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Tag: dog park

Close encounter of the Great Dane kind


I was hit by a truck over the weekend.

Well, it was a Great Dane, but same difference.

He was a regal beast, and a gentle one, and I don’t think he even saw me until I was up in the air.

He’d come into the dog park, greeted those already there, and when one started chasing him he took off, looking behind him at the dog in pursuit as he gained full momentum.

That’s when he ran smack into me. I saw him coming, and debated veering to one side or another, but the feet have been a little slow to take orders lately.

So all of me went up into the air, where I floated, limbs akimbo, for at least a second before landing with a thud on my side.

The owner immediately approached and asked if I was ok.

I needed a few minutes to figure that out, and a few more to get off the ground.

The owner offered his hand to pull me up, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be up, or if getting pulled up by my arm might not be good for the shoulder that was bothering me before any of this happened.

So I laid there, checked to see if my various parts would move and thanked my own dog, Jinjja, when he came over to check on me — not the sort of thing he usually does as he’s mostly in his own world when he’s at the dog park.

I struggled to get on my knees and then all the way up, dusted myself off and — though the breath that had been knocked out of me hadn’t yet returned — pronounced myself OK.

Embarrassed about being on the ground, embarrassed by how long it took me to get up. But OK, thought.

I spent a few more minutes inside the park, during which time Jinjja would growl at the Great Dane whenever he got close to me, and come back to check on me a few more times.

I was touched, and deemed it progress. For this is a dog that, rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea, has never been great at showing affection, other than enjoying a butt scratch. So I considered it a breakthrough, and one that apparently didn’t involve any parts of me getting broken.

Sore yes — but not broken, or at least I didn’t think so for the next few hours.

Jinjja and I left the dog park a few minutes later, stopping to sit at a nearby picnic table just to regain my composure. The three young women sitting at the next table with their dogs having a picnic asked if I was OK and — all being medical students on the verge of becoming physician assistants — ran me through a checklist of questions, showing vastly more concern than the dog’s owner did.

We decided I would live, and — once their attentions shifted to another dog walking by with a hurt paw — I moved on, proud that nothing had snapped upon impact.

Now, the next day, I’m pretty sure something did, a rib to be precise.

The pain set in during the night, a pretty sharp one when I moved, took a deep breath or –heaven forbid — coughed.

I broke a rib once before and did nothing about it, which as it turns out it is pretty much what doctors do too. You just wait for it to heal. I didn’t visit one then, and I’m still debating what to do now. But I’m pretty sure I don’t want to spend $1,000 for tests and doctors that will tell me I broke a rib and there’s really nothing to be done about it.

Fault? That’s not a factor. Dogs, big and small, will run at dog parks, and not always watch where they are going. Great Danes? They are one of my most favorite breeds, and their clumsiness is part of their appeal. I was too old and slow — neither of which is particularly appealing –to get out of the way. That’s on me. Those who worry about being run over by a dog, should stick to the benches on the sidelines.

So no hard feelings, Great Dane. I hope I run into you again (preferably without you running into me).

And to Jinjja, and those physicians assistants-to-be, thanks for showing you care.

(Photo: An old Great Dane friend from Baltimore, named Soju, who has nothing to with this story)

A dog park for the dogs of the homeless

A Seattle-area church that offers its parking lot and other facilities to homeless women has added a mini-dog park — so the dogs belonging to those women can romp off leash.

Volunteers with the non-profit group Fences for Fido put up the fencing Saturday at Kirkland’s Lake Washington United Methodist Church, KING5 reported.

The church runs a “Safe Parking” program, and 40-50 women and families a night sleep there in their cars.

The women, after registering with the program and getting a background check, can use the church’s kitchen, bathrooms and Wi-Fi, and if temperatures outside get below freezing the women can sleep inside on the church’s pews.

They also have access to food and toiletries donated by church members, community resource information and counseling services.

“We recognize that people who are homeless and have a vehicle face challenges in where to park their car without fear of tickets or harassment,” the church explains on its website.

“We also recognize that homelessness can be isolating and the benefits of community and relationships can be life-transforming. We at Lake Washington United Methodist Church offer our parking lot to guests as a safe place to park, sleep in their cars, and become part of our church community.”

Now the church has recognized that many of those homeless women also have dogs, which can often be a reason they haven’t found space in shelters.

The fenced-in dog run was constructed by Fences for Fido, a Portland-based non-profit that provides dog houses, spay-neuter services, veterinary care and fencing to families whose dogs are chained or tethered.

“The fact that the church has stepped up and is utilizing their facilities to help these women makes it even more important that we step up and help them keep their pets because their pets are their family and their friends,” said Michele Coppola, a member of the group.

One of the safe parkers, who identified herself as Cheryl, lives in her VW Jetta car with her dog, Shiloh. Her own health issues make it hard for her to see that Shiloh gets enough exercise.

She said it was a “huge deal … to be able to get her out of the back seat, to have her be able to romp and play and run free for a while.”

Dog park humans: A breed apart

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One of the things that strikes you if you spend any time at a dog park is the amazing diversity you see — in appearances, in personality types, in behavior patterns.

And that’s just among the dog owners.

Just as there is a vast array of breeds and mixes, shapes, sizes and behaviors among dogs, there are certain “types” when it comes to the human denizens of dog parks.

So let’s slap some labels on them, shall we?

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Yes, it is wrong. But as much as we tend to slap labels on dogs, it’s only fair to give humans a turn. All in fun, of course. We’re not criticizing any of them (hardly), just making some observations.

All the characters we are about to describe are fictitious, though based on actual observations over the years at dog parks in well over a dozen cities and towns. If one or more bears a striking resemblance to you, old or new friend, it’s purely coincidental. And any exaggeration or irreverence that follows is purely for the sake of humor.

In other words, don’t get mad at me.

DSC06870leashes1The Dog Talker:
This person is constantly talking to their dog — an ongoing one-way conversation: “C’mon Princess, you should you meet these other dogs over here. Oh look, there’s your little friend Barney. And look at this big boy. Do you like him? I think you like him. He looks a little like your friend Bowser, doesn’t he? Let’s play with him for a while before we go home for dinner …”

Often members of this type are also members of another type, making them doubling annoying. The Baby Talkers: “Yesums you’re a good boy, yes you are, yes you are. Did you step on a burr, oh poor baby, come here, let me see your little pawsie. Awwww, it’s OK little baby. There, there, all better now.”

There is one more sub-category of these talkers, and they are those who actually seem to expect their dog to answer them. They are prone to asking their dogs the same question repeatedly, as if, on the third or fourth asking, the dog is suddenly going to respond with words: “Are you ready to go home for dinner, Fluffy? Hmmmm? Fluffy, you want to go home for dinner? Does Fluffy want dinner? You want to go get dinner, Fluffy?”

The Experts: They can and most assuredly will tell you more than you want to know about training, about breeds, about care, about feeding, about anything. Sometimes they may actually have some expertise. More often, they haven’t a clue. Still, they feel the need to conduct mini-lectures that conclude with something like “And that is why dogs eat grass” or, “That’s how they came to be known as Lhaso Apsos.”

DSC06874leashes1The Device-obsessed: They are the largest, fastest growing group at the dog park, and one of the most dangerous, totally ignoring their dogs as they tap away on their little screens. They really should look up now and then. See your dog? He’s living in the moment. You should try it.

The Social Butterfly: Must meet and engage every dog, and every human, in the park. He or she flits about, asking your dog’s name, your dog’s breed, telling you about his or her dog, remarking on the weather, etc., before moving on to the next dog and person. One of these — they often being the sort that prefers a monologue over actual conversation — recently began talking to me, even though I was on the big dog side of the fence and he was on the small side. Without any response, or any acknowledgement from me, he continued talking, non-stop, to the back of my head, for 30 minutes.

DSC06948leashes1The Loners: They go to remotest corner, avoiding interaction and engaging, most likely, in some fetch — silently, relentlessly, repetitiously, and most often using one of those flinging sticks so their hands don’t get slimy. Both owner and dog, generally something like a German shepherd, seem to tense up if you or your dog approach. Often, the loner person has a loner dog, which brings up a point we’re not addressing here: How a dog’s personality comes to resemble its owners.

The Rescue Hero: The second, if not first, sentence out of this person’s mouth about their own dog is “he/she is a rescue” and it is followed by the dog’s tale of woe in its previous life. His coat was matted, his ribs were visible, he was a bait dog used by dogfighters, he was abandoned and left tethered at a Walmart. Often they weren’t involved in any actual rescue, but merely walked into a shelter and adopted the dog. But that’s OK. It still makes them good people. Just don’t expect sainthood.

The Action Hero: This is the young guy — perhaps an off duty firefighter, or someone who just left rugby practice — who rushes over to fearlessly break up any dogfights.

DSC06981leashes1The Date-seeker: He is there to meet some babes. He will lavish attention on your dog because he thinks you are cute. He seems so nice, but might he be a biter? Exercise some caution before going into a play stance with him.

The Over-protector: These people are constantly coddling and babying their (usually) small dog, hovering nearby and becoming alarmed if play becomes a little rough. At that time, they immediately pick it up, making all the larger dogs want to have at it even more. I’ve seen people show up with their dogs and spend their entire time at the park on a bench with their dog (who might be wearing clothing) on their lap.

DSC06847leashes1The control freak: This person is a strong disciplinarian when it comes to their dog, so strict that their dog is barely able to have any fun. Granted some people use dog parks to train their dogs, but even then said dog should have a little frolic time. It’s not boot camp. Sometimes, they seem to want to discipline everyone else’s dog too: “None of that now. Easy, eeeeeasy now,” they’ll say to other dogs. He or she commonly offers training advice to total strangers.

DSC06849leashes1The Poop-spotter: This person has uncanny peripheral vision — to the point he or she can spot any dog in the act of pooping, even if there are two dogs simultaneously pooping at opposite ends of the park. He or she then promptly informs the owner, “Hey, your dog just pooped, about three yards from the fence, to the left of that fencepost.”

The No Boundaries Dog Owner: These are the owners who clearly believe their dog can do no wrong: These dog owners let their dog get away with pretty much everything — digging, snarling, humping to name a few– issuing few corrections and generally only mild ones. They fail to notice signs that things are getting out of hand until it is too late.

No Boundaries Parents: These are even scarier yet, letting their young children chase strange dogs, run from strange dogs while shrieking, and hug strange dogs. These people might pose a bigger risk than even the Device-obsessed. And if you have a combination of the two, well, that’s a recipe for disaster. Often, with these people, their children listen to them with the same disregard their dogs do. No matter how many times they warn little Tommy to close both the gates when he enters and leaves, little Tommy leaves them wide open.

By now you are asking, well “OK Mr. Holier than Thou, which type are you? Or are we to assume you are perfect?”

Far from it.

DSC06880leashes1I am sometimes “the expert,” but only when an unanswered question is looming, and I am sure of my facts, and I feel the information will make the person I am conveying it to a better dog owner. If, while I am talking, they start yawning, or texting, I will stop.

Sometimes I am “the loner,” sometimes “the social butterfly,” depending on my mood — and my dog’s mood — that day.

Sometimes I’m the rescue hero, not the action hero because generally any fights will be over by the time I’m able to make my way over there on my wobbly legs. I will share the tale of where my dog came from, but generally only when asked and without taking credit for any actual “rescue” when all I really did was adopt him. Still, I’m happy to share, and feel it’s important to share, the story of his Korean past, sad as it was.

I’m not the Date-seeker these days, but I’ll admit that possibility may have been in the back of my head — if not ever actually exercised — in earlier times with earlier dogs. And, hey, it might still be lingering back there to a small degree.

Most often, I’m of the type I haven’t mentioned yet.

The Quiet Observer: This is someone like, say, a semi-retired journalist with time on his hands, skilled in observing human behavior, prone to eavesdropping, able to recognize the subtle differences between us, and aware that — above all else — they are what makes life interesting.

DSC06843leashes1So feel free to disregard all this, and just be yourself. It’s true, I’m far more tolerant with dogs than I am with people. Dogs can jump up on me, they can lick my face, they can sit on my lap. People, these days, get on my nerves much more quickly.

Even so, it’s not my place to tell them how — other than observing proper dog park etiquette — they should act. So I almost always stifle myself from saying anything out loud.

When a small child it is chasing my dog, screaming and trying to grab him, I will warn them out loud, “Hey, you might not want to do that.” But I try to not let negative vibes into my head, and try even harder not to let them out of my mouth.

But that said, Tommy, close the damn gates.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

The dog park is working wonders for Jinjja

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Jinjja’s transition from a dog destined for the butcher block to a trusting family pet continues to slowly but steadily move ahead — sometimes, so gradually that major breakthroughs probably go unnoticed, even by an observer as astute as I.

(“Stop observing me so astutely,” he’d probably say if he could talk. “And check that grammar. You’re nowhere near as astute as you think you are.”)

journeyAt the dog park, he still gets a little bit growly (but not aggressive) when dogs larger than he approach him too rambunctiously. He still spends some of the time going to a remote corner by himself.

But gradually (like everything else with this dog) he is coming to frolic with other dogs in the park, to approach a select few people and sometimes (with females of the human species) even let them pet him.

And last week, for the first time, he went a little farther than chasing and running with other dogs. He full on played with one, with hardly any of the growliness, with actual body contact, as in nearly wrestling, for at least a full minute.

DSC06712Her name is Moro, a Siberian Husky pup who is about Jinjja’s size — though that will change quickly.

With dogs smaller than he, Jinjja exhibits none of the growly behavior. And with Moro, for some reason, he was enamored — enamored like he is with any new dog entering the park. But this time, it lasted a while. He followed her everywhere she went.

DSC06747In addition to being the right size, Moro was the right temperament for him. She didn’t charge in and get in his face, didn’t attempt immediate wrestling. Instead she scurried under the bench for humans and observed what was going on, coming out after she felt comfortable, and taking her time getting to know other dogs.

She’s also soft and fluffy as a powder puff, and sweet smelling, though I’m guessing neither of those things matter to Jinjja.

In any event, it was the first time I’d seen him go into a play stance while off the leash — and proceed to play.

I’d have to say the dog park may be responsible for the biggest strides he has made in terms of socialization since he was rescued from a farm in South Korea where he was being raised as a farm animal to be slaughtered for his meat.

DSC06773We started going right after I was recovered enough from a surgery to check out the new dog park that opened just down the road — actually a little before it opened.

We go nearly every day now.

Jinjja, while he has grown totally comfortable with me, remains skittish around most people. Maybe upon a third meeting, maybe after you’d given him a treat or two, he’ll let you pet him, but he generally avoids the touch of humans until he gets to know them.

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Moro’s owner was an exception to that rule. She seems to hold a special appeal to Jinjja. He’ll approach her far quicker than any other human in the park, and make it clear he wants to be petted. Maybe it’s because he has met her three times now, or because she smells like Moro, or because she smells like other dogs from working at a doggie day care. Or maybe she just has a way with dogs.

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Connections like that — new dogs, new humans — go a long way in helping Jinjja with his transition.

His stay with another family during my hospitalization and recovery also led to improvements in his sociability. After living for two months with three other humans and two other dogs, I noticed a big change in him he came back home.

Last week there was a second breakthrough as well: Jinjja let my brother, who has known him for almost a year now, reach out and pet him, which is generally followed by “please, scratch away, especially right here in the butt region, which I will now shove toward you.”

He has never growled at humans, but he does generally growl, and raise his hackles, when a new dog, or even a large familiar one, attempts to play with him.

I’m not sure of the best way, training-wise, to address that, and I guess it’s more a matter of more time with more company. We hope to get back into the training class we had to drop out of due to illness.

But overall, his growliness has gone way down. (Unlike mine, which remains about the same.)

DSC06800A few days ago, Jinjja even met another Korean dog at the park — or at least one whose owner suspects he came from there. Toby, who he got from a shelter, appears to be a Sapsaree, a breed produced primarily if not exclusively in South Korea. (And yes, though he was way bigger, with waaaaay more hair, they got along fine.)

With Jinjja, the biggest factor of all, I suspect, has been simple time —
time spent being treated like a normal dog, as opposed to crated or chained as he was at the farm in Korea.

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It’s all about earning his trust, and sometimes he makes you work very hard for it.

So we’re spending lots more dog park time, and more me getting on the floor time (arduous task though it is) for that is when he really warms up.

And, dare I say it, he is, if not on the verge, at least getting very close to being a regular old happy go lucky dog.

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(Photos: By John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

Dog park in Key West may have been built atop the graves of about 100 slaves

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Out of respect for the dead who might be buried underneath it, a “small dogs” park in Key West will be relocated in the weeks ahead.

A new area for small dogs will be carved out of the existing large dog area that adjoins it, across from Higgs Beach.

Monroe County officials say moving the small dog park was prompted by concerns that humans are “possibly” buried beneath it.

Studies in 2010 found that there were anomalies and “voids” underground that were presumed to be caskets or graves that are serving as the final resting place for some of the nearly 300 African men, women and children who died after being rescued from slave ships in 1860.

About 1,400 were rescued, and most were returned to Africa. About 295 died in Key West and were buried in unmarked graves along the island’s southern shore, according to the Miami Herald.

“The county has always wanted to be respectful of any possible graves beneath the park by creating contemplative green space in our redesign,” said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers.

“While we may never know with certainty whether graves remain in this area — or if they are graves, whose graves they are — we are taking this step to move the small dog park out of respect. And, we will continue to proceed with respect as the redevelopment moves forward.”

The 2010 study found that as many as 100 graves could be underneath the dog park — almost all of them under the small dog area.

“There are some unmarked graves outside of the dog parks, completely,” Corey Malcom, Director of Archaeology at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society posted on his Facebook page last week. “There are two inside the Big Dog Park, where it meets the Little Dog Park. But the vast majority are within the Little Dog Park. No one is suggesting the area be closed; it just needs to have a more respectful designation.”

(Photo by Chrissy Collins, from the Miami Herald)

Amazon knows how to treat its employees — and its employee’s dogs

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If its employees are a company’s most treasured resource — and if what those employees treasure most are their dogs — it makes perfect sense that Amazon is spending millions of dollars on an employee lounge and dog park at its expanding downtown campus.

The tech giant opened part of the dog park yesterday in the shadow of the Spheres, a unique glass structure that will open next year as a “relaxation area” for employees.

The dog park is the second that the dog-friendly company has provided for employees, but this one will also be open to the public as part of a public plaza that serves as the centerpiece of Amazon’s $4 billion downtown campus.

The dog park will be completed this summer with the installation of a turf field adjacent to the park. The Spheres, destined to become another feature of the Seattle skyline — albeit it a low-lying one — will open in 2018.

amazondogs_9377-630x420Inside the glorified greenhouse — consisting of three connected spheres, about five stories high — there will be hundreds of exotic plants, waterfalls, trees (with treehouses), all in a climate that resembles that of Costa Rica’s Central Valley.

Amazon, where employees regularly bring their dogs to work, is renowned as a dog-friendly company.

According to Geekwire.com, more than 2,000 dogs are registered at the company’s headquarters, where most reception desks are stocked with biscuits and some water fountains around campus are set at dog height.

Amazon has a special page on its website — “Meet the dogs of Amazon” — that profiles more than 30 pups.

Eliana Parenti, an instructional designer at Amazon, told Geekwire one of the main reasons she relocated from Miami with her two small dogs to work for the tech company was their dog policy.

“It’s the biggest perk of working here,” said Sebastian Kurin, a lawyer who works with the Amazon Web Services team. Bringing his dog Simba into work everyday was “something I was most excited about when I got a job offer at Amazon.”

Employees say their dogs provide stress relief and help the overall work environment at Amazon.

(Photos: By Taylor Soper / GeekWire.com)

Denver dog park closed due to poop

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For the second time in five months, Railyard Dog Park in downtown Denver has been closed due to an unhealthy accumulation of dog poop.

Deputy Parks and Recreation Director Scott Gilmore said officials shut down the park Wednesday after rangers came across nearly 40 separate piles of dog feces that owners had failed to pick up.

If you’re wondering why those rangers, given they were already tabulating piles of dog poop, couldn’t just pick them up in the process, well, it’s not their job.

The better questions is why dog owners are neglecting to do it.

railyard1“It is not the responsibility of Denver parks staff to pick up after people’s dogs,” said Gilmore. “We’ll get bags and empty trash cans, but I won’t have my staff pick up dog poop from people who are not picking up after their pets.”

Park staff does monitor the park’s condition though, and uses a color coded system — green, yellow and red — to notify park users as to its state.

Early Wednesday, a code red was declared and the park was closed, according to the Denver Post

Gilmore said the shut down could remain in effect for a while. “If it snows as much as it could snow, it might be a couple of weeks before we can reopen,” he said.

Joseph Marrone, who lives in the Riverfront Park Community, said he might try to recruit volunteers to clean things up, as he did when the park closed in August.

Marrone, who uses the park four times per day for his two dogs, said owners failing to clean up after their dogs is an ongoing issue.