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Sheepdog sets a canine scooter record

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Guinness World Records has proclaimed Norman, a three-year-old French sheepdog, the fastest dog on a scooter.

Then again, there aren’t too many other dogs riding around on scooters.

normanNorman set the record in Marietta, Georgia, on July 12 and received his certificate from Guinness World Records while appearing on the Today Show over the weekend.

Norman’s owner, Karen Cobb, told Today Show anchors that the dog is a quick learner.

“He picked things up really quickly,” she said. Norman balances himself on the scooter with his two front paws on the handle and a back paw on the scooter, then uses his other hind paw to push himself forward.

He first showed an affinity for the scooter as a pup. “He loved it. He wouldn’t get off,” Cobb said.

His record-setting ride was part of a charity event that benefited Road Trip Home, an organization that saves animals from high-kill shelters. According to Guinness World Records, he traveled 100 feet in just over 20 seconds.

He has also appeared on Cartoon Network and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Norman has also mastered the skateboard and can ride a bike with training wheels.

(Photo: Erik S. Lesser / EPA)

Ace goes to school for a lesson in love

Ace made a big impression on pre-k and kindergarten students at Baltimore’s Lakewood Elementary School yesterday, dazzling them with tricks, soaking up their pats and hugs and swearing in two classrooms whose students took the “Oath of Kindness,” a pledge to be kind to animals.

How this latest stop in our continuing travels came to pass was actually pretty simple, and amazingly bureaucracy-free.

A teacher friend asked if we’d visit. We said yes. She got the necessary clearances and, before you know it, a 130-pound Rottweiler-Akita-chow-pit bull mix was being snuggled, stroked and hugged by a bunch of children half his size.

Karma Dogs, the therapy dog organization of which Ace is a member, came up with two more volunteers who visited the school along with Ace and me —  Janet Shepherd and her dog Tami, and Kathryn Corrigan and her dog Puddy.

Together, we covered six classrooms in just over an hour, administering the oath, passing along some basic dog safety tips and stressing the importance of treating animals kindly.

Karma Dogs developed the “Oath of Kindness” after the death of Phoenix, a pit bull puppy who was set on fire by Baltimore teenagers in the summer of 2009 — not the first, or last, case of its type in the city.

The oath reads: “I … pledge always to be kind to animals. I promise never to hurt an animal, be it dog or cat, furry or fat. I promise to tell my friends to be kind to animals and if I see an animal that is being hurt I will tell an adult right away. Scaly or slimy, feathered or blue, to this promise I will be true.”

After reciting the pledge, the children receive a certificate,which is “pawtographed” by the dog, in this case, Ace. The hope is that children who have openly declared they will not be violent towards animals will remember that, tell their friends and inform adults when they see an animal being taunted or abused.

Of the students Ace and I appeared before, about a dozen raised their hands when I asked who was afraid of dogs. But only one declined a chance to pet Ace. Several more had some trepidations, but those seemed to melt away as they watched the other children interact with him.

They were eager to ask questions, and talk about their own pets. One girl spent three minutes talking about her Chihuahua, which she said had the same name she did. Not until the end of her dissertation did she reveal that her dog was a stuffed toy.

I cautioned them against  approaching stray dogs, told them to always to ask the owner before approaching a dog, showed them how to let dogs sniff their hands as an introduction and encouraged them to treat dogs as they’d like to be treated — calmly, kindly and lovingly.

Ace made an impression on the children in several ways, I think –through his size alone, his gentleness and his back story: a stray adopted from the shelter, like most of the other Karma Dogs, who went on to try and help humans.

He also made an impression with his pawprint, stamped on each of the certificates that was handed out.

The teacher behind the event (who also took these photos) was Marite Edwards, a longtime friend of Ace’s. When she took the idea to her principal, she learned that the school and district were looking at ways to add dog safety and kindness to animals to the curriculum.

That another case of animal abuse surfaced in Baltimore over the weekend — that of a cat set on fire by two teenagers — confirmed just how much those lessons are needed.

You can find more information about Karma Dogs at its website.

(Photos by Marite Edwards)

“Oldest dog” appears on NBC’s Today Show

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Chanel, a 21-year-old dachshund mix who has been certified by Guinness World Records as the oldest dog in the world, appeared on the Today Show yesterday, celebrating her birthday with her owner, Denice Shaughnessy.

Wearing a pink sweater and red goggles (because of cataracts), Chanel received her official Guinness certificate on the show.

Denice’s husband, Karl Shaughnessy, contacted Guinness after noticing it had no category for world’s oldest living dog.  He sent in Chanel’s birth certificate showing her birth date: May 6, 1988. In dog years, her veterinarian says, Chanel is 120. She’ll be listed in the 2010 edition of Guinness World Records, scheduled for publication this October.

The oldest dog ever whose age could be verified was Bluey, an Australian cattle dog that died at the age of 29 years, 5 months in 1939.

Chanel wears a sweater or T-shirt when she goes out, because she tends to get chilled easily. She also has a benign tumor on one hind leg, and wears booties to protect the limb. She is prone to getting up in the middle of the night for a drink, and sometimes has trouble relocating her bed.

Denice Shaughnessy was a single mother in the U.S. Army 21 years ago when she went to a shelter in Virginia looking for a dog for her daughter. They paid a $25 adoption fee and took Chanel home.

A few months later, Shaughnessy’s house burned down. That was followed by more hard times in which mother, daughter and dog subsisted on macaroni and cheese. Denice later married Karl Shaughnessy and settled on Long Island, where she got a job as a school secretary.

Licking the tears of a disabled nation

The website is called bringyourdoganywhere.com — operating under the auspices of “American Service Dogs, Inc.” — and according to it, whether you know it or not, you’re disabled.
And as such, you’re entitled to bring your dog anywhere you want.

“We believe that all Americans could be considered to have one or more physical or psychological disabilities, based on the criteria specified under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Under the ADA, individuals with disabilities are entitled to the assistance of a service animal.”

It goes on to cite the advantages of having your dog “certified” as a service dog:

“Landlords cannot refuse to rent to a person because of his service animal, nor can they require an additional security deposit. Privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxis, theaters, and sports facilities, are required to allow persons with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business areas in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.”

For $365, American Service Dogs, Inc. will send you a dog vest, service dog patches (“we do not sew patches to vest”), a “Personalized Service Dog Identification Card,” a laminated brochure called “Service Dogs and the Law,” and one year of the company’s “Take Your Dog Anywhere” quarterly newsletter.

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