came, got trained and headed out to their forever homes…

“These programs are more risky than we had originally thought. Please use our Evie as an example to think twice if you are in a rescue considering these types of programs. We know it’s not everywhere but please keep Evie in mind.”

While questions about the two inmates working with the dog, and the prison’s supervision of the program, are mounting, it’s probably worthwhile to take a look also at what outside monitoring of the program took place — namely by the rescue organization which so willingly donated dogs to be trained and whatever outside organization, if any, was running it.

On the Ohio prison system’s website, 4Paws is still listed as the official partner in the program at Warren State Correctional, but 4Paws that is old information that has not been updated.

What organization is behind the prison program is not clear.

The rescue organization, in calling for “Justice for Evie,” says in its Facebook post that “we had volunteers regularly on site and observing the dogs progress and how the handlers were working with them.”

“Regularly” is open to wide interpretation.

Evie the German shepherd came under the care of Joseph’s Legacy in 2015 after getting hit by a car and breaking a hip. About that same time, she had babies and nursed them through her recovery.

After that, she was adopted, but because she was prone to escaping, soon was returned to the rescue.

“…We had thought maybe trying to get some more training, it would be safer for when she was adopted again…”

They enrolled her in the program at Warren Correctional and last week got the call that the dog had been found dead in her cell.

According to the Facebook post, a necropsy showed Evie died from blunt force trauma to her abdomen, causing her liver to hemorrhage and damaging a kidney.

The organization also stated that its concerns about the program had recently risen — but not to the point that they had removed Evie from it.

“Last week, we got a dog and she was all of a sudden fearful, so we were investigating and just making sure everything was good, but you’re talking just a few days later, this happened,” Joseph’s Legacy President Meg Melampy said.

The State Highway Patrol is investigating the death, and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will hold its own investigation at the prison, as well as review animal programs at other prisons, JoeEllen Smith, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, told The Associated Press.

Most likely, prison authorities will quickly solve the mystery of who killed Evie. It is likely one inmate, or the other. But that inmate, directly responsible as he may be, is not the only one who deserves some scrutiny.

The state prison system needs to also ask some questions about itself, and the supervision it provided, keeping in mind that it’s not the concept behind the program that is at fault, but shortcomings in administering it. Those outside organizations involved in the program might be well served to take a look at themselves as well.

That would be justice not just for Evie, but for all dogs.

(Photos: From the Joseph’s Legacy Facebook page)

Paw-ternity leave, despite all the media hype, isn’t exactly sweeping the nation

Paw-ternity leave — or employers giving employees paid time off to care for a new dog in the family — is being called a “growing trend” again.

Don’t let your expectations grow too high, though, because it’s not really.

It’s instead what happens when cute idea meets catchy name (fur-ternity leave, it’s also called), and the news media forgets (or just doesn’t care) that they did pretty much the same story a year or two ago.

This latest round of attention the idea is receiving stems from a single report about a single company in Minneapolis.

Nina Hale, a digital marketing company, is offering employees one week of flexible hours to care for new pets. The company started the policy — not exactly the same thing as paid leave — after receiving multiple requests from employees with new or sick pets.

Basically it allows the company’s 85 employees to, after approval, work from home for a week.

Of course there are probably many companies that, being decent, already offer such compromises to employees without touting it.

But when a “marketing firm” does it, rest assured it will magically become big news, whether it’s really big or not.

In this case, the Star Tribune story led to a New York Times story that led to a Daily Mail story that led to every other media outfit and blogger to jump on it, in the process calling it a “growing trend” and making much more of it than it is.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic idea, but it’s not spreading like wildfire.

If there is a true trend here it is that companies — generally smaller, tech-related ones — are offering more lucrative benefits in an attempt to attract the best employees.

In reality, paw-ternity leave has been a little quicker to catch on overseas than in the U.S.

Musti Group, a pet food company based in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, offers a three-day paw-ternity leave plan to its 1,500 employees.

In the U.S., New York data company mParticle has a paw-ternity program that gives employees two weeks of paid time off if they adopt a rescue dog or other pet.

But, as we wrote two years ago — the last time it surfaced as a “growing trend” — don’t hold your breath waiting for your employer to offer it.

You’d be much better off going to the boss and seeing what kind of deal you can make, and if the answer is none, take some vacation time. Your new dog deserves it.

Dogs like running, therapy dogs make people feel good, and other “oh duh” studies

In my daily perusal of what in the world is going on with dogs, I am constantly amazed at how many studies are done on things we already know — and how quick news organizations are to pounce on those studies and present them as something new.

Take last week’s Washington Post, which tells us in a headline, “Dogs can get a runner’s high, too.”

Pfffft. Dogs invented the runner’s high. We didn’t need a headline to know, least of all one based on a 2012 study.

The article goes on to tell us that running is healthy for dogs and humans, that running “gives dogs an activity and burns energy,” and, of course, that dogs and humans should check with their vets and doctors before beginning an exercise program.

I don’t know how much of this stating of the painfully obvious that goes on today is because we have run out of new things to say, study and report on; or how much is the result of so-called news websites providing dumbed-down “content,” instead of news.

But it seems like everybody — from scientist to journalist — is in repeat mode. Or maybe I’m just old.

SONY DSCAlso making news last week was the “recent finding” that dogs respond best to high-pitched voices.

This, at least, stems from a new study in which scientists at the University of York have shown that using high-pitched baby-talk voices can help us bond with their dogs.

Of course, the study found basically the same thing as others in recent years, including this one from more than a year ago.

Now any scientist will tell you that’s there is value in these studies that tell us what we already know — whether we already know them from common sense, or because of similar earlier studies that found the same thing. It is always good to confirm things

News organizations, on the other hand, will take the findings of any study, hype them up and present them as the most important breaking news of the day — even if they did the same thing last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

They know, even with Google, our collective memory is short, so they trot out the same old pieces regularly — should you let your dog sleep with you, should you let your dog lick you, why do dogs eat grass? — and they either find experts or studies to legitimize them.

Just last week, with the news that Barbra Streisand has two cloned dogs, the topic of dog cloning became instantly hot, and many a news outlet presented the story in a you’re-not-going-to-believe-this, dogs-are-being-CLONED!!! kind of way.

Having written a book on the very topic seven years ago, I was amused how the news was suddenly a revelation again.

I’m sure scientists somewhere are studying how short our memories and attention spans are becoming, and that I’ll be reading about it soon.

Until then, there will be plenty of other scientific “revelations” to keep me busy, like this one — unearthed by hardworking researchers at the University of British Columbia:

Therapy dogs make people feel good.

acetWell, that’s kind of why they have been popping up everywhere in the past 20 years — to do just that.

And what led to those initial revelations, years ago? Studies.

This new one, published in the journal Stress and Health, shows that exposure to therapy dogs helps boost students’ well-being. Researchers interviewed 246 students before and after cuddle and petting sessions with therapy dogs.

Students felt significantly less stressed and more energized after interacting with the dogs, though the happy feelings weren’t necessarily lasting, InsideHigherEd.com reported.

In other words, the feel-good vibe a dog gives you — like a news report, like a scientific study, like many a book — will soon be forgotten.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

The dogs of Amazon: Their numbers keep growing

Just as the number of employees is skyrocketing at Amazon’s Seattle campus, so too are the number of dogs.

Not too long ago, the company boasted that 4,000 dogs were coming to work regularly with employees.

In this recent post on the Amazon blog, it was revealed there are now 6,000 dogs “working” at Amazon’s Seattle campus, which has about 40,000 employees.

Of course not that many show up on campus every day — only about 500 do — but that’s the number of dogs Amazon’s dogs at work program has registered.

For those who do come along, it’s a pretty sweet set up. They have a “doggie deck” with a fake fire hydrant where dogs can run around and burn off energy. They also have “Dogs Only” water fountains, a 1,000-square-foot dog park with rocks and other structures to climb on, poop bag stations, designated dog relief areas, receptionists armed with dog treats, a doggie treat truck called The Seattle Barkery, and regularly scheduled dog events.

Amazon even has it’s own equivalent of a human resources chief for dogs — Lara Hirschfield, the company’s “Woof Pack” manager.

“The dog-friendly policy also contributes to the company’s culture of collaboration.” Hirschfield said in the blog post. “Dogs in the workplace is an unexpected mechanism for connection. I see Amazonians meeting each other in our lobbies or elevators every day because of their dogs.”

There are no breed or size restrictions.

The policy reflects the company’s belief that pets at work can reduce stress, increase productivity, improve morale, expedite social interaction, improve job satisfaction and provide companionship. A few moments relaxing with a dog, can improve concentration on the job afterwards.

The dog friendly policy dates back to a pup named Rufus, a Welsh corgi who belonged to Amazon’s former editor-in-chief and principal engineer. Rufus came to work every day, and employees would even use Rufus’ paw to click a computer mouse when launching early pages on Amazon. Rufus died in 2009, and a building on the Amazon campus is named after him.

You can see more of the dogs of Amazon here.

Those living with a dog tend to live longer

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Dog owners have a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death, according to a comprehensive new study published by a team of Swedish researchers.

The scientists followed 3.4 million people over the course of 12 years and found that adults who live alone and owned a dog were 33 percent less likely to die during the study than adults who lived alone without dogs.

In addition, the single adults with dogs were 36 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, the study said.

While it’s already accepted that dog ownership can boost activity levels and lower blood pressure, especially among older people, the study was the largest to date on the health implications of owning a dog, according to WebMD.

The Swedish scientists analyzed seven national data registries in Sweden, including two dog ownership registers, to study the association between owning a dog and cardiovascular health.

And while their findings are Sweden-specific, they believe they probably apply to other European countries with a similar attitude to dog ownership.

Interestingly, they also found a connection between positive health effects and breeds.

“In general hunting type breeds had the most protective estimates, while mixed breeds and toy breeds the least,” said Tove Fall, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

The study doesn’t explain how dogs may be responsible for providing protection from cardiovascular disease, but Tove speculated higher levels of activity and social contact lead to better health.

tove_dog_health“As a veterinarian I heard many stories on that vast impact a dog can have on their owner’s well-being and also on their physical activity levels,” she said.

The study’s authors suggested dog owners may have a lower risk because they walk more, feel less isolated and have more social contacts.

More than 3.4 million individuals, aged 40 to 80, were included in the study, which was published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household,” said Mwenya Mubanga, a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University and the lead junior author of the study.

The link between dog ownership and lower mortality was less pronounced in adults who lived either with family members or partners, but still present, according to the study.

(Photo: My dog Ace; Tove, with her puppy, Vega)

Two new studies show dogs can protect children from allergies, eczema

SONY DSC Even before your human baby is born, having a dog in the house can protect him or her against developing allergic eczema.

According to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, babies born in a home with a dog during pregnancy receive protection from allergic eczema, at least in their early years.

The study was one on two presented at the conference in Boston dealing with protections dogs provide to children with allergies — even allergies to dogs.

In the second study, researchers examined the effects of two different types of dog exposure on children with asthma in Baltimore, according to Medical News Today.

The first type was the protein, or allergen, that affects children who are allergic to dogs. The second type were elements, such as bacteria, that a dog might carry.

The researchers concluded that exposure to the elements that dogs carry may have a protective effect against asthma symptoms. But exposure to the allergen may result in more asthma symptoms among urban children with dog allergy.

“Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects,” says Po-Yang Tsou, MD, MPH, lead author. “There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure.”

In the first study, led by ACAAI member Dr. Gagandeep Cheema, researchers investigated how exposure to dogs before birth influenced the risk of childhood eczema.

Eczema is a condition characterized by rashes and patches of dry, itchy skin, most commonly on the hands, feet, face, elbows and knees.

While the causes of eczema remain unclear, it is believed to arise when the immune system overreacts in response to certain allergens or irritants.

“Although eczema is commonly found in infants, many people don’t know there is a progression from eczema to food allergies to nasal allergies and asthma,” Cheema said in a press release. “We wanted to know if there was a protective effect in having a dog that slowed down that progress.”

“We found a mother’s exposure to dogs before the birth of a child is significantly associated with lower risk of eczema by age 2 years, but this protective effect goes down at age 10,” says allergist Edward M. Zoratti, MD, ACAAI member and a study co-author.

(A girl and her dog in Baltimore, by John Woestendiek)

Professor Beauregard Tirebiter joins USC staff — but let’s not call him a “facility dog”

beauregard2

The University of Southern California has added a new staff member at its student health center, and he’s already making people feel better.

Professor Beauregard Tirebiter is a black, two-year-old goldendoodle.

After witnessing the positive effects visiting therapy dogs had on students, university officials decided they should have one based in the student health center full time.

The addition of Beau to the staff makes USC one of the few universities in the United States with a full-time “facility dog” on staff, USC News reported.

We applaud the university for that — but not for the label “facility dog.”

Surely all the great minds at that institution could have come up with a better term than that.

As the university Office for Wellness and Health Promotion explained it,
“a facility dog is similar to a therapy dog, but rather than being trained to work periodically with individuals, he’s trained to work with a multitude of people on a regular basis in a facility such as a hospital, school or nursing home.”

Why not just call him what he is, a therapy dog? There should be no stigma attached to that, and no need to tiptoe around it. Everybody needs therapy, especially a student, particularly during finals.

Calling him a “facility dog” is pretty vague. Defining him by the building he works in, as opposed to his job/mission, is a little insulting, like the term “junkyard dog.”

And “facility” is so similar to “faculty” that some hastily compiled news reports are calling him the latter.

beauregard3Beau (and perhaps that’s the best thing to call him) is not officially a faculty member. Possibly he is teaching students more than many professors manage, but he is staff, not faculty.

Beau did come to campus with a curriculum vitae, though. He was trained at Canine Angels Service Teams in Oregon.

He has office hours, and his own business cards, and paw prints lead students to his location at the Engemann Student Health Center.

He was purchased with money from a donation by the Trojan League of Los Angeles, an alumni group, to promote student wellness.

Beau has been on campus for a few weeks now. He goes home at night with Amanda Vanni, his handler and a health promotion specialist at the center.

In hiring Beau, the university seems to be acknowledging all the research that shows dogs can help decrease stress, create a sense of calm and well being, and that contact with them can increase serotonin, beta-endorphin and oxytocin – chemicals and hormones that make people happy.

Paula Lee Swinford, director of the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion, said Beau will also help create a sense of community at USC.

“We wanted to do something that would change our culture,” she said. “What Beau brings is a consistent relationship for students. … He will remember them.”

Speaking of culture change, the university might want to take another look at its antiquated policy that bans dogs from classrooms, university housing, offices and research areas because they can be “disruptive as well as unsanitary.”

(Photos by Gus Ruelas / USC)