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books on dogs

Tag: books on dogs

Learning to love your lover’s dog

katz

What do you do when the woman you’re falling in love with has a dog that, seemingly, can’t stand you?

Beef jerky, trust and patience are key, but it also helps to be Jon Katz.

The author of numerous dog books recounted in Parade last week how he came to marry Maria – an artist who was using one of his barns as a studio – and how that required much woooing of her Rottweiler-shepherd mix, Frieda.

Katz was still married when he met Maria and cut a deal with her allowing her to use a barn as a studio in exchange for helping with his animals (a herd of sheep, four donkeys, four chickens, three dogs, and two cats) at his farm in upstate New York. Both later saw their marriages end, and they began developing a friendship — or at least to the extent Frieda would permit.

Frieda was fiercely protective of Maria and, Katz writes, ”whenever I approached the barn, Frieda would fling herself against the door in a frenzy, barking ferociously.”

Frieda had been dumped, pregnant, along the New York State Thruway by a man who had been using her as a guard dog. She lived in the wild before she was captured and brought to a shelter. That’s where Maria met her and adopted her, Katz says:

“They were the perfect pair, the human-canine version of Thelma and Louise, united in their devotion to each other and in their great distrust of men.”

As Katz and Maria made the transition from friends to something more, Frieda continued to act out in the presence of Katz and his dogs. At night, Frieda stayed in the  barn. Even though it was heated, it was not a desirable arrangement.

“I was falling in love with Maria,” Katz writes, “and I hoped she would agree to marry me one day, but I knew I had to work things out with Frieda first.

Katz says he bought $500 worth of beef jerky, and began a morning ritual, tossing a piece to Frieda every day. He started getting a little closer to the dog on each visit and, after months, Frieda let him put a leash on her and walk her. “My goal was to get her into the house by Christmas, as a surprise for Maria, evidence of my commitment and good faith.”

Katz and Maria and their animals are one big happy family now, and you can read all about it when The Second-Chance Dog: A Love Story, comes out next month.

To learn more about Katz and his other books, visit his website, bedlamfarm.com.

(Top photo: Maria and Frieda and author Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm; by George Forss)

Shake: When dogs let the fur fly

As stunning as Carli Davidson’s photographs are in “SHAKE” — a new book featuring dogs caught in the middle of letting the fur (and drool) fly — this video produced in conjunction with her may be even more breathtaking.

SHAKE, the book, was released today by HarperCollins. Inspired by Davidson’s own dog, a mastiff named Norbert, who regularly flings drool at her home, it presents more than 130 full-page portraits of dogs shaking off water. The photos began showing up on the Internet in 2012, went viral, and were shaped into a book.

As a side project, Davidson worked with Variable, a New York production company, to produce the video.

shakeThe still photos are magnificent, capturing dogs in a millisecond –  their heads caught in mid-swivel, their ears in mid flap, their jowls contorted, their fur frozen in flight, and their slung streams of drool stopped in mid-air.

The slow-motion video, though, shows the whole intricate dance – and how the simple act of a dog shaking is really pretty complex. Exactly how many different muscles, going in how many different directions, does doing that take? And how is it possible to be so grossly contorted and amazingly elegant at the same time?

The answer is you have to be a dog.

You, as a human, can dance with stars, dance with the devil, or dance ’til you drop, but I don’t think your moves will ever parallel what a dog is able to pull off in the simple — or not so simple — act of shaking off.

Davidson, a native of Portland, Oregon, began experimenting with taking high-speed photos of dogs shaking off water in 2011. The next year she began posting them online, and they received millions of views.

In 2012, members of the team at Variable saw Davidson’s photo series online and contacted her about making a video.

“Fortunately for us, Carli responded to our enthusiastic e-mail with an even more enthusiastic e-mail stating that she was totally down to collaborate and had a very similar vision! After months and many meetings of trying to figure out how we could even afford to make this film, we all just decided to empty our pockets, pull some serious strings, and make the video purely for the fun of it.”

Dogs with Old Man Faces

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Tom Cohen has taken some dogs with funny faces and made them funnier.

In “Dogs with Old Man Faces,” released earlier this month, Cohen has gathered photos of elderly dogs and combined them with tag lines reflecting not so much the wisdom that comes with being an old human, but the crankiness, irascibility, aches and fears – our increasing tendency, as we age, to seek out simple pleasures and our decreasing willingness to put up with annoyances.

“Muttley is worried about the future of Medicare,” reads one, next to a photo (at top of this post) of a wrinkled and anxious-looking pug.

“Duster enjoys a good knish,” reads another, accompanied by photo of a pooch whose white eyebrows hang over his eyes.

Roscoe

Each black and white image of an old dog is accompanied by a caption: ”Roscoe was one of the original Hells Angels,” reads the one accompanying the shaggy and graying dog shown above.

Dogs With Old Man Faces Book JacketWe learn that “Pedro likes Old Spice and Sinatra,” “Jack enjoys a hot cup of Sanka,” and “Chet is still upset they canceled Matlock.” Geppeto is horrified at how much things cost.  Sumo wants those kids off his lawn. Sherman smoked too much pot in the 60′s. Riley can’t wait for tonight’s early bird special. And Pepper has been advised to cut down on salt.

Dogs with Old Man Faces: Portraits of Crotchety Canines” (published by Running Press, $13.95) isn’t the consumate old dog book – Old Dogs by Gene Weingarten holds that honor, in our view  — but it is a fun and lighthearted spin that incorporates photos of salty old dogs with stereotypical (but often true) phrases  that you might hear uttered by a senior citizen of the human species.

cohenCohen, a former stand-up comedian, is a television writer and producer who has won three Emmy Awards and lives in Maryland with his own old dog. He has worked on shows for MTV, Nickelodeon, NBC, History Channel, ABC Family, and most recently, Discovery Channel, serving as executive producer, director, and head writer of the  series ”Cash Cab.”

Based on a photo we found of him, he doesn’t quite have an old man face yet, but appears to be working on it.

(Photos: From “Dogs with Old Man Faces.” Top photo (Muttley) by Richard Dudley; photo of Roscoe by Tom Cohen) 

Dogs are people too, researcher says

howdogsloveusA neuroscientist who has been spent two years trying to scan images of their brains says dogs seem to have feelings and emotions, not unlike those of a human child.

Gregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, has been able to scan the brains of a dozen dogs using an M.R.I, which is quite an achievement in itself. But in looking at those scans he says he has reached the conclusion that,  “Dogs are people, too.” 

“The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child,” he wrote in an op-ed piece that appeared in Saturday’s New York Times. “And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.”

Berns’ research, which started with his own adopted dog Callie, is detailed in his soon to be released book “How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain.”

Bern set out to determine how dogs’ brains work, and what they might be thinking. To that end, he began training dogs to undergo — and stay still during —  M.R.I. scans, willingly and while awake and unrestrained.

“Conventional veterinary practice says you have to anesthetize animals so they don’t move during a scan. But you can’t study brain function in an anesthetized animal,” he notes. “At least not anything interesting like perception or emotion.”

Initially, he worked with his own dog, Callie,  a black terrier mix he adopted from a shelter, using a simulated M.R.I. he built in his living room. As word spread about his research, others volunteered their pets and Berns soon had a dozen dogs “M.R.I.-certified.”

“After months of training and some trial-and-error at the real M.R.I. scanner, we were rewarded with the first maps of brain activity. For our first tests, we measured Callie’s brain response to two hand signals in the scanner. In later experiments, not yet published, we determined which parts of her brain distinguished the scents of familiar and unfamiliar dogs and humans.”

Berns and his team focused on a key brain region called  the caudate nucleus, which sits between the brainstem and the cortex. In humans, the caudate, rich in dopamine receptors, plays a key role in the anticipation of things we enjoy, like food, love and money. Same with dogs — except, we’re pretty sure, for the money part.

“Specific parts of the caudate stand out for their consistent activation to many things that humans enjoy,” he says. “Caudate activation is so consistent that under the right circumstances, it can predict our preferences for food, music and even beauty … In dogs, we found that activity in the caudate increased in response to hand signals indicating food. The caudate also activated to the smells of familiar humans. And in preliminary tests, it activated to the return of an owner who had momentarily stepped out of view.”

Berns believes the scans will tell us more than behavioral observations do about what dogs are thinking.

“Do these findings prove that dogs love us? Not quite,” Berns wrote. “But many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate.”

That “functional homology,” as neuroscientists call it, may be an indication of canine emotions.

And given that, he asks, is it time to stop considering them property and start affording them some rights as individuals?

“If we went a step further and granted dogs rights of personhood, they would be afforded additional protection against exploitation,” he says. “Puppy mills, laboratory dogs and dog racing would be banned for violating the basic right of self-determination of a person.”

That day may not be directly around the corner, he notes, but with more being learned about how their brains work, and what thoughts run through them, it could eventually arrive.

“Perhaps someday,” he says, “we may see a case arguing for a dog’s rights based on brain-imaging findings.”

“Dogs with No Names” provides an insightful look at the plight of reservation dogs

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It sometimes seems a new dog book leaps off the presses everday – some not so good, some far too precious, some (though we like goofy) way too goofy, some noble and some ignoble.

Often, the most noble ones are so preachy, pedantic and overwrought they leave you feeling like you’ve spent six hours locked in a room with an evangelist who’s more concerned with lassoing your mind than opening it.

“Dogs With No Names”  is an exception to that — a collection of photos, thoughts and insights gathered by Dr. Judith Samson-French while she was on a mission to sterilize stray and feral dogs on an Indian reservation in Canada.

It has a point, without being preachy; it has heart, without being schmaltzy; it has depth, valuable insights and some awesome photographs; and it looks at the plight some reservation dogs face without being desperate, culturally insensitive or overly judgmental.

Millions of unnamed, unclaimed and often unwanted dogs roam North America’s indian reservations — some feral, some tame, many somewhere in between — doing what they need to do to survive, including repopulating.

Samson-French’s mission was to implant a new type of contraceptive into female dogs on a reservation in Alberta, Canada, but her insights extend far beyond Canada, and far beyond reproduction.

She exposes the adversity, despair and suffering reservation dogs often face, and she looks at ways to compassionately and effectively address the overpopulation problem. She examines the behavior of reservation dogs, and how they’ve evolved to the conditions they live in. And she doesn’t overlook the role humans have played — and could play – in the equation.

The book lives up to its billing as “an intimate look at the relationship between North America’s First Nations communities and dogs: seeing past our prejudices to build bridges and understanding between our often combative cultures.”

Samson-French is a veterinary clinician and surgeon with over 20 years of experience. She owns and operates a veterinary hospital in the Rocky Mountain foothills. A graduate of McGill University (B.Sc.) and the University of Alberta (M.Sc.), she received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the Ontario Veterinary College.

All of the profits from the sales of Dogs With No Names are donated to the Dogs With No Names project, of which Samson-French is founder.

(Photo: The cover photo of “Dogs with No Names,” courtesy of evocativedogphoto.com)

Privileged Pooch: Going pupscale in SoCal

After perusing “The Privileged Pooch, Luxury Travel with Your Pet in Southern California,” I’ve decided if Ace and I ever run into author Maggie Espinosa and her dog, Marcel, on the road … they’re buying.

Unlike my Travels with Ace project, “The Privileged Pooch” – not to be confused with the fine pet boutique in Baltimore of the same name – is a guidebook that focuses on high end luxury travel with your pet.

“Now you can share Southern California’s celebrity lifestyle with your furry friend,” reads the summary on the back of the book. “The days of staying at substandard hotels and dining at drive-thru’s when traveling with the family pet are over.”

Not for me, they ain’t. But that’s not the point.

Espinosa’s point is that bringing a dog along on your trip no longer automatically relegates you to economy-level accommodations. And her book, provides plenty of examples, in highly readable form, of where you can stay, play and eat with your pet — in Palm Springs, Orange County, San Diego, Santa Barbara and greater Los Angeles.

High-end establishments are starting to wise up to the fact that about 10 million pets each year vacation with their owners — and that many of those owners are from the demographic at which tourism-related businesses commonly take aim.

“The Privileged Pooch” lists 69 hotels (not a Motel 6 among them),  55 restaurants, 56 dog-friendly activities and 38 “trendy shops” where you and your dog are welcome.

Espinosa has done some culling, weeding out those establishments that have too many restrictions or silly and unrealistic weight limits. (For the dogs, I mean. Southern California doesn’t have weight limits for people. Yet.)

She uses a rating system of one wag to four wags for pet friendliness — one being “pooches permitted,” four being “pooches paradise.”

Maggie and Marcel

At the latter, you might find such features as special puppy menus, a “togetherness massage” for you and your dog (at Casa Laguna Inn & Spa) or ”blueberry and plum pet facials” at a dog-friendly spa called The Healthy Spot.

Espinosa and her bichon frise, Marcel, tested all 69 hotels, and each section of the book, region by region, includes recommendations for everything from dog-friendly beaches to emergency veterinary care.

Our favorite example was the Doggie Bus in Tustin, which totes dogs and their humans to the beach at no charge. An Orange County man started providing the service not to get rich, but simply because he enjoyed doing it.

Now that’s dog-friendly.

Take a sad song and make it better

The star of my book signing in Federal Hill yesterday wasn’t me.

Nor was it my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

And it wasn’t even — awesome celebrity traveling dog that he is — Ace.

No, the show was stolen by Jude, a pit bull mix from Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter who showed up in hopes of getting adopted.

(While a couple of people showed interest in her yesterday, my latest information is that she’s still available.)

Jude, according to the BARCS volunteers that accompanied her, was surrendered to the shelter a couple of months ago. Either her former owners  or the staff at BARCS have taught her well.

At about two years old, she’s an absolute sweetheart, with a playful but peaceful soul, and she got along with everyone, dog and human, that came into The Book Escape (it’s dog-friendly) during the signing.

Well, she did a lot more than get along; I think she captured some hearts.

If I weren’t still wandering and trying to figure out where home is, I’d have snapped her up. She will be the best investment somebody will ever make.

Why should you take my word for it? Because, six years ago, I adopted Ace, the finest dog ever to emerge from the halls of BARCS (in my opinion). Obviously, I know how to pick ‘em.

Thanks to all those who came out in yesterday’s drizzly cold weather, bought my book, and/or donated to the Franky Fund, which BARCS uses to provide medical care to seriously injured animals. You can learn more about it here.

Between customer donations and 20 percent of the days take from “DOG, INC.” sales, we were able to hand over a couple hundred dollars to BARCS.

Also joining in was local artist Kelly Lane, who showed up to sell her hand-made Valentines Day cards, also donating 20 percent of her sales to BARCS. Kelly will be selling her cards today — Super Bowl Sunday — at Captain Larry’s, 601 E. Fort Avenue.

Captain Larry’s is holding its 4th annual chili cookoff today — for $5 you can sample chili to your heart’s content, at least until it runs out. The event starts at 4 p.m., and proceeds are going to BARCS.

As for Jude, I hope she finds a wonderful home, and I hereby offer a free, autographed copy of “DOG, INC.” to the person or family that adopts her.

Thanks again to all that helped out yesterday — Andrew Stonebarger, owner of The Book Escape, Kelly Lane, Tamara Granger (for making sure Ace behaved) and the staff and volunteers at BARCS.

And, hey, most of all, Jude.

“Sometimes love really is a bitch”

“My Dog Tulip” — J.R. Ackerley’s classic account of how a dog entered his life, stimulated his curiosity, broadened his horizons, and brightened his otherwise cranky golden years — is now out as an animated movie, and the book has been reissued in paperback.

“Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs,” the British writer wrote in what’s perhaps the most famous line of the 1956 book about the bond between dog and man.

“Sometimes love really is a bitch,” reads the tagline, updated for the times, of the new movie.

The movie came out late last summer, directed by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, who are also responsible for the hand-drawn animations that, on screen, are like a New Yorker cartoon come to life.

The film is narrated by Christopher Plummer, in the role of Ackerley, and also features the voice of Lynn Redgrave, who died in May and to whom the movie is dedicated. One review called it “the most sophisticated dog movie ever made.”

It tells the story of a lonely gay man who has all but given up on finding a longtime companion and “ideal friend” in the human world.

Enter Tulip, or, as was her name in real life, Queenie, a German shepherd Ackerley acquired from his neighbors when he was “quite over 50,” and with whom he would spend the next 15 years.

“She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer.”

Ackerley died in 1967, and though the book is now 55 years old, it retains a sense of freshness attributable to the fact that Queenie was his first dog. His keen observation of inter-species interaction is that of someone who just landed on the planet, as opposed to being an old hand with dogs.

“It seemed to me both touching and strange,” he says at one point, “that she should find the world so wonderful.”

We long-time dog lovers know exactly what he means. It’s what makes dogs so lovable — they see the world as wonderful, and, no matter how curmudgeonly we may be, they help us see it that way too.

New book has a quibble with kibble

Richard Patton thinks we’re killing our dogs — not with kindness, but with carbohydrates.

Dogs, as good as they are at adapting to most things, are poorly adapted to cope with the constant diet of soluble carbohydrates — i.e. kibble — that many pet owners provide, he maintains in his new book.

In “Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack: The Paradox of Pet Nutrition,” Patton points out that pet owners, believing they are providing the best nutrition, are robbing their pets of health and longevity by failing to restrict their animals’ intake of carbohydrates.

Fat, he believes, is not the evil monster we once thought it to be — either for animals or humans — and most animals will benefit from a diet more in line with what their predecessors ate when they lived in the wild.

For millions of years, dogs and their predecessors managed to survive and adapt to a life without carbohydrates.  Then, 10,000 or so years ago, once domesticated, man took over their feeding. And man’s choice for dogs — a diet heavy on grains –was based in part on ease, cost, misunderstanding and misinformation.

“Not only is the modern day dry diet higher in soluble carbohydrate than anything animals ever ate throughout evolution, but also the animal’s biological machinery was perfected to eek out a survival in a world of near constant lack of soluble carbohydrate. This exquisite, designer perfect biological machinery is at a loss to deal very effectively with constant, excess soluble carbohydrate.”

In other words, by feeding our animals a steady diet of kibble, we’re flying in the face of billions of years of evolution. It’s akin, he writes, to taking an animal who spent four billion years evolving to be able to see in the darkness and thrusting him into the sunlight.

Patton’s book is an academic work — this isn’t dog food for dummies — but it’s one that covers all the bases when it comes to nutrition, including how diet can affect a pet’s behavior.

For anyone interested or concerned about animal nutrition, it’s worth digesting.

Kinky Friedman’s dogs are … well, kinky

Three years ago, author and musician Kinky Friedman had six dogs — not counting the 50 or so awaiting homes at his Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch.

Today, he’s down to two — Chumley and Brownie, who, though brothers, spend an inordinate amount of time making out.

The dogs who have passed, though, aren’t far away. Just outside Kinky’s front door, a couple of decades worth of pets are buried in a colorful, well-tended garden, including his beloved Mr. Magoo, whose gravesite is topped with all of “Goo’s” favorite stuffed toys.

On our Monday visit to Utopia Ranch, we got to meet and spend some time with the author of  “Roadkill,” “God Bless John Wayne,” “The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic,” and more than 25 other books — including his most recent, “Kinky’s Celebrity Pet Files.”

You might think all that writing wouldn’t leave him time for anything else, but Kinky, from appearances, likes to stay busy. He ran for governor of Texas in 2006, capturing about 12 percent of the vote, writes a column for Texas Monthly, and, with help from friends, funds Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. Next month, Kinky, along with two members of his band, the Texas Jewboys, start a west coast tour.

In between performing tunes like “Ride ‘Em Jewboy” ” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,”  Kinky, 65, often referred to as the “Mark Twain of Texas,” will also be selling his wares at the concerts, including two of his more recent books, “Heroes of a Texas Childhood” and “What Would Kinky Do?” He’ll be hawking his cigars, as well.

Kinky, who was an infant when his family moved from Chicago to Texas to start a summer camp for Jewish children, spoils his dogs, in life and death — from grilling them steaks to interring them in the blooming shrine he has created at his front porch, the centerpiece of which is the grave of Magoo, who died at age 14

He has a long history of rescuing pets, starting in New York City in 1979, when he found a kitten a shoe box while walking through Chinatown. He took it home and named it Cuddles.

In the summer of 1996, he found another cat, Lucky, while driving from his parents’ ranch to Medina. The cat, found in the middle of the road, had been shot. He took the cat to a veterinarian, paid for the surgeries and amputation of an injured leg, then took Lucky home.

Because he traveled frequently, Friedman turned to friend Nancy Parker-Simons to babysit his pets, and that arrangement evolved into Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. In 1998, the rescue operation started on Parker-Simon’s seven acres in the town of Utopia. Three years later, it moved to the Friedman ranch.

In fact, it was another rescue that led to Friedman’s highly popular series of detective novels. In the mid-1980s, Kinky rescued a woman being robbed at a midtown Manhattan ATM. Based on the experience, he created the character Kinky Friedman the detective. After that, he branched out into children’s books, memoirs, historical reflections and, most lately, ”Kinky’s Celebrity Pet Files.”

In it, Friedman recounts the connections many of his celebrity friends have and had with their pets — how Beach Boy Brian Wilson, on the “Pet Sounds” album, closed one song with the barking of his two dogs, Banana and Louis; how Dr. John’s dog, Lucy, once ate menthol-flavored condoms; about Fats Domino’s bichon Frise, Winnie the Pooh, who perished in Hurricane Katrina; Billie Holliday’s boxer, Mister, who would sit backstage while his master sang;  Tom Waits, who had his pet white rat stuffed upon its demise; and Jim Nabors who on the eve of every Fourth of July would fly his four Staffordshire Terriers from Honolulu to Maui, where they wouldn’t be bothered by fireworks.

He deals with his own pets as well in the book, from their daily hijinks to their bedtime rituals:

Then we all go back to bed and dream of fields full of slow-moving rabbits and mice and cowboys and Indians and imaginary childhood friends and tail fins on Cadillacs and girls in the summertime and everything else that time has taken away.

“It shows the animals in the lives of great and famous people, and the importance they attach to their pet,” Kinky said.

Friedman gave me two of his books, and autographed them for me, but he didn’t have any of his newest. So after hanging out with him for an hour or so — a period in which his cigar rarely left his mouth — I drove up to Kerrville to buy a copy at Wolfmueller’s, a new and used bookstore worth checking out if you ever pass through.

Kinky was supposed to be going there, but wasn’t going to be able to make it.

“Tell them I’m not coming today,” he told me.

I bought the book, passed on the message, ate some Mexican food and headed back to Bandera, where my own dog was spending the day in the air conditioned offices of the weekly newspaper, the Bandera Courier, the editor of which has been supplying me with dogsitting, story ideas and Texas-sized hospitality.

But that’s another story.

(To read all of the installments of “Dog’s Country,” click here.