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Tag: death

A murder mystery at Crufts?

jagger

As prestigious and proper as the world of Crufts is, fear, loathing and backstabbing have never been strangers to the world’s largest dog show.

Murder, however, was — at least until this year.

The death of a competitor — an Irish setter named Thendara Satisfaction, but known as Jagger — is being investigated as just that, after his owners said a necropsy revealed poisoned meat in his stomach.

The three-year-old dog died after returning home to Belgium, the day after he won second place in his class at Crufts.

Some news reports, like this one in the Telegraph, are suggesting, without much to back it up, that a jealous rival dog owner could have been behind it — and owners of Jagger are saying they hope that is not the case.

“We compete week-in, week-out against each other and we have one thing in common, we all love dogs,” said co-owner Dee Milligan-Bott. ”I think and hope it was a random act by someone who hates dogs, an opportunist.”

In either case, the death has shaken up Crufts, UK’s Kennel Club and dog show participants who say that, while dogs shows have never been free of scandal, this could become the darkest one in Cruft’s 100-year history.

“I can’t believe anyone could be so evil or vindictive,” said Gillian Barker-Bell, who judged Irish setters in the competition. “Dogs have been tampered with at other championship shows so this is not a first. But I have never heard of a dog actually dying. What a sick mind to do something like that.”

Sandra Chorley-Newton, another Irish setter judge, called it horrific: “This has shocked the whole dog community. The thought of it being another exhibitor is too awful to contemplate.”

“The Kennel Club is deeply shocked and saddened to hear that Jagger the Irish Setter died some 26 hours after leaving Crufts,” said Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary. “We have spoken to his owners and our heartfelt sympathies go out to them. We understand that the toxicology report is due next week and until that time we cannot know the cause of this tragic incident.”

Police in Belgium are investigating, according to the BBC.

According to the Telegraph report, two others dogs in the competition have taken ill, possibly from poisoning.

Jagger , who was owned by Milligan-Bott and Belgian Aleksandra Lauwers, collapsed and died after returning home to Belgium on Friday.

After celebrating their second place ribbon, Lauwers and her husband returned home with the dog by train.

“I prepared food for the dogs and I called Jagger to come over. He just collapsed and started shaking, it looked like a fit,” Mrs. Lauwers said. “We called our vet immediately. He started having diarrhea and urinating on himself. It looked like a heart attack. He went into a coma a minute later and died. The vet said it looked like poison.”

“It was dark red meat, it looked like beef. Inside there were small colours – white, dark green and black,” she added. “The vet is convinced it is poison, possibly a few different types to make it work more slowly but efficiently. The people in the clinic also suspected it was poison.”

Mr. Lauwers said he believed that Jagger was targeted, saying: “There is no other option, it had to have happened [at Crufts]. How can you mistakenly poison a dog?

“Jagger was such a promising dog. He was just three years old but he was well known around the world. Of course if you are successful, success doesn’t make you a whole lot of friends,” he added.

“I can only hope it wasn’t an act of jealousy by another competitor, but just a lunatic.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Dee Milligan-Bott)

Are we animal lovers just too gullible?

bennett

I would no more stereotype animal lovers than I would pit bulls, and yet I have to ask the question:

Are we an overly gullible lot, more likely to be taken advantage of by greedy and unsavory types?

As a rule, yes. As scammers and schemers have realized, our overflowing empathy and eagerness to help an animal in need often overrule our powers of deductive reasoning, leading us to whip out the checkbook and contribute to some pretty suspicious “causes.”

We are going to use the Grieving Rottweiler as our example here — not to say that the owner of that dog (who is asking dog lovers to help him buy a house so he can rescue more dogs) is a scammer or a schemer, but only because his fundraising drive, as explained by him, is so full of conflicting information, question marks and red flags.

We raised questions about it earlier this week, after Brett Bennett of Seattle posted a video of his Rottweiler, Brutus, appearing to mourn the death of his fellow Rottweiler, Hank. His YouTube post links to an indiegogo page aimed at raising money to buy “a house in the country.”

“Don’t let Hanks passing die in vein (sic )with him,” Bennett asks. Instead, he urges people to give Hank’s death some meaning, and honor the dog’s legacy, by making cash contributions so he can buy a house and some acreage in the country.

The viral video of “Brutus grieving” was nearing 4 million views yesterday.

Between the summary he posted there, his indiegogo page, his Rottweiler rescue website, and what he has posted on his Facebook page (which disappeared the day before yesterday), one has to wonder about what a tangled web he has woven — lie-wise — since he first started trying to raise money through his dogs. (Not to mention how a man who describes himself as homeless can be so active on the Internet.)

That Facebook page included photos of Rottweilers fighting, him recounting a plan to sell his Rottweilers to drug dealers, background information on the dogs that vastly differs from what he has stated elsewhere and this warning to a commenter who questioned his motivations:

“F— off, you tweaker white trash c—.”

Bennett raised over $6000 in January to help him and his dogs find a rental property. Then, a week after Hank died, he started another fundraiser to raise an additional $100,000 to help him purchase a home.

As it turns out, one woman has been raising questions about him for a while — Anne Fromm, who, in an attempt to spread the word about his activities, started this “Social Media Scammer” Facebook page.

It points out some of the many discrepancies in the online accounts Bennett has provided, including in the story of Hank’s death.

“Ask WHY he never took the dog to the vet if it was dying, instead videotaped it, for the tearjerker points and the funds that poured in. Is the dog even dead? Or will he show up miraculously in a few more months when Brett needs more money?”

Fromm points out that Bennett has said the dogs are twins, from the same litter. Yet he has also said one was 2 and one was 4 when he took them in.

Bennett said he awoke to find Hank dead, but he also says, in another account, that he held him in his arms when he was dying.

Mainstream media outlets have carried the video of the “grieving Rottweiler,” and helped catapult it to viral-ness, but none apparently had the time to look into its veracity.

As of yesterday, as far as I could see, only this blogBuzzfeed and Seattle Dog Spot had questioned Bennett’s accounts and actions.

Seattle Dog Spot reported that records from VCA Animal Hospital show Bennett took Hank to be cremated on January 22, but the video of Hank’s death was uploaded on January 20. “What did he do with the body of a 150-pound Rottweiler for 2 days?” the blog asks.

That form also showed an address for the homeless man.

Seattle Dog Spot also reported a text message exchange in which Bennett told someone who was questioning how he spent donated money, “They gave me money and I am using the money to pay off my legal matters and for my everyday bills. I can pretend to spend it on whatever these gullable (sic) people will believe.”

Those are just a few of the disconcerting conflicts in Bennett’s story, all of which anyone with enough time could have found on the Internet.

But, dog lovers being trusting and good-hearted sorts, few did.

Dog lovers tend to believe, and they tend to react, and they tend to want to save, if not the world, at least its dogs — all admirable traits.

Schemers and their schemes, in addition to taking money from them, stand to also take away something even more important — their faith.

Do we need something that protects those so committed to protecting, say a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Lovers?

No, but dog lovers do, unfortunately, need at least a tiny grain of cynicism within, enough to consider the possibility that what on the surface appears to be a worthy cause might not be.

When it comes to fund-raising drives being conducted by individuals, and all we know about those individual comes from what they’ve posted online, we need to exercise due diligence — or at least a little diligence — to separate those who are pretending to care about dogs from those who are seeking only our dollars.

(Photo: Bennett, Hank and Brutus, as pictured on the Rottweiler Twins Animal Rescue website)

Obit: 83-year-old woman dies when her dog eats her boots and socks on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mount_Kilimanjaro

According to her obituary, published in Saturday’s Connecticut Post, Norma Brewer’s dog contributed to her death — chewing off her boots and socks, leading her to succumb from hypothermia.

According to the obituary, this occurred while Brewer, who was 83 and in a wheelchair, was attempting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak.

“There is suspicion that Mrs. Brewer died from hypothermia, after Mia ate Mrs. Brewer’s warm winter boots and socks,” read the death notice, which had been submitted to the newspaper by a funeral home.

normabrewerBrewer, the death notice read, never realized her life goal of reaching the summit of the 19,341-foot mountain.

But, it said, she had made it to the base camp, where she died in the company of her daughter, her cats and dog “Mia.”

If all this is sounding a little too unbelievable to be true, that may be because it isn’t — not entirely.

While Norma did die, the obituary was a joke — one final prank (or was it?) from a woman known in life as quite a prankster.

She wrote it before she died, and left instructions for her children to get it published in the local newspaper — the same local newspaper where her father was once president and publisher.

Good one, Norma.

“It was just typical mom,” Donna Brewer, Norma’s daughter, said Saturday. “She always had stories, many of which were not true, but thought were funny.”

“People who don’t know my mother are bemused,” she added. ”People who know my mother are laughing and saying, `Yeah, that’s Norma.’ ”

Donna Brewer said her mother died from a stroke and had been wheelchair-bound for more than a year.

The Post corrected the record in a news story Saturday.

Norma, as her obituary accurately noted, was the daughter of W. Raymond Flicker, former president and publisher of the Bridgeport Post, Telegram and Sunday Post (now known as the Connecticut Post). Donna Brewer said her mother often recalled watching newspapers come off the printing press in Bridgeport with her father.

Norma’s son, Raymond Brewer, said his mother’s prank “had more to do with the way she viewed the world. While life is serious, it shouldn’t be taken all that serious.”

He said her children went along with her last wish. ”It was her way of having one last joke with the world,” he said.

Funeral services for Norma Brewer were held yesterday in Fairfield.

(Photo: Connecticut Post)

A eulogy for Sally

sallybadrapBADRAP, the San Francisco organization best known for defending pit bulls from being maligned, abused and discriminated against, lost a good friend last week — Sally, the friendly pit who served as both mascot and inspiration.

What follows, reprinted with permission, is a beautifully written eulogy, penned by Donna Reynolds, Sally’s mom and BAD RAP’s director:

“Some news to share, with a heavy heart. Our muse, our founding dog and our best gal – the irrepressible Sally – passed away last Friday, leaving a legacy as wide as her smile.

“Who was she? She came to us in 1998, back when pit bulls wore a scarlet letter and suffered the consequences of breed stereotypes and misinformation. She seemed to know that we needed a little levity in a world that had started to lose its heart for dogs. She was supposed to be a visitor, but unpacked her bags and before we knew it, staked her claim as a monolithic influence in our personal lives and catalyst for our organization.

“She was our four legged Google before Google existed; our touchstone for dogs from her tribe. We weren’t exactly sure what a pit bull was – we still aren’t – but Sally was happy to take on the role of ambassador of a forgotten country that was begging to be explored. We built BADRAP’s message and key programs around the lessons she graciously offered. Along the way, her beauty inspired her favorite human (Tim Racer) to take up chisels and memorialize her and then other beloved dogs in wood carousel sculptures.

“With a larger than life personality, she had no concept of personal boundaries and was unapologetically obsessed with people – ‘over socialized,’ we joked. She screamed like a lovesick banshee when she heard the voices of people she knew. When she reached them, she scrambled to taste them, slurping straight up surprised nostrils with ecstatic, impatient licks.

“We didn’t train Sally; we worked out agreements with Sally. “Sit calmly until the child is ready to touch you and then you can have a tiny kiss.” She’d tremble, working against every fiber in her being to keep her butt on the ground so she could earn her prize moment.

“She was bold, bawdy and uninhibited and she reveled in being alive, beating back cancer for ten of her 17 years. She body surfed in the Pacific and knew how to catch the best waves and ride them to shore like a pro. She never once took the winding path down to the beach; instead, she plowed down the side of the steepest dune so she could get to the water first. When she tired, she’d find a quiet perch and stare out at the horizon as if reading a sonnet in the waves. When she slept, she curled her heavy head in the crook of an elbow and rumbled softly, occasionally peeking with a twinkling brown eye to solicit a soft kiss.

“In 2007, she nearly derailed our much anticipated assignment to assess the survivors of Bad Newz Kennels by falling very ill and sporting a suspicious mass deep in her bowels, just as we were making our flights to Virginia. Then, after noting our double distress, she granted us permission to travel by dutifully pooping out a plastic toy car in its entirety – Crisis averted. (Thank you, Sally.)

“She schooled the Vick dogs as soon as they arrived in CA. To her, they were just dogs – and she reminded us of that right away. She took great pleasure in humping good manners into Jonny Rotten aka Jonny Justice and in pissing far above Hector’s pee spots, aiming for a target as high as her business end could reach. ‘You’re welcome here, new dog. But just don’t forget who the Queen is.’ They politely deferred, so she gave them straight A’s.

“To Sally, life was one long party with momentary pauses along the way. She marched in the SF Pride Parade nearly 13 years in a row, convinced that the fanfare of waving, screaming spectators had assembled just for her. She zig zagged and pulled as hard as she could towards the throbbing music and sun oiled bodies and she always managed to end up in the lap of one or more of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – naturally.

“Despite her hurricane nature, she was also tender and affectionate and sensitive. Too strong of a reprimand horrified her, and she felt responsible for restoring peace when her humans argued or swore. She schooled hundreds of foster dogs and counted many as her best friends, but she took no guff from ill-mannered dogs. After finding two boy pups fighting over food in HER kitchen, she body slammed both dogs across the room in different directions. Conversation done and over.

“All and none of these traits marked her as a pit bull. She was Sally before she was a dog, and she was a dog before she was a pit bull; a force of nature who blew into our world and rattled us awake, then wagged her way back home 17 deliciously happy years later.

“‘Rest in Peace’ is not a fitting epitaph for this game changer. Rather: ‘Long may you rail and adventure around the cosmos. Thank you dearly for stopping by and including us in your exciting travels.’”

“Sally Racer 1998-2015. Long live the Queen.”

(Photo of Sally courtesy of BADRAP)

Former Vick dog Gracie dies

gracie

Gracie, one of more than 50 dogs rescued seven years ago from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s dog fighting compound, has died.

The black pit bull spent her final years in an adoptive household in suburban Richmond.

She died Monday morning, according to Amy McCracken, executive director of the Richmond Animal League.

“This morning, little, old, bow-legged Gracie passed away and got her angel wings. Any words we write here could never begin to express the profound, positive and lasting impact that this little, black pit bull had on so many people who encountered her or heard the story of her suffering and triumph,” said a post on the animal’s league’s “Gracie’s Guardians” Facebook page.

“We are and will be forever grateful for this little, broken black dog and everything she personified.”

The dog arrived at the Richmond in 2007 and was adopted by the group’s board president, Sharon Cornett.

“Gracie was very, very friendly,” McCracken told CNN. Gracie had been used as a breeding dog, as opposed to a fighter, in Vick’s operation, she said. “She loved people and was never aggressive to other dogs.”

With her new owner, Gracie attended conferences and meetings about animal welfare and visited schools to show people they have nothing to fear from most pit bulls.

Gracie was one of about 50 pit bulls seized by authorities in April 2007 when Vick, then a quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, was charged with operating an illegal dog-fighting ring, called Bad Newz Kennels, on his Virginia property.

Twenty-two of the dogs were sent for rehabilitation and long-term care at Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, while others went to Bad Rap, a San Francisco pet shelter, and a handful of other shelters and sanctuaries,

Created by the Richmond animal shelter, Gracie’s Guardians is an initiative dedicated to the welfare of pit bulls. The group chose Gracie as their namesake “in tribute to her perseverance and that of countless other pit bulls who have suffered or continue to suffer at the hands of people, yet whose spirits and love for humans remains untarnished.”

(Photo: from the Facebook page of Gracie’s Guardians)

Who knows what’s best for Jack?

jack

Dog blogger and broadcaster Steve Friess says he’s not going to spend $5,000 to put his dog though chemotherapy that could extend his life a year or more — and he’s going to try not to feel bad about it.

Even when he says his final goodbye to Jack in what could be less than a month.

In late October, Friess noticed the dog he’d adopted nine years ago was getting lethargic, and that his weight had dropped from his usual 11 pounds to around eight.

A vet diagnosed that Jack had an aggressive form  of lymphoma that was spreading quickly through his body.

Friess did some research, checking with friends, and vets, and friends who were vets: One of the latter urged him to “do the full chemo protocol ASAP!” It could send Jack into remission for nine months, or 12 months, or even longer.

Friess and his partner researched, debated and decided against chemotherapy — not because it would be all that rough on the dog physically (they handle it much better than we do). The main reason, he admits, is the money, which, he also admits, they just doesn’t have.

There will likely be those who second guess Freiss, or maybe try to lay a guilt trip on him: Take out a loan, hit up your friends, get a second (or third) job, launch an online fundraising campaign, let me be the first to donate.

We’ve become a nation of such overflowing compassion for dogs, with such promising new medical technologies, and such handy online fundraising tools at our beck and call, that it’s easy to lose sight that decisions about life and death — both ours and our dogs — are still our own, and that throwing in the towel, for financial reasons, or others, isn’t always a shameful choice.

We suspect Friess will receive some support for his decision, but will hear from many more questioning it. His decision to write about it, as he did in a post for Time.com, is brave, but also an open invitation to second-guessers. In any case, the decision on what’s best for Jack should be (and has been) made by the person who knows him best, and deserves to be respected

Friess, a freelance writer and co-host of The Petcast, said neither his advisers nor his vet seemed to be trying to make him feel guilty about his choice. But, as is the way with guilt trips, we often don’t need a tour guide.  Feelings of shame can start as soon as we ask our vet the question Friess did:

“How much will it cost?”

For Friess, the estimate was a minimum of $5,000 — more than he and his partner had.

“(It) means we have about 30 days. The end will probably come in time for holidays … ”We’ve received a lot of advice, both solicited and unwelcome, through social media. Nobody comes right out to say it, but the disappointment some express at our decision shows that they question our love for Jack. In an era when people spend big on animal clothes, artisanal foods and medical intervention, and when medical science makes it possible to spend $5,000 so Jack dies slightly later than sooner, there is pressure to go as far as we can.”

There’s one more twist. Friess and his partner are trying to adopt a human baby, and they’re working on saving the $15,000 fee for that.

“If that $5,000 could cure the cancer and restore Jack’s full life expectancy, maybe we’d do it,” he wrote. “Maybe. It certainly would be a tougher choice. But to buy a year during which we’d be waiting for his lymph nodes to resume their swell? We could endure the end stages either now or later.”

(Photo of Jack by Steve Friess)

A drug to make your dog live longer?

antiaging

Two University of Washington scientists think it might be possible to slow the aging process in canines and are launching a pilot study with 30 dogs to see if the drug rapamycin significantly extends their lifespans.

The researchers, using $200,000 in seed money from the University of Washington, plan to use pets, not laboratory animals, for the initial study, and recruit volunteer dogs — or at least dogs whose owners volunteer them — for larger scale studies in the future.

Daniel Promislow, an evolutionary geneticist, and Matthew Kaeberlein, a molecular biologist, say the study is aimed at determining whether rapamycin could lead to longer lives for dogs — as studies have shown is the case when it’s used on yeast, fruit flies, worms and mice.

“We’re not talking about doubling the healthy life spans of pets,” said Kaeberlein. “But at a minimum I would predict that you would get a 10 to 15 percent increase in average life span, and I think bigger effects are possible.”

In the pilot study, 30 large, middle-aged dogs will be involved — half receiving low doses of rapamycin, half receiving placebos.

The researchers say that subsequent studies will seek to enroll pet dogs from across the country.

Kaeberlein and Promislow hosted a meeting in Seattle last week where experts from across the country discussed the drug rapamycin and its possible effects on the health and longevity of dogs, the Seattle Times reported.

Currently used along with other medications to prevent rejection in organ-transplant patients, rapamycin has been called a promising anti-aging drug — though there have been no studies involving humans.

But almost 50 laboratory studies have shown that the compound can delay the onset of some diseases and degenerative processes and restore vigor to elderly animals, extending life spans by 9 to 40 percent.

Rapamycin functions, in part, by inactivating a protein that promotes cell growth. As a result, cells grow more slowly, which retards the spread of cancer.

Promislow, who has two elderly dogs of his own, noted that even if the drug doesn’t increase the life span of dogs, it could serve to keep them healthy longer. “We’re trying to understand why some dogs age better than others, and help all dogs age in a better way,” he said.

The drug has been shown to have serious side effects, including poor wound healing and an increased risk of diabetes, when used at the high doses required for organ transplant patients.

But the low doses used in anti-aging research with mice and other lab animals cause few side effects.

There have been no large-scale human trials. Studying how the drug affects dogs — who suffer many of the same old-age ailments as their masters — makes it possible to explore the possible benefits of rapamycin both more quickly and at a lesser cost.

If it does turn out to be a sort of  fountain of youth — for dogs, humans, or both — the potential profits would be enormous.

“I think it’s worth a go, not just from what it can teach us about humans, but for the sake of the animals themselves,” said University of Alabama Biology Department Chairman Steven Austad, an expert in aging research who is not involved in the project. “It may not work in dogs, but if it did, boy, it’s going to be huge.”

According to the Seattle Times article, drug companies aren’t very interested in rapamycin because it’s no longer under patent.

But the researchers are hoping dog lovers, dog-food companies and some foundations might be willing to contribute to further research.

They’ve set up a website, dogagingproject.com,where people can donate and sign their dogs up to take part in the research.

“Given how I feel about my pets, I see this as a unique project where there’s a real potential for citizen science,” Kaeberlein said. “I think it would be great if pet owners who are really interested in improving the health of their animals would help fund this work.”

(Photos: UW scientists Matt Kaeberlein, with his dog Dobby, and Dan Promislow, with his dog Frisbee; by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

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