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Tag: breed

A gathering of second chancers

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Five years ago, Danny Rawley was an inmate in a North Carolina prison.

One year ago, my dog Jinjja was one of more than 100 dogs waiting to be slaughtered for their meat at a dog farm in South Korea.

Four weeks ago, I was on an operating table, having what doctors suspected was a cancerous kidney removed.

Recently, we all came together, proving not only that it’s a small world, but one that — thank goodness — often gives us second chances. And sometimes third, fourth and fifth ones as well.

Some backing up is in order.

jindolI adopted Jinjja last November from the Watauga Humane Society, which was hosting four dogs that were among a much larger group rescued from a dog farm in South Korea and brought to the United States for adoption.

He was fearful. He was skittish. He didn’t seem to much like men. But in the months that followed he made slow but steady progress, in everything except for his fear of meeting new human males and his tendency to run away if he experienced a small taste of freedom.

We made it to our first obedience class (and he did great) before I got ill, and, in a matter of weeks, found myself scheduled to have one of my kidneys removed.

Given the outlook beyond the surgery was uncertain, given the operation comes with a six-week no-heavy-lifting recovery period, given Jinjja’s tendencies to sometimes tug pretty hard on the leash, to be be slow to warm up to new people, and the escape risks he posed, I was hesitant to ask a friend to care for him.

I was contemplating surrendering him back to the Watauga Humane Society when a friend at the Forsyth Humane Society offered to take him into her own home. Darla Kirkeeng, the society’s director of development, volunteered to keep him as long as necessary — even after I warned her of his eccentricities and that he’d likely be slow to warm up to her husband.

But that’s where he has been since shortly before my surgery, living happily with Darla and her daughter, tolerating Darla’s husband, and joining her pack of two other rescued dogs, Luigi and Olivia.

DSC06532As if that act wasn’t gracious enough, Darla threw in a bonus, and arranged for Danny Rawley, a dog trainer, to drop by for a few sessions with Jinjja.

That’s where I met him recently when I dropped by Darla’s for my first visit with Jinjja since my surgery.

Despite my fears that being apart would harm the bond we’d developed, Jinjja remembered me and didn’t hesitate to approach and allow me to pet him and show him affection — something he doesn’t generally permit males to do.

Danny admitted Jinjja was skittish around him, too, and snarled and snapped at him during the first session.

Once leashed though, Jinjja paid attention to instructions and, as Danny demonstrated, made some great progress.

Danny also gave me some advice on working on recall — something Jinjja, if he accidentally gets unleashed outside, doesn’t begin to understand. The smallest taste of freedom, and he’s off and running, and gets into a mode where he will allow no one to approach.

My guess is that’s partly a trait of his breed (Jindo), a once wild breed that populated an island of the same name off the coast of Korea. Partly too it’s a result of the dog farm environment, where dogs live crated or chained, and anyone putting their hands on you was likely a sign that it was your turn to be slaughtered or taken to market.

Likely, it is something he will never fully overcome. Freedom, and the desire for it, are powerful forces, especially to any being that has had his freedom taken away.

DSC06516 (2)If anyone can relate to that, it’s Danny.

After growing up in Mt. Airy, he got caught up in selling drugs and, through that, using them.

“That turned my whole world around. I ended up hurting a man,” he said.

He was sentenced to 12 years. While serving that sentence at the state prison in Caledonia, a maximum security facility in the eastern part of the state, he learned of and enrolled in a newly started program called “New Leash on Life.”

In it, a inmates spent their days with dogs who lived on the grounds who were awaiting — but not always prepared for — adoption.

He jumped at the opportunity because of “my love for dogs for one thing, and wanting to put something positive in my life.”

As has been the experience with similar programs across the country, it worked, improving the lives and outlooks for both canine and human participants.

Danny remembers the first dog he was assigned — Lee, a coon dog mix who seemed pretty untrainable and also had a problem with recall. Jinjja reminded him of another dog he trained in prison, named Spirit, who was mostly feral, to the point she preferred eating bugs to eating dog food.

“She finally came around to be a great dog,” he said. In all, he probably trained 25 to 30 dogs while in prison, and just as he helped changed them, they helped change him.

DSC06542“When a dog and a man come together, somehow or another it changes your soul, that feeling that your care, that you believe, and it don’t go away … The more you work with dogs, the more you earn their trust. It’s all about trust.”

When the New Leash on Life program was launched, with funding from the humane society, at the Forsyth Correctional Center, Danny agreed to a transfer to help train inmates there to take part in the program.

He was released in 2012, after serving eight years, and was hired as an employee by the Forsyth Humane Society.

Danny, in addition to having his own business training dogs, is based at the facility and spends much of his time making house calls, going to the homes of people who are having issues with their recently adopted dogs.

The New Leash program at Forsyth Correctional Center is now on hiatus while the Humane Society undergoes a pretty big transition and restructuring. Since moving into a new building, its adoption rates have surged, and dogs are moving in and out more quickly. On top of that, there are plans for the society to assume all adoption services at Forsyth Animal Control, part of an ongoing effort to make Forsyth a “no-kill” county by 2023. The goal is to reduce the countywide euthanasia rate from 64 percent to 10 percent or less.

Under the proposal, the Humane Society would run the 215-kennel county shelter, possibly by as early as this fall.

It’s a massive joint effort between Animal Control, the Humane Society, the Animal Adoption & Rescue Foundation and other local rescue groups — aimed at better coordinating all agencies involved and giving thousands more dogs and cats a second chance.

And, as both Danny and Jinjja could probably attest, you can’t put a price tag on a second chance. I’d agree (though my hospital, judging from the one-foot high stack of unpaid bills on my desk, seems to do a pretty good job of it).

Though I’m down to my final kidney, my surgeon was pleased with how things went, confident that they removed all of the cancerous mass, and he has given me a positive prognosis with no need for follow-up treatments.

I’m feeling good enough to, as of today, fire ohmidog! back up and make it daily, or almost daily, again.

And, in about one more week, more or less, I’ll be ready to bring Jinjja back home.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good bedtime story?

Jenna Beardé made an exception to her “no dogs on the bed” rule when her son, River, said he wanted to read a story, before his nap, to one of their dogs.

Ronnie, a deaf pit bull, jumped up and made himself comfortable, which meant Macy, another family dog, had to get up there, too.

As they settled in, River started reading, and Jenna, who normally reads her two-year-old son a naptime story, sat back and watched.

By about the third book, both dogs — resting on their backs, legs splayed — appeared to be asleep, Jenna told the Kansas City Star, which reported on the video Jenna took after it went viral.

She posted the video to Facebook, and a week later it had been viewed 22 million times.

On top being atrociously cute, the video, in her view, gives some much needed positive attention to pit bulls, which are illegal in several municipalities around Kansas City.

Ronnie, the dog lying closest to River in the video, is a rescued pit bull. Macy, a black and white terrier mix and the first dog the family rescued, was often mistaken for one, prompting her and her husband Michael to move from Prairie Village, which banned the breed.

The couple — hairstylists who own Beardé Salon in Mission — relocated to Spring Hill to raise their family.

Ronnie, between his disability and his designation as a pit bull, had spent 500 days in a shelter, and been returned twice, when they adopted him.

Jenna has documented Ronnie’s life with the family on a Facebook page called Ronnie’s Life. That’s where she first posted the video of her son reading to him.

River also reads to his pet pig — and anyone else who will listen, according to his mother.

Without some diversity, English bulldogs could become a breed of the past

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Due to centuries of selective breeding, and the efforts of breeders to keep the breed “pure,” the English bulldog has become so inbred it cannot be returned to health without an infusion of new bloodlines, a genetic study says.

The study, appearing in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, reached the stark conclusion that health issues created by human manipulation of the breed could lead to its doom.

“We tried not to be judgmental in our paper. We just said there’s a problem here, and if you are going to decide to do something about it, this is what you’ve got to work with, said co-author Niels Pedersen of the University of California, Davis.

“If you want to re-build the breed, these are the building blocks you have, but they’re very few. So if you’re using the same old bricks, you’re not going to be able to build a new house.” told the BBC.

Pedersen and colleagues from the Center for Companion Animal Health at UC Davis examined the DNA of 102 registered English Bulldogs and found an alarmingly low level of diversity.

That, they say, is the result of a small initial pool of founding dogs, and “bottlenecks” caused by breeding for “desirable” traits like a big head and a short snout.

Those traits have led to many of the breed’s health problems — difficulty breathing, poor mobility and reproductive issues among them.

The researchers say efforts to return the breed to health by using existing bloodlines alone are “questionable.”

Introducing new bloodlines, from outside the breed, are likely the only solution, but many breeders are resistant to that idea.

“The fastest way to get genetic diversity is to outcross to a breed that looks similar but is genetically distinct… Trying to manipulate diversity from within a breed if it doesn’t have much anyway is really very difficult,” Pedersen said. “If all your dogs are highly related to one another, which ones are you going to pick?”

One possibility suggested by the researchers is the Olde English Bulldogge, a 1970s attempt by an American breeder to recreate the healthier working bulldog that existed in England during the early 1800s.

“The English bulldog has reached the point where popularity can no longer excuse the health problems that the average bulldog endures,” Pedersen said in a statement.

The features of today’s English bulldog are the result of hundreds of years of breeding, but changes to the breed’s traits — flatter face, shorter nose, stubbier legs, more skin folds — have become particularly rapid in recent decades, Pedersen said.

Montreal, Quebec City to impose pit bull bans; and all of Quebec may soon follow

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Pit bulls could end up being banned from all of Quebec — as they are from all of Ontario.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Thursday the province will probably follow Ontario’s lead in outlawing pit bulls and other “dangerous dogs.”

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said officials will “definitely do something significant” by fall, after more research into what other breeds of dogs should be included in any ban.

Ontario’s pit bull ban was enacted in 2005 after several highly publicized cases of people being badly injured in pit bull attacks.

The legislation banned ownership of new pit bulls, placed restrictions on existing pit bulls, and toughened the penalties for the owners of any dog that poses a danger to the public.

In Quebec, at least four local governments around Montreal have announced pit bull bans — all in the two weeks after the death of Christiane Vadnais, a 55-year-old woman who was found dead in her own backyard after a suspected pit bull attack.

Montreal Mayor Dennis Coderre announced Saturday morning that the city plans to amend its animal control bylaws to ban acquisition of new pit bull dogs in Montreal. All existing pit bulls would have to be sterilized and wear muzzles when they are in public.

In Quebec City, Mayor Regis Labeaume announced that, starting Jan. 1, 2017, pit bulls will be prohibited and anyone caught with one will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense.

Candiac, which just lifted its pit bull ban two months ago, will stop licensing pit bulls in August, while waiting to see what action the province takes.

Brossard will vote on a proposed ban next month. Brossard Mayor Paul Leduc says the city has been looking at a ban since an eight-year-old was bitten in the face by a pit bull at a park last summer.

The head of Montreal’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals described Montreal’s ban as “knee jerk.”

“If we are trying to find a way to reduce the number of animal bites in a community by starting with how the animal may look, we are starting down the wrong path,” said SPCA executive director Nicholas Gilman.

“It is a rabbit hole that doesn’t lead to effective results. Instead, let’s focus on how animals become aggressive in the first place and work from there.”

(Photo: CBC News)

How to erase a smile: Michigan dog whose photo went viral is now an outlaw

smileydogA dog whose smile went viral this month on the Internet has been deemed an outlaw — based entirely on his looks.

Diggy was adopted by Michigan musician Dan Tillery, and a heartwarming photo of the two of them with big smiles on their faces (left) has been shared widely on social media.

But once Tillery brought the dog home to Waterford Township, they were met with a frown.

The township bans pit bulls, and when police received “several complaints” about Diggy — not based on any bad behavior, just based on his looks — police officers visited Tillery’s home.

“Based on their observations, it was determined the dog was part pit bull/pit bull terrier,” Police Lt. Todd Hasselbach said.

Listen more closely to his remarks and you can hear they are oozing something very close to what, in the human community, we’d call racism.

He confirms that Diggy is being judged based on looks alone. He says any percentage of pit bull in Diggy — no matter how small — makes him a pit bull. And he says Diggy can’t be permitted to live in Waterford Township because of the “zero tolerance” ordinance, which has been “in effect for many years.” As if that makes it right.

Sounding like a lawman from the old west, or maybe more like a 1960’s sheriff from the deep south, went on to say Diggy has three days to get out of town.

diggyAll that would be a pretty troubling series of events, in my view, whether Diggy is a pit bull or not.

And he may not be.

Diggy was picked up as a stray earlier this year by Detroit Animal Care and Control, which classified him as an American bulldog.

Detroit Dog Rescue, the only no-kill shelter in the city, later pulled Diggy from the facility and put him up for adoption, according to ABC News’ local affiliate WXYZ.

Tillery and his girlfriend adopted Diggy after seeing a photo posted on the nonprofit rescue group’s Facebook page. In that post, Diggy — then named Sir Wiggleton — was described as a “2 year old American bulldog/pit bull mix that loves the water and is just a big goofball.”

In the week after his adoption, Diggy became an internet sensation after Tillery posted a photo of him smiling with his new dog.

Owning a pit bull in Waterford is an ordinance violation that can carry a $500 fine. Police didn’t cite Tillery but told him he had until today to relocate the dog to another town.

diggy2Waterford police said if a veterinarian deems Diggy to be an American bulldog or another permitted breed, with no pit bull in him, then he can stay — but they say it has to be a vet of the police department’s choosing.

Kristina Millman-Rinaldi, executive director of Detroit Dog Rescue, said the organization already had a vet deem Diggy an American bulldog, and called the Waterford Township city clerk’s office beforehand to make sure there were no restrictions on that breed.

Waterford Township defines pit bulls as dogs that “substantially conform to the breed standards established by the American Kennel Club” for American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, or American Staffordshire terriers.

And the ordinance allows police officers to make that call — based on the dog’s looks and their previous experience with pit bulls.

An online petition to lift the dangerous dog ban in Waterford has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures.

Rottweilers and pit bulls and chows, oh my!

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For years, there were only two ways for an unclaimed pit bull, Rottweiler or chow to get out of the Guilford County Animal Shelter in Greensboro, N.C.

One was for a rescue group to step in, take custody of the dog and find it an adoptive home.

The only other alternative was euthanasia.

Due to “liability concerns,” the shelter had a policy against allowing pit bulls, Rottweilers and chows to be adopted — instituted by the non-profit group that managed it for 15 years.

That group was ousted last year, and last week the Guilford County Board of Commissioners reversed the long-standing rule.

The old policy was established under the United Animal Coalition, a Greensboro-based nonprofit that ran the shelter until last year — when its licensed was revoked after an investigation into charges of animal cruelty. The county assumed management of the shelter.

Last Thursday, the Board of Commissioners voted to change the policy that prevented the adoption of certain breeds, according to the Greensboro News & Record.

According to the shelter’s director, Logan Rustan, about 8 of every 10 dogs in the shelter at any given time are pit bulls.

“A lot of our cages stay empty because I cannot put these three breeds on the floor, and that’s most of what we get,” Rustan told the commissioners. “If I can have this approved … I guarantee when I get back today I can fill the adoption floor, fill it full, with adoptable animals.”

Rustan said the shelter had worked with area rescues to find pit bulls, Rottweilers and chows adoptive homes, but was often left with adult pit bulls that could not be placed.

The change in policy is in keeping with recommendations from the state Department of Agriculture, which has urged the shelter to give more consideration to a dog’s temperament than to its breed when assessing its adoptability.

(Photo by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

An app that’s not apt to be very useful

Only in these mega-awesome modern times could a product that really doesn’t work well at all become a big hit.

And only in the Internet age could how badly it works be a selling point.

Fetch! is an app that lets you upload a photo of your dog and learn what breed it is, or, judging from my try, what breed it’s not.

It was released yesterday just in time for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, according to promotional material. (Last I checked, competitors at Westminster were pretty sure what breeds their dogs were.)

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Not a Rhodesian Ridgeback

The app analyzes a photo and makes a guess as to breed — using its artificial intelligence and tons of data stored in clouds.

It’s just one of the latest products to hit the market offering to guess everything from your age to your state of mind to the significance of your mustache — all via the power of object recognition, a key facet of artificial intelligence.

It comes as a Web app or download for devices running Apple’s iOS, and you can also get an idea of what it’s all about at the website what-dog.net.

I generally avoid apps (I’m app-rehensive?) so I went to the website to give it a test. I fed it three different photos of Ace, and it identified him as a Rhodesian Ridgeback each time. (He’s not.)

Next I uploaded a photo of myself and was told I was a “Chihuahua … quick witted, loving, wary of strangers and other dogs.”

(Strangers and dogs are actually the two things I’m NOT wary of.)

Microsoft is using the device’s lack of reliability as a selling point, as if to say,  “Well no, it’s not really accurate at all, but isn’t it fun?”

Seems to be a lot of that going around these days.

As in the series of ads from Time Warner that make light of the sheer hell the company — once, they’d have us believe — put customers through.

As in the direction the news media has been going in ever since it realized there was an Internet.

As in all those overused hooks designed to get us to click a link on the Internet – such as awesome, epic, jaw-dropping, life-changing, pee-your-pants-funny, you’re not going to believe what happened next.

With Fetch, in my case, not too much happened next.

But its developers say they expect it to wow the masses.

“There was an interest in creating a framework that would allow you to take a domain – in our case, dogs – and recognize numerous classes, such as breeds. We were interested in enabling an app to allow you to make object recognition extraordinary, fun and surprising,” said Mitch Goldberg, one of the Fetch  developers

“If you want to take photos of dogs, it will tell you what dog breed it is, if it’s one of our supported breeds. If I choose to take a photograph of a flower, it’ll say, ‘No dogs found! Hmmm… This looks more like…flower?’ But if you take a picture of a person, it’ll kick into its hidden fun mode. And in a playful way, it’ll communicate to you not only what type of dog it thinks you are, but also why.”

Follow all that? When the app works, it’s an amazing example of artificial intelligence. When it doesn’t, don’t worry, it’s in playful, fun mode.

I sometimes wonder if artificial intelligence is gaining on us, or if we’re just getting more stupid.