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Tag: california

Trying to save his dog, man in wheelchair is killed by train in California

    A man in a wheelchair who witnesses say was trying to save his dog was struck by a train and killed Friday.

    Jim Boswell, an amputee who lived at a mobile home park in Wheatland, Calif., was said to be a quiet man in his 60’s, and a good friend to his dog, who was also killed.

    Boswell had left his prosthetic leg at home and taken his wheelchair to a store down the road, his dog at his side.

    “He had just come in,” said Rachel Sewell, an employee at Big Al’s Market. “We had literally just helped him less than five minutes before it happened.”

    After he left the store, around 7:45 p.m., she and others in the neighborhood heard the squeal of train brakes.

    While no one witnessed the accident, CBS 13 in Sacramento reported that they think the dog got away from Boswell who then tried to catch him before the train roared through.

    Neighbors say Boswell and a female relative who acted as his caretaker had been living in the mobile home park a few months.

Abandoned dog was living in a knothole

booEver have one of those days when it seems like humanity isn’t treating you with the proper respect — the kind that makes you just want to crawl into a hole and hide?

Apparently that was the case with Boo, a Chihuahua mix who was spotted a couple of weeks ago in a rural area in Sonoma County, California, living inside a hole in a large tree.

A call to Sonoma County Animal Control led Shirley Zindler and other officers to the spot.

It was an area, they say, where people commonly abandon dogs.

It took a few hours, but the small dog was finally coaxed out of the knothole.

The officers named her Boo — after  the To Kill A Mockingbird character, Boo Radley,  who left gifts for children in an oak tree’s knothole.

boo1aBoo Dogley, as she is now known, was dirty and underweight when she was found. Officers estimated she was about one year old and had been living in the tree at least a week.

Possibly, she picked the hiding place because she was about to deliver a litter of pups. Unfortunately, none survived.

Zindler says Boo is skittish around people and was likely mistreated.

“She thinks the world’s out to get her,” Zindler, who is also the author of The Secret Life of Dog Catchers, told The Huffington Post.

Zindler is caring for Boo now, while seeking a “very, very patient person” to give her a forever home.

boo2Boo’s recovery is being documented on Zindler’s Facebook page,The Secret Life of Dog Catchers.

“She’ll stay with me until the right home is found,” said Zindler, noting it’s not the first time she has taken an unwanted dog home. She has four others.

“I take them home and fix them up so they can find a forever home.”

(Photos by Shirley Zindler)


California mom finds the shelter dog she adopted can help detect her seizures

When Danielle Zuckerman adopted a pit bull named Thor from a California shelter, she was seeking a companion for herself and her son.

She has gotten that, as well an early warning system.

Zuckerman, a former Navy nuclear scientist who has seizures as a result of a spinal cord injury, says it was just days after she brought Thor home that the otherwise quiet dog jumped in her lap and started barking.

“I didn’t know what was going on, I thought something was maybe wrong with him, and about 10 to 15 minutes later I had a seizure,” she said.

Seven more times over the next two months, Thor did the same thing, and each time Zuckerman was on the brink of a seizure.

Thor, as far as anybody knows, never had any training as a service dog, or seizure detection dog.

The early warnings from Thor allow Zuckerman to take a new medication that cuts the length of her seizure from five minutes to 90 seconds.

And his presence gives her a sense of security she didn’t have before.

“I feel so much more comfortable, going out in public and going to do things, because when you’re an epileptic, you don’t have control over your own body,” said Zuckerman, who lives in Nevada County.

Thor was adopted from Sammy’s Friends in Grass Valley. Cheryl Wicks, who runs the shelter, told CBS 13 in Sacramento, she was thrilled when she heard about Thor’s skills.

“My hair stood up, I got chills, I got teary eyed,” she said. “This woman adopts a dog to have a pet and then she gets all this. It can, like, change her life.”

Does pinpointing breeds speed up adoption?


In hopes that potential adopters will find a “Chiratoodle” or a “golden Chinscher” more appealing than a plain old mutt or “Chihuahua mix,” an animal shelter in California has begun DNA testing some of its dogs to determine their breeds and market them under more exotic names.

The Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in Burlingame, south of San Francisco, says initial results show the DNA tested dogs are getting adopted twice as fast.

Not too surprising in a world that prefers labels over mysteries — at least when it comes to what we bring into our homes.

DNA testing is not widely practiced by America’s animal shelters, mainly because of its expense. As a result, most people who adopt a dog from a shelter leave with a mystery mutt, or one whose heritage has been guessed at by shelter staff.

My dog Ace, for instance, when he was adopted nearly 10 years ago, was listed as a “hound mix” on his shelter paperwork, referred to as a “shepherd mix” by shelter staff and listed on as a “Labrador mix.”

When DNA tests came on the market in 2007, I purchased one, swabbed his cheek and learned he was Rottweiler and Chow. In the next few years, as the tests became capable of identifying more than the original 38 breeds, I tested him two more times. The second test determined he was Rottweiler, Chow and Akita. The third test showed him to be all of those, and a little bit pit bull.

The tests allowed me to answer the question I was asked at least once a day: “What kind of dog is that?” It wasn’t so much that I had to know. All three tests were done mostly as research, for the purpose of writing about them. And once I learned the breeds he was made up of, I kind of missed the mystery.

I don’t think the information is all that vital, but I can understand how a purchaser, or adopter, of a dog might like to know what’s in his or her mix.

In California, the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA conducted the tests in an attempt to increase the adoptions of Chihuahua mixes, which make up nearly a quarter the dogs in its shelter.

The campaign, conducted under the slogan “Who’s Your Daddy?” is aimed at “finding great homes for dogs at risk of being overlooked,” said Scott Delucchi, the shelter’s senior vice president.

“People love mutts. Still, we’re betting shelter dogs with DNA results included, for free, will be quite fetching,” he says in a commercial for the campaign.

The shelter picks up the cost of the $50 tests, which they say can help owners identify what breed-specific traits the dogs might exhibit. The tests also allow the shelter to have some fun coming up with clever breed names — like “Chorgi” (Chiuahua-corgi), “golden Chinscher”  (golden retriever-miniature pinscher-Chihuahua) and “Chiratoodle” (Chihuahua-rat terrier-poodle).

In February, the shelter conducted tests that determined the breed make up of 11 small dogs. All found homes within two weeks — twice as fast as any 11 untested small, brown dogs in the previous months, according to an Associated Press story.

Twelve more dogs have been tested since then and once they are all placed in homes the shelter plans to test 24 more.

Chihuahuas have replaced pit bulls as the most prevalent breed in the shelter, largely due to the “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” movies, and the breed’s popularity among celebrities.

While some visitors to the shelter are seeking Chihuahuas, others are looking for mutts — small dogs who, thanks to another breed being in the mix, might have a less nervous dispositions.

While shelter officials have proclaimed the new program a success, they note that it’s going to take more than a gimmick to reduce the “alarming” number of Chihuahua mixes coming in.

“Another part is making spay-neuter low-cost or free to the community,” Delucchi said. The shelter also exports some of its smaller dogs to shelters in Florida, New York and other states where they are in shorter supply.

(Photo: Lynn and Tony Mazzola, with Lily, their newly adopted  ”Chorkie;” by Eric Risberg / AP)

Despicable Santa: A Santa in Mission Viejo turns away autistic girl and service dog


A Southern California shopping mall has apologized to the family of a young girl with autism after she and her service dog were turned away by a Santa who was either allergic to the dog, afraid of the dog, or just a most unjolly sort.

The Santa on duty during the incident at The Shops at Mission Viejo was fired, as was at least one elf, and the mall has invited both the girl and her dog back to visit with a more compassionate Santa.

The girl, Abcde (pronounced Ab-Suh-Dee) Santos, had waited in line for half an hour with her service dog Pup-Cake.  But before Abcde could take a seat on Santa’s lap,  she was turned away, apparently because the man playing Saint Nick was not a fan of Pup-Cake, a pit bull, ABC7 reported.

pupcakeFamily friend Julie Miller says Pup-Cake is a specially trained service animal that accompanies Abcde everywhere she goes.

“The dog is not a breed when it is a service animal,” Miller told ABC. “A service animal is a highly trained companion to an individual and the breed is secondary. The Americans with Disabilities Act gives an individual with a disability the right to have their companion and service animal with them to do the job that they’re trained to do.”

Friend say Abcde, rather than wanting to tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas, had hoped to ask him what he was wishing for this year.

Miller said even though Abcde was turned away by Santa and associates, the fact that she patiently waited 30 minutes to see him was something to celebrate.

“Any person who has a child on the spectrum would look at that and think ‘Wow,’” she said

Abcde’s mother wrote about the incident in a Facebook post. She said after Santa refused to meet with the girl and dog, the family offered to take Pup-Cake outside. They were told the visit would still not be allowed because Santa had dog allergies.

Miller said the shopping center responded quickly once they were told what happened.

“We do not condone the behavior displayed by Santa and have worked with our partners at Noerr, the company that hires our Santas, to replace this Santa with one that is more compassionate to our guests’ needs,” The Shops at Mission Viejo wrote on its Facebook page. “We look forward to welcoming back the Santos family and Pup-Cake for a special Santa experience.”

Noerr’s CEO also posted a statement to the mall’s Facebook page:

“For 26 years, The Noerr Programs has devoted itself to sharing the heart of Santa through the creation of magical Christmas experiences for all children and their families. The entire team at The Noerr Programs sincerely apologizes for any distress caused by this situation, and truly regrets the incident. We have reached out to the girl’s family, in an effort to extend a private Santa visit with complimentary photos of both the child and her service dog.”

Whether that happier ending will come to pass is questionable.

Abcde is still upset by what happened. ”Right now Abcde does not want anything to do with anything Christmas,” the family said in a statement.

“The family is working on reigniting that hope she had; if and when it happens she will visit Santa at The Shops. She will have her 30 seconds with Santa so she can ask him what he wants for Christmas. If she wants to. Not until then.”

(Photos: Facebook)

Tasered dog walker awarded $50,000


Remember that California man who was shot with a stun gun by a National Park Service ranger who stopped him for walking his dogs off leash?

Gary Hesterberg may not have been entirely in the right when he sassed the park ranger and refused to give her his name, but the ranger was definitely in the wrong when she zapped him with her stun gun when he tried to leave the scene, a federal judge has ruled.

Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled that Ranger Sarah Cavallaro used unlawful and unreasonable force, and she awarded Hesterberg $50,000 in damages for physical and mental suffering, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The incident unfolded on the afternoon of Jan. 29, 2012, when Hesterberg, 50, of Montara took his two dogs on a hike in the Rancho Corral de Tierra open space. Both dogs — a beagle named Jack and a rat terrier named JoJo — had been there many times before, and often walked unleashed.

While the Rancho had always had rules that dogs be kept on-leash, they’d never been too heavily enforced.

But when the land was acquired by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the park service made plans to change that, and ranger Cavallaro had been assigned to start spreading the word that day that stricter enforcement was coming.

When Cavallaro stopped Hesterberg to talk to him about the new rules, the conversation grew heated. Hesterberg said in court that he gave the ranger a fake last name because he didn’t “want to be placed on some offending dog walker … list.”

Hesterberg questioned Cavallaro’s authority and told the ranger he was leaving. She pointed her stun gun at him and told him to stay put.

When Hesterburg turned to leave. Cavallaro fired, hitting him in the back and buttocks. He was arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, keeping dogs off-leash and providing false information, but San Mateo County prosecutors declined to file charges.

In her ruling, the judge found that Hesterberg, though uncooperative, never posed an immediate threat to Cavallaro, and that the circumstances didn’t justify the ranger’s use of force.

(Photo: San Francisco Chronicle)

Creepy: California man accused of killing ex’s dog, and feeding it to her dinner


We’re not sure who gave Ryan Eddy Watenpaugh the minor shiner he sports in this mug shot.

But, assuming Watenpaugh really did what he is accused of doing, he deserves much worse, and — once he goes to trial, and if he gets convicted, of course — we hope he gets it.

The Shasta County, California, man is in custody for killing his girlfriend’s dog, then cooking the dog and feeding his girlfriend part of the remains — telling her it was a pork dish initially, then texting her that what she’d really eaten was her dog.

Police in Redding say Watenpaugh’s live-in girlfriend left him after a fight in August, leaving her Pomeranian, Bear, behind.

When she returned, in what appeared to be a reconciliation, Watenpaugh told her the dog had disappeared.

As a show of what appeared good faith, he made her dinner, then informed her — through text messages — that she had eaten her dog.

“It set all of us back when we read the text messages about the incident,” said a police sergeant. “The suspect asked her how Bear tasted … obviously referencing the meal he prepared for her.”

Police are still investigating, but they say a package Watenpaugh left for his ex last week lends credence to the claims he made in his messages. On Tuesday, the victim said Watenpaugh left a bag at her front door — inside of which were the paws of what she believed to be her dog, Action News reported.

Watenpaugh, 34, was arrested Thursday evening, booked into the Shasta County Jail and is being charged with domestic violence, stalking, animal cruelty and imprisonment.

“It’s sad, that if indeed the dog was killed as part of this incident, because dogs are innocent. All they want is affection and love,” Redding Police Sgt. Todd Cogle told NBC News on Friday. “For someone to take advantage of that innocence is obviously sad and depressing.”

Watenpaugh admitted to leaving Bear’s paws in front of his ex-girlfriend’s home, but denied anything to do with the dog’s apparent death, police said.

No other remains of the dog have been found.