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Tag: children

Yes, Luke, there is a Doggy Heaven


The letter was in an envelope addressed to Moe, Doggie Heaven, First Cloud.

Coping with the death of the family beagle, a Norfolk mom encouraged her 3-1/2-year-old son, Luke, to express his feelings in crayon-drawn artworks and letters.

It was Luke’s idea to write to Moe in heaven, and Mary Westbrook said she figured it would be good therapy for her son who, after Moe died at 13, kept asking if and when Moe was coming back.


She’d put each letter, upon completion, in the mailbox, then, after Luke had gone to bed, she’d go out and retrieve them.

But one day she forgot, and the mailman picked it up.

letter“I figured someone would just throw it away once it got to the post office,” Westbrook told the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

“It didn’t even have a stamp.”

But last week, a letter from Moe — magically, it seemed — appeared in the Westbrook mailbox:

“I’m in Doggie Heaven,” it said. “I play all day. I am happy. Thank you 4 being my friend.

“I wuv you Luke.”

Postal worker Zina Owens, in her 25 years on the job, had taken the liberty of answering some mail to Santa before, but this was the first time she took on the persona of a deceased family pet, hoping to make a child happy.

Owens, a window clerk, had noticed the letter to Moe on a table at the post office. She opened it and found a card covered in crayon scribbles. With help from the address on the envelope, she was able to read between the lines.


“I felt it in my heart,” she said. “Here was a child who had lost his dog, and any time you love something and it goes away, it hurts.”

So Owens, as Moe, wrote back. Mary Westbrook was touched to find the reassuring letter from Moe in the mailbox and shared it with Luke.

She posted the response on Facebook, saying, “What a beautiful kindness from a stranger.”

Owens says seeing the letter from Luke “made my day … so I wanted to make his. It’s just love, plain and simple.”

“You see so much negativity in the world, so many bad headlines,” she added. “But we’re more than that.”

(Photos: By Bill Tiernan / Virginian-Pilot and courtesy of the Westbrook family)

Dog walker calls police about unleashed kids

This story may sound like it comes out of Bizarro World, but it actually happened in Silver Spring, Md., where a man who was walking his DOG (on a leash) called authorities to report two young, unaccompanied and unsupervised CHILDREN romping freely around a park.

The caller, a Navy corpsman, called the city’s non-emergency line Sunday evening when he saw the two young children walking alone. He followed them, as one might follow a stray dog, providing police with their location.

Officers picked up Rafi Meitiv, 10 and Dvora Meitiv, 6, in a parking lot and turned them over to Children’s Protective Services.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the first time the “stray” children had been picked up. They’ve been sighted as much as a mile away from their home.

Their parents, Danielle and Sasha Meitiv, practice “free-range parenting.” They allow their children to roam the neighborhood on their own because, they say, it instills independence. They’ve defended their parenting style in court at least once before.

Given this website is about dogs, not parenting, we’ll refrain from voicing an opinion on that. But the case does remind me of some of those unaccompanied dogs I used to see at Riverside Park in Baltimore. I’d assume they were lost, wandering strays when in reality they were “self-walkers” — dogs whose owners lived near the park who would let them out the door to take care of business.

They’d head to the park alone, socialize, pee, poop (without a human to clean up after them) and then head home.

How many calls to animal control they, and other unleashed dogs, prompted I don’t know. I admired the independence of those free-range dogs and fretted about their safety at the same time.

But back to those unleashed kids.

Montgomery County police found the brother and sister in a parking lot around 6 p.m. Sunday, less than a quarter mile from their Silver Spring home, and — without calling the parents — turned them over to Children’s Protective Services.

It wasn’t until after 8 p.m. that Children’s Protective Services contacting the Meitivs, who say they had begun to worry when their children didn’t return by 6 p.m. The Meitivs said they had taken the children to the park at around 4 and told them to be home by 6.

Their children were released to them at 10:30 p.m — but not until after the parents agreed to sign an agreement that prohibits them from leaving their children unattended, according to USA Today.

Maryland law prohibits children younger than age 8 from being unattended in a dwelling or car but makes no reference to outdoors. A person must be at least 13 years old to supervise a child younger than 8.

In December, the couple was accused of neglect for allowing the children to walk around their suburban Washington neighborhood unaccompanied by an adult.

In February, Children’s Protective Services found the Meitivs responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect, but the couple has appealed that decision.

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)

Creator of “Where’s Spot?” dies at 86

hillEric Hill, whose children’s books about a mischievous dog named Spot sold more than 60 million copies, died last Friday at his home in central California.

Hill, whose first book, “Where’s Spot?” was published in 1980, passed away after a short illness, according to Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Children’s Group.

The book told the story of Spot’s mother, Sally, as she searched for him around the house, finding a hippo, a lion and other creatures along the way.

Hill was born in England. His career as an illustrator began when he became an errand boy at an illustration studio during World War II, which led to a position at an advertising agency, according to the Associated Press

While freelancing as a creative marketing designer in the late 1970s, he drew a picture of a puppy using his now-famous flap innovation, which fascinated his 3-year-old son, Christopher.

He was so pleased with his son’s reaction to his work that he invented a story to go along with it, which, eventually, became the highly successful “Spot the Dog.”


That came after countless rejections from publishers who were wary of  his use of paper flaps to hide parts of his illustrations — such as a flap in the shape of a door that is lifted to reveal a grizzly bear.

“Familiar as we are today with a children’s book market where flaps, pop-ups and all kinds of novelty and interactivity are taken for granted, it is hard to recall what an extraordinarily innovative concept this was in the late 1970s,” Minchin said in a statement.

“At that time, Eric’s idea was so different that it took a long while before anyone was brave enough to consider publishing his first book about Spot,” she said.

“Where’s Spot?” was followed by “Spot’s First Walk,” “Spot Goes to the Beach” and many others.

Hill, who moved with his family to the United States in the 1980s, is survived by his wife, Gillian; his son, Christopher; and his daughter, Jane.

Woof in Advertising: Doritos “Cowboy Kid”

I don’t remember seeing this Doritos ad during the Super Bowl. Maybe it came later in the game, after the outcome was clear and I tuned out, which as I recall was shortly after the first snap.

Had I seen it, I would have squawked in a more timely manner, because — even though fans chose it as a favorite — I do not like it at all.

Dog riding, like dogfighting and dog racing, is cruel.

And even though special effects were used in this depiction of a kid saddling up on the family mastiff — so he can beat his brother to the bag of Doritos — it sends a bad message to kids (and grown-ups) who don’t know any better.

The ad was one of five finalists chosen in the Crash the Super Bowl ad contest, in which Doritos invites the public to submit their home-made Doritos ads and awards $1 million to the winning commerical.

The “Cowboy Kid” ad came in second, but that was enough to win its creator, Amber Gill, a 34-year-old vocal coach from California, $25,000, a trip to the Super Bowl and a movie contract — and a little criticism from animal welfare types.

Both “Cowboy Kid” and the winning fan-made commercial, “Time Machine,” aired during the Super Bowl and were viewed by an estimated 100 million viewers, minus those who gave up on the big game early on.

Still, given a few of those 100 million are likely stupid or naive enough to try this at home — as any regular reader of this website knows –  I’d have to side with those who are complaining about the ad. While making it didn’t involve any dog being ridden, it’s irresponsible ad-making.

Gill told the Orange County Register the idea was inspired by her owns sons, aged 3 and 1, meaning — we’re pretty sure — the sibling rivalry aspect, as opposed to the dog-riding one.

So we’ll have to give this ad a failing grade, and point out — because, unfortunately, it’s not entirely needless to say — don’t try this at home.

If junior needs to get his cowboy on, we’d suggest a saw horse, or daddy’s back. Otherwise, that crunch you hear might not be Doritos.

(To see more of our Woof in Advertising posts, click here.)

Creed and Casper: A boy and a service dog

How a hospital service dog brightened — and maybe even prolonged — the final days of sick little boy is the subject of this poignant report by WXIA in Atlanta.

Creed Campbell spent more than half of his life in the hospital, battling illness since the day he was born and missing out on many of the joys of childhood.

Then, while in the hospital, he met Casper, a service dog from Canine Assistants who visits young patients.

Casper was the new therapy dog at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Creed was one of the first children he’d be assigned to. The bond was instant, the family says.

“I don’t think he ever saw Casper as a dog,” Creed’s father, Jon Campbell, said.

CreedonCasperCreed was thought to be nearing death one day when Casper came for his visit and jumped in his bed.

Creed’s mother, Stephanie, put her son’s motionless hand on Casper’s paw, then saw her son’s hand begin to move.

“That dog just saved your son,” a nurse later told the family.

Because Casper visited him in the hospital, Creed felt he should go along when the dog went to the vet for  a check up. In fact, he insisted on doing so, his mother, Stephanie wrote in a blog post about Casper and Creed for the hospital’s website.

Creed’s health improved, but only for a while.

Not long after Creed died, a new litter of puppies was born at Canine Assistants. They named one for Creed.

Stephanie went to meet the dog named after her son.

“I picked that dog up and … It was something tangible that I could hold again that brought me to my baby,” she said. “Everything he’s lived through all of his heartache, all of his hardship, I get to hold it right here with this little warm fuzzy pup.”

(Photo: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

Judge shuts down “seizure dog” business

Jon C. Sabin, ordered by a judge last week to stop training and selling service dogs to families of sick children, says any instances of his dogs not performing properly were the fault of the families.

“The dogs are trained when I’m there, but after I leave everything goes to hell in a handbasket,” said Sabin, who was accused by the New York Attorney General’s Office of duping more than a dozen families into believing the dogs he sold them — for as much as $20,000 each – were trained.

Sabin, who ran Seizure Alert Dogs For Life, was ordered by a judge last week to never again train or sell service dogs.

He has promised to fight the ruling, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

Sabin said families who have complained about their dogs have only themselves to blame — for not following through with the training plans that he made for them and for treating the service dogs like pets even though he advised them not to, according to

“You don’t put these dogs in your bed. You don’t give them meatballs from the kitchen table,” Sabin said.

Sabin was sued by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for selling more than a dozen families untrained dogs he said could detect and control seizures in their ill children.

Court papers described how the families paid thousands of dollars for the dogs only to find they couldn’t detect seizures, much less do anything about them.

Sabin says he suffers from epileptic seizures, and that he developed his program after his medication failed to control them. Sabin estimated that, since 2009, he has sold and trained about 50 dogs

Not all of his customers are unhappy. The Stevens family in Washington D.C. bought a dog from Sabin three years ago for their son, Andrew, who has a severe form of epilepsy. The dog has detected hundreds of seizures and swiped the magnet on her collar over Andrew’s chest, activating a device in the child’s chest that stimulates his vagus nerve and stops the seizure, according to the family.

The state says Sabin “deceptively promoted dogs as ‘highly trained service dogs,’ when in fact he undertook no steps to select appropriate dogs for service work, nor did he undertake any relevant training of these animals prior to selling them.”

A judge last Tuesday issued permanent injunctions prohibiting Sabin and his company from advertising or selling dogs trained to assist people suffering from epilepsy or other medical conditions.