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Is artwork an attack on pit bulls?

outofblue3

Whether it’s art, propaganda, or a combination of the two, a memorial to victims of fatal dog attacks is creating controversy as one of dozens of entries in a public art display in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The work  is called ”Out of the Blue,” a reference to how dog attacks — and particularly pit bull attacks, the artist repeatedly points out — usually happen.

outofblue2The display, created by a woman identifying herself as Joan Marie Kowal, consists of more than 30 decorated crosses, representing the number of people killed in dog attacks this year, and images of the victims, many of them children.

The artwork is rubbing some dog lovers, and particularly pit bull lovers, the wrong way, which has led to some demonstrations and the kind of heated, everybody’s an expert debate that follows pit bulls around wherever they go.

Joan Marie Kowal, we suspect, has more experience in badmouthing pit bulls than she does in creating art, but then again artists don’t need credentials in this competition.

Every year, for 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids is opened up to artists in ArtPrize, a competition that awards $200,000 to the grand prize winner.

Downtown becomes “an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters,” according to the  ArtPrize  website. ”Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown … It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”

This year, “Out of the Blue” has proved among the most disruptive.

A week ago, perturbed pit bull owners brought their dogs to Calder Plaza, where the entry is displayed, in hopes of presenting their views and showing that pit bulls — the breed most often mentioned in the memorial — aren’t vicious killing machines.

When they sat down in front of the memorial, Kowal complained they were obstructing the public’s view.

Kowal told MLIVE.com in an email that “visitors can’t even see the art and many have told me the bully breed owners, sitting on the ledges blocking the view of the victims’ biographies and refusing to move, makes them unable to enjoy the piece.”

Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean said Kowal filed a complaint in late September about people sitting with pit bulls on the stone wall in front of her ArtPrize entry. Police found nothing illegal at that time, he said, and members of the group, while on public property, moved at the request of officers.

Kowal describes the work as “an opportunity to Pay it Forward, and show the good side of humanity. Visitors are encouraged to express their sympathy, respect, and support for the victims and their families by leaving teddy bears, flowers, or memorial decorations in the designated heart-shaped memorial space.”

According to a brief biography listed on the ArtPrize website,  Kowal is an animal lover, who has feral cats and pet squirrels. She attended Grand Valley State University.

Not a whole lot can be learned about her through searching her name on the Internet, and there’s no mention of any previous artistic pursuits.

There was a 2011 MLIVE.com article that mentioned her name, and quoted her as being a supporter of a proposed pit bull ban in Wyoming, Michigan.

Perhaps she became an artist “out of the blue.” Perhaps her anti-pit bull passion needed an outlet.

We support the right for just about anyone to call themselves an artist, assuming they are making some form of art. We don’t have a problem with Kowal expressing herself — either vocally or through her “art” — on the streets of Grand Rapids. By the same token, we have no problem with pit bull owners and their dogs sitting down squarely in front of it, as long as it’s public property. They have the right to express themselves in public, too, whether they’re ArtPrize contestants or not.

So do we. And our opinion is Kowal is pushing her personal agenda under the guise of a non-profit organization’s art competition, and that it’s likely part of a well-plotted effort by those forces intent on painting all members of the breed with the same brush, reinforcing negative stereotypes while playing fast and loose with the facts.

Kowal says she plans to add three more crosses this weekend in remembrance of three other people who died from injuries she says were caused by pit bull attacks.

“That is not my fault that they were all killed by pit bulls,” she said. “I’m just showing the facts.”

Two “new” breeds will debut at Westminster

cotons

What do the Hungarian wire-haired vizsla (below) and the coton de tulear (above) have in common?

At first glance, not a lot.

wirehairedvizsla

The fuzzier version of a Vizsla is a mid-sized dog with what’s been called a “professorial” appearance, while the tiny coton de tulear is a fluffy French breed that resembles a Q-Tip on steroids

Both breeds, newly recognized by the American Kennel Club, will be competing for the first time when the Westminster Kennel Club holds its 139th annual dog show in New York in February.

“Coton is the French word for cotton and that’s what this dog looks like, a little bit of a cotton swab,” David Frei, the host and director of communications for the show, explained to NPR.

“It has got a long white coat, smallish dog; looks more like a toy dog than the non-sporting group that it’s in — fun little dog,” Frei added. “The royal dog of Madagascar, if you will, was exported through the Port of Tulear in Madagascar, ended up in France and other places in Europe before it came to this country and now it’s not really a new breed per se, but it’s new to us.”

Unlike their smooth-coated counterparts, the wirehaired vizsla has an inch-long, rust-colored coat that helps protect it while romping through the brush.

While best known for their hunting abilities, their fuzzy faces — with beards and moustaches and, if you will, Andy Rooney eyebrows — give them a distinguished appearance that belies their playfulness.

The two new additions brings the total number of breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club to 192..

(Photos: Vizsla photo from  Fassfields Hungarian Wirehaired Vizslas;  coton de tulear photo,  Nicaise, via Wamiz.com)

Mutt shot for copulating with purebred

shotYou can’t blame Raider.

Maybe you can blame his owner — for not getting his front door fixed, and for not getting Raider fixed — but the 4-year-old Labrador mix was only doing what intact dogs tend to do, when the neighbor dog goes into heat.

The mutt went out the unlatched front door, and over to the home of a neighbor, who authorities say shot Raider twice when he caught him copulating with his prized purebred.

The neighbor, Randall Schexnayder, 51, of Metairie, was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana.

Raider is expected to recover from gunshot wounds to the muzzle and neck, according to his owner, Jim Hanley, 43. The dog disappeared last Wednesday, returning a few hours later covered in blood. Initially, Hanley thought Raider had been hit by a car, the Times-Picayune reported.

He took the dog to a vet, who told him Raider had been shot.

Hanley told the sheriff’s office who he suspected. A couple of neighbors had complained about Raider getting loose, and one had warned Hanley that he would take action if he ever caught Raider mounting his purebred dog.

When deputies called on that neighbor — Schexnayder —  he admitted shooting the dog. He told the deputies he chased the dog off once, but when the dog returned, and attempted to mount his pet — whose breed wasn’t identified — he shot Raider twice with a .22-caliber pistol.

Schexnayder turned the gun and Raider’s collar over to authorities and was briefly jailed before being released on bond, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

Hanley, while not denying his dog accosted his neighbor’s purebred, said that doesn’t justify his dog getting shot.

“I understand that (a strange dog mating with a prize female) would be upsetting, but it would never cross my mind to pull out a firearm,” he said. “I think my first move would have been calling animal control. I mean, my Lord.”

Raider is named after the Archbishop Rummel High School Raiders.

LABRABLOOPERS: Is any breed more zany?

Are we laughing with these Labradors, or at them?

And does it really matter, as long as we’re laughing?

As long as nobody’s getting hurt, I say bring on the Labrabloopers.

Probably, we are laughing at them, but my hunch is — innocently and spontaneously goofy as their behavior can be – that’s exactly what they had in mind.

Walking in support of Utah’s pit bulls

Dnews SLCStrutABulls

Pretty enough to be a postcard, this photo was taken Sunday during a group dog walk in Salt Lake City.

It was one of the regular bi-weekly walks staged by the organization, SLC StrutABulls, which seeks to improve the image of pit bulls by holding walks in various public locations.

Organizers chose the State Capitol this week to raise awareness about House Bill 97, which is headed to the state Senate for review, according to  KSL.com. The bill would prohibit municipalities from enacting or enforcing breed-specific rules, regulations, policies or laws.

About 10 Utah cities now outlaw pit bulls or pit bull mixes, according to Natalie Schun, with SLC StrutABulls.

About 60 dogs — mostly pit bulls or mixes — and their owners walked around the grounds of the Capitol on Sunday.

“The (bad) ones that you hear about are just (a few) out of who knows how many,” said event co-organizer Kelly Lawson. “Any dog can be mean if it doesn’t get the proper socialization, exercise and attention that it needs.

“We are out to show that these are good dogs and can be good dogs no matter what breed they are.”

(Photo: Scott G. Winterton./ Deseret News)

Dog burial site dates to Aztec times

burialsite

A dog cemetery that goes back to Aztec times has been uncovered beneath an old apartment building in Mexico City.

Archaeologists announced the discovery Friday and said that — while the remains of dogs have been found in Aztec ruins before — this is the first time a group of dogs has been found buried together at one site.

The 12 dogs were buried around the same time in a small pit between 1350 a 1520 A.D., according to the Associated Press.

Aztecs believed dogs could guide human souls into a new life after death, and it was not uncommon for dogs to be buried under monuments under the thinking their spirits would provide protection.

The team of archaeologists determined when the dogs were buried through ceramics and other items found in nearby pits under the apartment building in the populous Mexico City borough of Aztacapozalco.

Archaeologist Rocio Morales Sanchez said digging deeper could help reveal why the dogs were buried there.

Experts with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, called the find “exceptional.”

Archaeologist Antonio Zamora, who works at the excavation site, said a biologist told the team the remains belonged to medium-sized dogs, likely Techichi dogs, a breed believed to be an ancestor of the Chihuahua, and Xoloitzcuintlis.

(Photo: Courtesy of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History)

Supersize me: Americans turning to big dogs

SONY DSC

Big dogs — not that they ever left — are coming back.

In its annual report on breed popularity in the U.S., the American Kennel Club notes that, while the Labrador retriever is again the most popular dog breed, other large breeds are quickly moving up the list, including Dobermans, giant schnauzers and Great Danes.

According to the AKC, it could be a sign of an improving economy.

“Owning bigger breeds – an economic indicator of sorts – has been on the rise during the past five years,” said Lisa Peterson, AKC spokeswoman. “As the economy has improved, people are turning back to the big dogs they love, which cost more to feed and care for than the smaller breeds that saw a rise in popularity in 2007 and 2008.”

Labs took the top spot for the 23rd straight year, the longest consecutive reign of any dog in the annual ranking. The rankings are based on the number of AKC dog registrations across the country.

Here are the top 10, with links to their AKC profiles:

1. Labrador Retriever
2. German Shepherd Dog
3. Golden Retriever
4. Beagle
5. Bulldog
6. Yorkshire Terrier
7. Boxer
8. Poodle
9. Rottweiler
10. Dachshund

Comparing those rankings to the 2009 list, there’s evidence of a decline in small dog popularity — Yorkies dropped three places, from third, dachshunds dropped two, from eighth, and shih tzus fell out of the top 10 entirely.

Some smaller breeds saw a gain in popularity, like the French bulldog (now 11th). But far greater gains were made by greatly sized dogs: Doberman Pinschers rose from 22 to 12; Great Danes from 27 to 16; and Bernese Mountain Dogs from 47 to 32.

The AKC announced its rankings Friday, in advance of the upcoming Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden.

Three new breeds will compete this year: rat terriers, Chinooks, and Portuguese Podengo Pequenos.

(Photo: Ash, a lab, or perhaps a lab mix (we didn’t ask for his papers), at play; by John Woestendiek)


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