OUR BEST FRIENDS

whs-logo

The Sergei Foundation

shelterpet_logo

The Animal Rescue Site

B-more Dog

aldflogo

Pinups for Pitbulls

philadoptables

TFPF_Logo

Mid Atlantic Pug Rescue

Our Pack, Inc.

Maine Coonhound Rescue

Saving Shelter Pets, Inc.

mabb

LD Logo Color

Tag: childhood

Two new studies show dogs can protect children from allergies, eczema

SONY DSC Even before your human baby is born, having a dog in the house can protect him or her against developing allergic eczema.

According to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, babies born in a home with a dog during pregnancy receive protection from allergic eczema, at least in their early years.

The study was one on two presented at the conference in Boston dealing with protections dogs provide to children with allergies — even allergies to dogs.

In the second study, researchers examined the effects of two different types of dog exposure on children with asthma in Baltimore, according to Medical News Today.

The first type was the protein, or allergen, that affects children who are allergic to dogs. The second type were elements, such as bacteria, that a dog might carry.

The researchers concluded that exposure to the elements that dogs carry may have a protective effect against asthma symptoms. But exposure to the allergen may result in more asthma symptoms among urban children with dog allergy.

“Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects,” says Po-Yang Tsou, MD, MPH, lead author. “There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure.”

In the first study, led by ACAAI member Dr. Gagandeep Cheema, researchers investigated how exposure to dogs before birth influenced the risk of childhood eczema.

Eczema is a condition characterized by rashes and patches of dry, itchy skin, most commonly on the hands, feet, face, elbows and knees.

While the causes of eczema remain unclear, it is believed to arise when the immune system overreacts in response to certain allergens or irritants.

“Although eczema is commonly found in infants, many people don’t know there is a progression from eczema to food allergies to nasal allergies and asthma,” Cheema said in a press release. “We wanted to know if there was a protective effect in having a dog that slowed down that progress.”

“We found a mother’s exposure to dogs before the birth of a child is significantly associated with lower risk of eczema by age 2 years, but this protective effect goes down at age 10,” says allergist Edward M. Zoratti, MD, ACAAI member and a study co-author.

(A girl and her dog in Baltimore, by John Woestendiek)

Onward, upward, backward, homeward

Get back to where you once belonged

— The Beatles

You can’t go home again

     — Thomas Wolfe

The Beatles had more memorable lyrics — “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da” notwithstanding — but Thomas Wolfe (and here we mean the “Look Homeward Angel” one, not the modern-day, white-suited “Right Stuff” one) is probably best remembered for that one phrase, which also served as the title of one of his fine books.

“You can’t go home again” — meaning, of course, not that you can’t physically return, but that, if and when you do, what was there then isn’t likely to be there now, or how you remembered it isn’t how it is now, or maybe even how it was then, or that time has a way of erasing your past, just as it will one day lay claim to your future.

Whether one can go home again has been a recurring theme of Travels With Ace. In our journey, we’ve revisited the places of my youth — in Houston, in Tucson, in New York, and in Raleigh. (I had a lot of homes, both in my youth and since — 28 in 16 different towns.) Sometimes the reconnection has been strong; sometimes it has been faint. But you can go home again.

And you should.

And I am.

A week from now I’ll be settling into the modest little apartment unit in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in which my parents lived when I entered the world — not with with a bang (though obviously that occured at some point) but with a whimper.

Now, in the denouement of, if not life, at least this blog, it’s back to John: Chapter One, Verse One.

(Note: At 57, I’ve found I prefer my metaphors mixed. So I run them through the blender, on puree, sometimes with an added pinch of Metamucil, ridding them of the hard to digest lumpy bits. They are both tastier and easier to swallow that way.)

In the beginning was the word — and I was born of two wordsmiths. I followed their footsteps into the newspaper industry, put in 35 years or so, then — as newspapers became glimmers of their former selves — jumped ship to write a book, and write these blogs, and find a new identity to replace my old one.

Now, I’ll be stringing them — words, I mean — together in the same room where I once rattled the rails of my crib, documenting the denouement, or the final resolution of the intricacies of my plot, if indeed I have either plot or intricacies.

It will be — at least for a while — the somewhat circular ending of my year on the road with my dog Ace, who has helped me reach the decision.

His herniated disc is still an issue, and the 11 steps down to our temporary apartment in the basement of a mansion, probably isn’t aiding his recovery.

We came here to spend a couple of months close by my mother, and to reconnect with my own roots, much like I sought out Ace’s several years ago.

It was on the way home from one such reconnection, a family reunion, that my mother showed me the house she and my father lived in when I was born. In the window was a “for rent” sign. There was only one step up to enter.

I signed a lease — as is my style, and given my lack of a plot — on a month-to-month basis.

So next week, given my birthplace is unfurnished, it’s back to Baltimore to reclaim my stuff, now nested in a storage unit on Patapsco Avenue.

Then we’ll lug it all back to College Village, a spanking new apartment complex when my mother and father moved in 60 years ago. Now, it’s far less upscale than its surrounding neighborhood, a collection of mostly squat brick units that look like something you’d see on an Army base.

I, having only lived there one year, and it having been my first, have no real memories of it, but it was interesting to see, when I brought her over for a visit, how it triggered some for my mother.

Ace, too, seemed to like it better than the basement. When we dropped by to sign the lease, his tail was up and wagging. He visited the tiny kitchen, then sniffed out the two bedrooms, paying far more attention to the front one. Did my baby smells still linger after 57 years? Only then did he walk up to meet the landlord and his daughter.

Yes, he seemed to be saying, this will do nicely. Only one stair. Lots of sunlight. 

As the landlord ripped the “for rent” sign off the front window, I think my dog and I came to the same conclusion — that one intricacy at least, at last, had been resolved, and that we were home, for now.

Recapturing the past, one cow at a time

When John Steinbeck and his poodle Charley left Long Island for their cross country trip, Nixon and Kennedy were vying for the presidency, Russia was seen as the biggest threat to America, and I was seven years old, learning along with my classmates that the place to be during an attack — nuclear or otherwise — was under my desk, with my hands over my head.

Between the sturdy formica desktop, and my fat little hands, what harm could possibly come to me?

Despite those repeated drills, I felt safe growing up on Long Island — not too far from the cottage in Sag Harbor where Steinbeck lived and wrote. Not even Nixon scared me. In fact, before I knew any better, I was a fan.

Possibly I liked the near symmetry of his name. Possibly, though I don’t think I had hit the rebellious years yet, I was for Nixon because my parents were such big Kennedy supporters.

I remember, on a fall trip, probably just weeks before the election, sitting in the back seat of my parents Buick station wagon — the back back seat, which faced backwards, affording me a fine view not of where we were going, but of where we had been. It also gave me an opportunity to campaign for my man, Dick. I tore up sheets of paper, wrote “Vote for Nixon” on them with pencil, then licked them, hopefully avoiding lead poisoning, so they would stick on the inside of the back window — at least until my saliva dried up and they fell off and had to be licked again.

The drive to my grandparent’s home in Saugerties, 100 miles north of New York City, took about two hours — but, given our eagerness to arrive, it seemed much longer. “How many more miles?” I’d whine as we tooled along the New York Thruway.

As I headed there this week — in another nostalgia-provoked variation from Steinbeck’s route — my thoughts went back to those trips, and to 1960. So many things have changed over the 50 years since, and so many have not.

We still feel threatened. We’re still, politically, divided, and prone to showing our colors on bumper stickers. We’re still, as a society, as restless and impatient as a child in the back seat.

In many other ways, the world’s a different place — that child in the back seat being a perfect example.

In the 1960’s, I passed the time by reading (until I got car sick), campaigning for Nixon (until it got boring) and playing games. Most commonly, it was the cow-counting game. I would choose one side of the highway, my brother or sister would choose the other, and we’d each count the number of cows on our side. The one with the most cows won.

Today, I see children in passing minivans and SUV’s watching movies on built-in television screens, texting, talking on cell phones, listening to iPods and playing video games — all but oblivious to what exists outside the car.

One on hand, it seems another example of how we’ve grown less in touch with the world around us, more insulated, more computer-bound, less likely to relate to the earth we’re on and the other humans who occupy it.

When I was a child, we’d actually look at the scenery — especially when going through a “Fallen Rock Zone,” where I always watched for some to fall, but never saw any. Today’s youngsters, from what I see, might briefly look up from their video game, at their parents’ urging, when passing an amazing vista. But then it’s back to the little computer screen.

Not to sound too much like an old man — and not that I think counting cows necessarily makes for better adjusted children — but with all the beauty, in terms of scenery and people, that Ace and I have seen in our travels so far, I’m struck by how many people seem to ignore it, tuned in instead to their electronics.

The same seems to hold true outside of the car. On the street — be it Phoenix or Philadelphia — I see people so wrapped up in talking, texting and checking their email that they are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them.

Sure, some of those messages they’re sending and receiving may be urgent and necessary, but moreso, I think, being constantly “in touch” gives us a sense of importance, and  — like the gummy underside of my elementary school desk — a sense, false or not, of safety and security.

I think, too, that all the gadgetry is how we cope with boredom, how we fill our lives  — the modern day equivalent of whining “How many more miles?” rather than shutting up and appreciating the particular spot you are in.

Maybe it was a longing for the good old days — and the older we get, the gooder they seem — that drew me back to Saugerties, with no real plan other than driving by the old farmhouse my father grew up in, triggering some recollections of my grandparents, seeing how the little village had changed, and walking the streets of neighboring Woodstock.

Heading south from Albany, I pulled off the thruway and got on Highway 212, which runs between Saugerties and Woodstock. Rounding a curve I spotted the Centerville Fire Company — the landmark that, back in the 1960s, served as sign that we were almost there.

That was another game — being the first person to see “Grandpa’s fire house.” He was a member, and served as chief, of the volunteer fire department, as well as being tax collector for the village of Saugerties.

Being the first person to see Grandpa’s fire house was a far more important victory than winning the cow-counting game — more important than who might be attacking whom, or any presidential election. And it meant there were only three miles left to go.

Old habits being hard to break — even 50-year-old ones — I found myself rounding that curve, turning to Ace, and saying, out loud, “I see Grandpa’s fire house.”

Once again, I won.

Home is where the Hyatt is

 

Yesterday, I went searching for a piece of my past and found Hilton and Hyatt instead.

The house where I spent my seventeenth year – not quite 40 years ago – is gone, erased without a trace and replaced by a Hyatt Place hotel with, for your pleasure and convenience, Starbucks coffee and ample parking.

One purpose of my continuing journey across America, with my dog Ace, is to revisit some places of my past – both those I have recollections of and those whose memories, like some dog’s used-up bone, are buried in my head and difficult to locate without help.

On this trip, we’ve tried to dig some of them up. The triggers, we’ve found, can be a road once traveled, a scent once smelled, a song once heard,  or a human reconnection, be it with childhood friends, or college buddies.

Passing through Raleigh, I felt the need to visit the last house I lived in, before going off to college in nearby Chapel Hill — or at least the place where it once stood.

It was on Wake Forest Road, just a block or two off the beltline (I-440), once a sparsely populated stretch that ran from the town of Wake Forest into downtown Raleigh, lined, back then, by lots of woods and homes spread far apart.

Now, as it nears the beltline, Wake Forest Road is a lot less foresty. It’s Anyexit, USA, with a Denny’s, a Day’s Inn, a Marriott, a Hilton Inn and, on the property where I once lived and roamed, a Hyatt Place. Once nearly rural, it’s now upscale suburban — an area where weary travelers can get a tasty meal and a decent room exactly like those they got in the previous town and will get in the next one.

But 40 years ago, I can tell you, that same swath of land, now mostly paved over with parking lots, had character. Man, did it have character. Read more »

It’s not so lonesome in this old town

Well it’s lonesome in this old town
Everybody puts me down
I’m a face without a name
Just walking in the rain
Goin’ back to Houston, Houston, Houston

You can go home again – whether you’re Thomas Wolfe or Dean Martin —  just don’t expect it to look even vaguely like it once did.

That’s the case with Houston, where I spent my puberty – from 1965 to 1970. (It was a long puberty.)

Since then, Houston has spread even more than I have. Its rich have become richer, its poor have become poorer, its hot has become hotter, its freeways – weren’t there just two? – envelop the city like a mound of spaghetti.

And the Astrodome, that behemoth “modern-day” marvel where I would watch the lowly Astros — the eighth wonder of the world, they called it — now sits empty and unused, an antique that’s dwarfed by even larger Reliant Stadium. (I vote for making the Astrodome the world’s largest dog park.)

I drove by it yesterday on my way to meet an old friend – more than a friend, really. Houston is where my parents got divorced. While I’d spend summers with my father – here, and there, and then somewhere else – from 12 on, I grew up mostly with my mom.

I don’t know if she made a conscious effort to provide me with a male role model, but a co-worker at the Houston Chronicle, the newspaper’s editorial cartoonist, ended up being just that.

He cartooned under the name C.P. Houston, though his real name is Clyde Peterson. And as many of my memories that have faded away, I can still semi-clearly recall sitting in his office and watching him conjure up biting editorial cartoons, tennis outings during which we would sweat buckets, Astros games that we’d usually leave disappointed and – yes! — professional wrestling, even, with its absolutely good guys and totally bad guys and never anybody in between.

All that was 45 years ago, and what little we have stayed in touch has mostly been through reports relayed by my mother. He went on to get married, have children, then grandchildren, and test the waters of retirement.

I don’t know if I’m a part of him, but I’m pretty sure he’s a part of me, to digress back to one of the songs we mentioned yesterday. He – at a time in his life that he probably had far better ways to spend his time than hang around with a snot-nosed pubescent — shaped what I became. (A snot-nosed adult?)

He is honorable, witty and unafraid, a hardcore storyteller, a full-time pursuer of curiosity, the type who, were he a wrestler, would definitely be a good guy, the sort who’s willing to set off on a trip whose destination is to be decided later.

I don’t claim to be all those things, but I think I am some of them, and – not to totally discount genetics or anything – I think he may be a big reason why. (I don’t hold him liable for my numerous negative traits; I think I’ve managed to develop them on my own.)

The point, other than waxing nostalgic, and thanking Clyde the only way I seem able to – at a distance — is this: I think we are shaped by the people who come into and out of our lives, and by our experiences, to a far greater extent than we are shaped by our genes.

Yesterday, in what was probably the second time I’ve seen Clyde since my boyhood, we shared a tale or two, or six, and ate some breakfast, after which we stepped back into the humidity and headed to our cars. As I started up my bright red SUV, I glanced into my rearview mirror to see him pulling out.

In a bright red SUV.

Suddenly, it wasn’t so lonesome in this old town.

To read all of Dog’s Country, click here.