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Tag: blind

Making a mountain out of a … poop bag?


Vanderbilt University may well have some racial inequities worth addressing. And some racist acts may take place on campus from time to time. But Marley’s poop was not one of them.

A sack of dog poop left on the front steps of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center — discovered the day after a student demonstration to show support for protesters at the University of Missouri — was quickly decried by a student organization as a “vile” and “racist” act.

In reality, the bag was left there by a blind student who cleaned up the mess left by her guide dog, Marley, but could not find a trash receptacle to place it in.

On Monday, about 200 Vanderbilt students staged a walkout over campus race relations — one described as a show of support for the Missouri students, but also held to draw attention to Vanderbilt’s own problems when it comes to racial imbalances.

On Tuesday, the bag of feces was found in front of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.

Backers of a university campaign called Hidden Dores, the mission of which is to “draw attention to the racial and ethnic minority experience on a predominantly white campus,” quickly placed a post on Facebook decrying the deed.

“The Hidden Dores team is appalled to announce that our demonstration yesterday was met this morning with a vile act. This morning someone left a bag of feces on the porch of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center. The center has served as the nexus of many aspects of black life on Vanderbilt’s campus since its inception 31 years ago. The violation of a place that in many ways is the sole home for black students is deplorable.

“As many of us sit in grief, recognize that these types of actions are what we speak of when we note the reality of exclusion and isolation of students of color and specifically black students on our campus. This act has hurt many and will not be received lightly. We will not allow for the desecration of the place we call home. As we announced yesterday and reaffirm today, we will not be silent.”

Campus police launched an investigation immediately. After surveillance camera footage was reviewed, officers contacted the student who appeared to have left the bag of feces there.

“The investigation found the bag was inadvertently left by an individual with a service dog who was authorized to be in the building who could not find a trash can near the entrance and did not wish to take the bag inside. VUPD has concluded, based on their investigation, that there was no criminal or malicious intent in this action, and the investigation is considered closed,” Vanderbilt News reported yesterday.

The blind student posted her own account of what happened on Facebook:

“I would like to inform everyone on this campus that no racial threat occurred. I am a blind student on this campus with a guide dog. I was meeting with a group last night to go over our debate for one of my sociology classes. My dog did her business outside on the grass and I picked it up and put it in a bag like always … I did not want to bring the feces inside and make the building smell, so I left it outside by the door … Everyone is going to point me out now as the blind girl who left her dog feces by the black cultural center. I am sorry that I do not know where all the trash cans are on main campus…”

Leaders of the Hidden Dores campaign put a new post on its Facebook page, apologizing to the blind student, and for reacting a little too swiftly.

“Given the recent elevation in polarization on this campus in the aftermath of our silent protest this Monday, evidenced by tough personal exchanges and anonymous targeted posts, it was too easy for us to believe that a member of our community would stoop low enough to maliciously leave fecal matter at the Black Cultural Center,” the Facebook post said.

“Nonetheless, we apologize to the Vanderbilt community for jumping to conclusions and for any personal trauma caused by the quick escalation of this situation.”

(Photo: Hidden Dores Facebook page)

Prototype device allows blind people to keep tabs on the health of their guide dogs


Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a device that allows blind people to better monitor the health and well-being of their guide dogs.

The researchers are fine tuning a vibrating harness that monitor a dog’s breathing and heart rate and shares the information with the dog’s handler, according to NC State News.

“Our goal is to let guide dog handlers know when their dogs are stressed or anxious,” said Sean Mealin, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the technology.

Mealin is blind and works with his own guide dog, Simba.

“This is important because it is widely believed that stress is a significant contributing factor to early retirement of guide dogs and other service animals,” Mealin said. “The technology may also be able to help handlers detect other health problems, such as symptoms of heat exhaustion.”

The researchers developed a specialized handle, equipped with two vibrating motors, that attaches to a guide dog’s harness.

harnessOne motor is embedded in the handle by the handler’s thumb, and vibrates – or beats – in time with the dog’s heart rate.

When the dog’s heart rate increases, so does the rate at which the motor beats.

The second motor is embedded in the handle near the handler’s pinky finger, and vibrates in synch with the dog’s breathing. The vibration increases and decreases in intensity, to simulate the dog breathing in and out.

“Dogs primarily communicate through their movements and posture, which makes it difficult or impossible for people who are blind to fully understand their dogs’ needs on a moment-to-moment basis,” said David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of the paper.

“This challenge is particularly pronounced in guide dogs, who are bred and trained to be outwardly calm and avoid drawing attention to themselves in public.”

The paper, “Towards the Non-Visual Monitoring of Canine Physiology in Real-Time by Blind Handlers,” was presented yesterday at the Second International Congress on Animal Computer Interaction, in Johor, Malaysia.

(Photos: NC State News)

Woman and her guide dog are reunited


A legally blind woman and her guide dog have been reunited after recovering from injuries they received when they were hit by a school bus in New York.

“Oh, my good boy. You’re home, finally,” Audrey Stone exclaimed upon greeting her golden retriever, Figo, in the driveway of her home in Brewster, about 60 miles north of Manhattan.

Figo got in between Stone and an oncoming minibus in June as they crossed a street a block from her home.

Stone spent months in a rehabilitation hospital. Figo underwent surgery and went back to his trainers for a determination of whether he could work as a guide dog again.

As of Monday, he is back on duty.

Figo, who had been Stone’s guide dog for more than six years, leaped to put himself between her and the oncoming bus, then stuck by her side until help arrived.

“Basically, he would have died for me, doing what he did,” said Stone, who suffered a broken ankle, elbow and ribs and needed stitches in her head. Figo had a serious gash in one of his legs, according to the Associated Press.

On top of being reunited with Stone, Figo will be receiving the Dog of the Year award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“We’re tremendously proud of Figo, who really did show a great deal of bravery,” said Wells Jones, of the Smithtown-based Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. Figo was the third dog the organization had placed with Stone.

Stone says she’s happy to have him back.

“You feel better with a dog,” she said.

(Photo: By Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Lost, blind and deaf, poodle gets some help in making the 770-mile trip home


A blind, deaf, elderly poodle who went missing from her home in North Carolina a month ago was to be reunited with her family today after being found on the side of a road in Massachusetts.

Coco, a white miniature poodle, was flown to Johnston County’s airport Sunday morning by Pilots N Paws, a non-profit group of pilots and plane owners around the country who fly rescued, shelter and foster animals to new homes.

Today, her owner, Toby Brooks of Concord, N.C., was scheduled to drive to Clayton, in Johnston County, to pick her up.

According to Brooks, she let Coco out into the yard one day last month and, a minute later, she had disappeared. Coco wasn’t wearing a tag and was not microchipped.

They were still searching for her when Coco turned up 770 miles away.

On Aug. 9, in the small, central Massachusetts town of Belchertown, an animal control officer received a tip about a stray poodle on the road and picked her up, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

Anna Kuralt-Fenton, an animal control officer in Belchertown, said she later posted a picture of the dog on the department’s Facebook page.

After that, the department received a call from someone in Belchertown who said their neighbor had picked a small dog up from the side of the road while traveling in North Carolina and brought it home.

She said the neighbor, who she wouldn’t identify, realized she couldn’t care for the dog and left her on the street.

Kuralt-Fenton got back on the Internet to try and find the dog’s owners, and began networking with animal control officers in North Carolina.

One of them, Angela Lee, an animal control officer in Clayton, began posting photos of Coco on lost and found dog sites, and that’s when she got an email from Coco’s owner.

Veterinary records confirmed the dog found in Massachusetts was Coco.

Kuralt-Fenton went on to help arrange Coco’s flight back to North Carolina, and Lee was there when the plane landed.

“I can’t believe I’m crying,” Lee said, “This isn’t even my dog.”

Lee kept the dog until today.

“I pick up a lot of dogs that are never re-claimed,” she said. “This is the best feeling ever to know she’s going to be home. That’s where she needs to be.”

(Photo: Clayton Animal Control Officer Angela Lee holds Coco shortly after the dog was flown back to North Carolina, by Lil Condo / News & Observer)

Outlook good for guide dog who tried to shield blind woman from oncoming bus


An anonymous benefactor has come forward to pay the veterinary bill for Figo, the 8-year-old guide dog dog who leapt in front of a school minibus Monday to shield his blind handler.

Figo (pronounced “FEE-go”) suffered trauma, tissue damage and a slight break to his right front leg when he stepped in between Audrey Stone and an oncoming bus Monday in Brewster, New York.

Hopes are high that he will make a full recovery.

The dog was walking on Stone’s right side but switched sides and jumped between Stone and the vehicle, witnesses said.

Stone, 62, broke an ankle, ribs and an elbow and has a head wound. She is being treated in a Danbury, Connecticut, hospital, where she told The Journal News on Tuesday that Figo “deserves the Purple Heart” for his actions.

Dr. Angela O’Donnell of Middlebranch Veterinary said Figo came out of surgery well, and is now receiving pain medication and antibiotics. His fractured leg could take up to six weeks to mend.

“He’s doing really, really well,” O’Donnell said Wednesday. “I have no concerns at this point about a long-term issue for him.”

The decision on whether Figo will be able to resume serving as Stone’s guide dog will be made by the Guide Dog Foundation, which provided Stone with the dog.

Andrew Rubinstein, marketing director for the foundation, said that once Stone and Figo are home, a trainer will visit them for an assessment.

“Once they’re well enough, the work of the team will be assessed by one of our certified trainers,” Rubenstein said. “Is Figo a little timid around traffic? Is he scared to be around traffic? Or is he ready to go back full-time?”

“If the dog is a little timid, we’d talk with Audrey about maybe retiring Figo and maybe coming back to the foundation to get a new dog,” Rubenstein said. “Or if the dog feels good and works well in traffic and doing their typical routes, they might need a refresher to get all their skills fine-tuned again.”

(Photo: Middlebranch Veterinary)

Therapy dog can’t see the smiles he brings


Born with dwarfism, and without eyes, a golden retriever named Smiley is bringing comfort and joy to hospital patients, school students and nursing home residents in the small town of Stouffville, Canada.

Rescued from a puppy mill when he was one or two years old, Smiley was timid at first, said his owner, Joanne George.

“He was very scared,” she recalled. “[The dogs] had never been out of that barn.”

But as he came out of his shell, she saw that he had a personality worth sharing:

“People were so drawn to him, so inspired by him.” George told CBS News. “I realized this dog has to be a therapy dog — I have to share him.”

Smiley joined the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program and, now 12 years old, still spends several hours a day dropping in on patients at retirement homes, visiting with special needs children in a library reading program and comforting patients at nursing homes near Stouffville.

George said when she first brought him home Smiley quickly bonded with another one of her dogs, a deaf Great Dane named Tyler.

“Tyler was so bouncy and crazy and happy go lucky and [Smiley] turned into the same dog,” George said. “He came out from underneath the tables where he was always hiding.”

“Dogs can come back from anything, they forget their past,” George said. “We as humans dwell on the past.”

One of Smiley’s favorite people to visit is a man named Teddy, who lives in a nursing home and, up until he met the dog, hadn’t uttered a sound.

“One day, Smiley put his feet up in front of [Teddy] and he started smiling and making noise,” George said. “All of the nurses rushed into the room and said they’ve never seen him smile — never seen any kind of reaction.”

Now every time Smiley visits the nursing home, Teddy is the first person he sees.

After caring for Smiley for 10 years, George says she has learned a lot about how to care for blind dogs: “Don’ t be his eyes, don’t run his life, don’t’ keep him in a bubble … Does he bump into things? Of course, he does. But he does it very carefully.”

George said Smiley changed her life — and was there for many memorable moments. “He came on my first date with me. He was my ring bearer at my wedding.”  He has also brightened up the lives of hundreds more.

Even now, as he nears the end of his, she says — his fur getting whiter, his steps slower — his “tail will never stop wagging.”

(Photo: Joanne George’s Facebook page)

Uber rude: Guide dog forced to ride in trunk

Uber Technologies Inc. signage stands inside the company's office prior to Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, speaking in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 24, 2014. Rubio addressed the need to adapt antiquated government regulations to increase economic opportunities for the 21st century and outdated regulations limit consumer choice. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg ORG XMIT: 480784803The National Federation of the Blind in California has filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc., saying its drivers have refused to transport blind people who use guide dogs and, in one instance, forced a guide dog to ride in the trunk of a car.

One registered Uber driver in Sacramento put a passenger’s guide dog in the trunk while transporting her, and refused to pull over after the customer realized where the animal was, according to the lawsuit.

Other blind riders with service animals have been refused service and harassed, the National Federation of the Blind of California alleges in a civil rights complaint filed this week in San Francisco federal court.

Uber is a ride-hailing app that connects its registered drivers with riders. It is up and running in more than 70 U.S. cities.

While the company does set guidelines for the drivers — and pretty much any schmo can be one — it points out those drivers are independent contractors, and that the company cannot be expected to be able to fully control their behavior. (Or, it follows, be held legally liable for it.)

Uber, like Lyft Inc. and other car-booking companies, are seeking to crack open the $11 billion U.S. taxi and limousine market, according to Bloomberg News.

Through the app, they hook up people needing rides with registered drivers offering one, and take a cut of the fares collected — in effect collecting money while doing none of the actual physical work, and avoiding any actual responsibility.

The federation filed the lawsuit based on complaints from more than 30 blind customers nationwide who have been denied rides because they had guide dogs — a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and California civil rights laws.

The advocacy group says the company monitors and controls interactions between drivers and customers, and should adopt and enforce policies to prevent discrimination against blind people with service animals. It is seeking a court order declaring the company discriminates against blind customers with guide dogs, and measures that would ensure that drivers don’t refuse rides to the vision-impaired.

“The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities,” said Eva Behrend, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Uber. “It is Uber’s policy that any driver partner that refuses to transport a service animal will be deactivated from the Uber platform.”

What action, if any, was taken against the driver who allegedly put a guide dog in a car trunk wasn’t specified, but we think he deserves a lot more than being “deactivated.”