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Tag: education

Now open in L.A.: PetSpace, an adoption center that’s much, much more

All humane societies and SPCA’s see education as a large part of their mission, but few if any have taken that to the heights of PetSpace, a newly opened center in Los Angeles that is finding new homes for dogs and increasing our understanding of them at the same time.

Over a dozen dogs and cats were adopted during Saturday’s opening of PetSpace, the brainchild of Wallis Annenberg, the CEO and president of the Annenberg Foundation.

But, as the Los Angles Times reported over the weekend, PetSpace is about much more than rehoming dogs.

It’s part interactive science center, part children’s playground, part pet paradise, part research institute and part adoption center.

On top of facilitating adoptions, PetSpace will offer educational programming for the general public on how to care for pets, all while conducting its own scientific research focused on the human-animal bond.

To that end, it has established a Leadership Institute with 16 research fellows — experts in different academic fields — who will write a white paper on the science behind the human-animal bond.

“This whole notion of the human-animal bond goes so much deeper than how you choose a pet,” said Eric Strauss, a biology professor at Loyola Marymount University and the research paper’s lead author.

“We’re bonded emotionally through our pets. But we’re also bonded ecologically, medically and economically. I think that’s the real genesis of a new science here.”

Located in Silicon Beach in Playa Vista, the 30,000-square-foot facility houses more than 80 dogs, cats and rabbits from the Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control shelters.

It has a staff of 30, assisted by more than 100 volunteers and will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free admission.

Its creators see it as a destination in itself, a fun place that will inform and delight adults and children (and maybe make them even happier yet if they end up taking home a dog or cat).

petspace2

During Saturday’s opening, a large mechanical dog barked and wagged his tongue while perched on the second floor. On the ground level, visitors read animal adoption stories displayed on panels and explored an interactive touch screen wall announcing upcoming events.

The center, in addition to periodic seminars, will have a Sunday reading program where children can sit down with a book and an animal.

Meanwhile, in the various play areas, visitors snuggled with cats and dogs, while others met with dogs in their “suites.” Outside each is an interactive digital screen with information about the pets up for adoption.

The center will be making an intense effort to match the right dog to the right owner.

“What’s your lifestyle like? What time commitment do you have? We’ll have a pretty extensive conversation,” said J.J. Rawlinson, the center’s animal care manager and veterinarian. “We really take time to get to know the animals.”

The adoption fee is $80.

PetSpace has partnered with organizations across the city to develop its programming, which will also include higher education workshops on human-animal relationships.

petspace1

It will also provide medical resources, including aqua therapy, that are generally not available in shelters.

Part of the center’s mission will be to educate the public about spaying, neutering, grooming and other aspects of caring for a pet.

Wallis Annenberg is a billionaire philanthropist who has long made pets one of her pet projects.

“In my life, animals have been a profound gift — not just dear companions, but teachers and healers, showing how to live and love fully and in the moment. That’s why the opening of Annenberg PetSpace is so thrilling for me,” said Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation’s chair and CEO.

The family foundation was founded by Walter H. Annenberg, whose company published, among others, TV Guide, Seventeen magazine and my old alma mater, the Philadelphia Inquirer. It also operated radio and TV stations nationwide. Annenberg died in 2002.

Wallis Annenberg, his daughter, described PetSpace as “a world-class space in which to study the joys and mysteries of life in all its forms. It will be an innovative and interactive place for families to engage with animals and animal lovers of all kinds.”

“And it will be a chance for me to pass on the kind of awe and affection and insight animals have provided me for all my years,” she told the San Diego News Daily.

The Annenberg team worked with Los Angeles area animal welfare organizations, including Los Angeles Animal Services, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, spcaLA and the Humane Association of California to design the center.

(Photos and video from the PetSpace website)

Give us the goods on your veterinarian

veterinarian symbolWe want to know about the veterinarian of your dreams – whether you’ve found him or her, or not.

For an article in an upcoming issue of The Bark on how we choose a veterinarian, we’d like to know what – in your eyes — are the most important factors.

If you’ve found the perfect vet, just what is it that makes him or her perfect? If you’re still seeking that person, just what exactly is it you’re looking for?

As our dogs become more and more like family members, the choice of vet is a decision humans probably take more seriously than they did 50 years ago. Time was one’s choice of veterinarian was based in large part on proximity.

We’re guessing that has changed. Now we seek opinions from friends, question fellow denizens of the dog park, turn to online reviews, and perhaps even make some in-office visits, all in our quest for the perfect vet.

But what makes the perfect vet?

Is it where he or she went to school? Is it a friendly staff, reasonable rates? Is it how quickly you can make an appointment or how long you spend in the waiting room? Is it bedside manner, how much empathy, or compassion a vet exudes? Is it how clearly that vet can communicate? Whether they honor your pet insurance? Is it how the vet connects with you, how the vet connects with your dog, or both?

We want to know what is (or was) the single most important factor in your choice of veterinarian, and how you found the one (if you have) that you can’t imagine ever leaving.

Tell us about the veterinarian of your dreams by leaving a comment, preferably with your name attached, on The Bark’s blog, or here on ohmidog!

(John Woestendiek, who produces the ohmidog! website, is a frequent contributor to The Bark. His story on finding the ideal veterinarian will appear in an upcoming issue.)

A matter of Faith: Girl, 5, gets service dog


A family in northern Maine says it is “overwhelmed” by the generosity they saw from friends and strangers who donated enough money for them to get a service dog for their 5-year-old daughter, Faith.

Faith has spina bifida and experiences seizures. The new dog — a black Lab named Dandy — has been trained to detect when they might be coming.

Bruce and Beverly McNally, of Island Falls, took Faith in as a foster child, then as their adopted daughter. They quickly realized they needed help monitoring her for the seizures, which could be deadly if not addressed.

“The family became very worried, which is why they wanted to get the dog,” Michele King, Faith’s aunt, told the Bangor Daily News.

King is also the chief administrative officer for Brave Hearts, a nonprofit Christian home for young men in Island Falls, and that organization sponsored a fundraiser last month to try and raise the $2,500 that was needed.

King said that donations came from the more than 100 people who attended a benefit supper, and from people as far away as North Carolina.

“We just couldn’t believe it,” Beverly McNally said. “We eventually had enough money and we had to gently turn people away. We had to tell them that we had enough for the dog, but that we wanted them to donate the money to a charity of their own choosing.”

Dandy came from CARES — Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education and Services — a nonprofit organization in Concordia, Kansas, that trains and matches assistance dogs with owners.

“Dandy has just been wonderful for Faith,” McNally said on Friday. “She picks up on a chemical change in the body when a seizure occurs. One day when we got back, Faith was very lethargic. She was in the chair with me and needed to be snuggled a lot more. And the dog got up in the chair and started whining. And I didn’t realize what was going on. And 45 minutes later, Faith had a seizure. Then I realized what the dog was trying to tell me.”

(Photo: Michele King)

NC college starts pet-friendly dorm

Lees-McRae College, located in the mountains of North Carolina, has designated its first pet-friendly dormitory, allowing students who live there to bring along their dogs, cats, birds, fish, ferrets, and hamsters.

With the opening of the Spring 2011 semester, Bentley Residence Hall went co-species. 

“I am so excited that Lees-McRae College has joined the ranks of pet friendly colleges and universities.  We love our pets and we recognize that students who are pet owners are generally responsible and caring individuals,” said Barry M. Buxton, president of the Presbyterian college. “We want to encourage pet adoption and awareness that all of God’s creatures are sacred.”

Students living in Bentley Hall are now allowed to bring their pets from home to school with them to live in their rooms. Under the new policy, qualifying students can have fish, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, birds, ferrets, cats and dogs under 40 pounds. (We’d argue dogs over 40 pounds are sacred, too.)

Previously, students were only allowed to have fish in residence hall rooms.

Under the new pet friendly policy, faculty and staff are also encouraged to bring their pets to campus.

“It is great to be able to have my two dogs for companionship while I am studying and doing homework in my room,” said student Lauren Lampley, owner of Shih Tzus Heidi and Buckley. “This responsibility also forces me to manage my time well enough to take care of them and make sure I make time to spend with them.”

The approved pets for the inaugural pet friendly program include a Boston Terrier, a small Labrador retriever, two Shih Tzus, a pomeranian/Chihuahua mix, a miniature dachshund, a Maine coon mix, a Siamese mix, a leopard gecko, a Dutch rabbit, two ferrets and two birds.

The new policy represents the latest in a trend toward colleges welcoming pets, noted Joshua Fried, director of Petside.com: “We know how much the companionship of a pet can benefit a college student, particularly in the form of stress-relief and as a remedy for homesickness.”

“Now I have two alarms,” one student joked. “When I ignore my alarm clock, my dog licks my face and my nose until I get up. She really cares about my education.”

Lees-McRae College, a four-year, co-educational liberal arts college, is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina in the town of Banner Elk.

(Photo courtesy of Lees-McCrae College)

Third graders bring a dog park to New Jersey

Glassboro, N.J. has a group of third graders to thank for its new dog park — expected to open next year.

More than a dozen students from Dorothy L. Bullock Elementary School showed up at a borough council meeting in March, taking turns reading from a prepared statement, urging the council members to consider creating a dog park. It was signed by all their classmates.

Three months later, and even amid serious cuts elsewhere in the borough budget, the dog park, students recently learned, is a go.

Just before the school year ended, Glassboro Council President Tony Fiola and Councilman Ed Malandro went to the children’s classroom to deliver the news, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Malandro and Fiola had spoken to their class earlier in the year, and they invited the students to the next council session, encouraging them to present their thoughts on how their community could be a better place. After that their teacher, Shelly Petrozza, had the students nominate things they thought would improve Glassboro. It ended up a tie, with half the students favoring a dog park, half choosing a skate park. The children presented the council with a case for each proposal.

After research, the skate park was ruled out because of cost – at least $75,000, Malandro said. The dog park idea, on the other hand, appeared to be possible.

“We said, ‘This is something we can afford to do,’ ” Malandro said. “It lets us do something for the kids, and it lets them see government does work in the right ways.”

The dog park will likely be in East New Street Park, next to the Bullock school, and plans call for a plaque commemorating the role the third graders played.

“We all said to them, ‘Boys and girls, look at what you did. You’re only 8 and 9 years old,’ ” said their teacher. “I think they realized you do have power no matter how little you are.”

(Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer)

You, too, can get an online degree in dogology

Classes are underway at Dog College.

What is Dog College? It’s a series of free online courses — not for real college credits — being offered by Dog Fancy magazine in conjunction with DogChannel.com. It’s sponsored by Iams Healthy Naturals brand dog food.

dogcollegeThis semester has already started, and includes nine courses that pet owners take over three months — including classes on physiology, natural nutrition, communication, genetics, environmental science, health science and art history.

Each course includes advice and information from dog experts, and includes reading material, video or slide shows. To graduate, students must complete all of the quizzes with a passing score of 60 percent or higher. To receive top honors, students must take all of the quizzes and score 90 percent or higher on each one.

A valedictorian, chosen from those who score 100 percent on all quizzes, will win a year’s worth of Iams Healthy Naturals dog food provided by PETCO. To learn more and sign up, visit at DogChannel.com.

Reading, writing, arithmetic and gun safety

eeagleMuch like McGruff the Crime Dog, Eddie Eagle — aka a National Rifle Association representative in an eagle costume — has been showing up in school assemblies for more than 20 years.

But it appears the NRA mascot and his lessons on gun safety are destined to become mandatory in Virginia — at least in those school districts that choose to offer the curriculum.

The state has approved gun safety classes in elementary schools, and will structure the curriculum with help from the National Rifle Association.

The law allows local school divisions to offer gun-safety education to pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade. While each school board can decide whether to offer it, those that do must use the state curriculum — which will include rules used by the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.

Not all parents are thrilled with that.

“I personally don’t think firearm safety has a place in the schools,” Lori Haas, spokeswoman for the Virginia Center for Public Safety whose daughter is a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. 

“That’s up to the parents to teach that at home.” she told Fox News

NRA’s Eddie Eagle website says that the program’s goal “isn’t to teach whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the protection and safety of children.”

The Eddie Eagle mascot advises children: “If you see a gun: STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.” Eddie Eagle does not promote firearm ownership or use and firearms are never used in the program, the website says.

The website tells schools they can “add excitement to your assemblies with a safety mascot appearance. The use of the Eddie Eagle costume provides an entertaining way to enhance the program.”

The Eddie Eagle safety mascot costume is available for purchase by law enforcement agencies only, for $2,650.