Leave it to scientists to confirm what we already know, and to do so using words we don’t begin to understand.
Case in point: Nervous dogs often have nervous owners. This is not to say a nervous dog can’t have a cool as a cucumber (coolus cucumberus) owner. Nor is it to say some highly twitchy (humanus nervosa) folks can’t have calm dogs.
Only that, as anyone who visits a dog park knows, nervous owners tend to have nervous dog at the end of the leash.
The new study buttresses the concept that our dogs tend to take on our personalities, and that tension — while it may not actually “flow down the leash” — is picked up on by our dogs, and often reflected in their own behavior.
It looks at the chemistry behind that.
The study at the University of Vienna — published in the journal PLOS One “investigated dyadic psychobiological factors influencing intra-individual cortisol variability in response to different challenging situations by testing 132 owners and their dogs in a laboratory setting.”
You might understand that, or, you (like me) might not know spit — or that cortisol levels can be measured through it.
In the study, the researchers measured the levels of cortisol — and the variability of those levels — in the saliva of dogs and owners put through stressful situations.
In addition, they assessed the personality of both dog and human participants — ranging from highly sensitive and neurotic to secure and self confident.
“We calculated the individual coefficient of variance of cortisol (iCV = sd/mean*100) over the different test situations as a parameter representing individual variability of cortisol concentration,” the study’s authors wrote. “We hypothesized that high cortisol variability indicates efficient and adaptive coping and a balanced individual and dyadic social performance.”
For a more reader-friendly account of the study, check out Stanley Coren’s Psychology Today blog:
“You can think of people who are high in neuroticism as being sensitive and nervous while people who score low in neuroticism are secure and confident. In this study, the dog owners who scored high in neuroticism had dogs with low variability in their cortisol. This suggests that dogs with highly neurotic owners are less able to deal with pressure and stress.”
“Conversely, dog owners who were more laid back and agreeable had calmer dogs. Those folks have greater variability in their cortisol response, suggesting that they are better able to cope with situations involving tension and strain.”
The study says the male dogs of female owners often have less variability in their cortisol responses and are often generally less sociable and less relaxed than male dogs belonging to male owners.
(That’s the study saying that females generally score higher on measures of anxiety and neuroticism — not me. I would be way too nervous to say that.)
“Owners behave differently because they are pessimistic or neurotic, and perhaps dogs read the emotions of their owners and think the world is more dangerous — so they are more reactive to it,” the study says. “It looks like people who are pessimistic have dogs which are worse at coping with stress than others.”
Of course, where a dog was before ending up with its owner can play a pretty big role, too.
I, for example, am the cool as a cucumber owner of a nervous dog. He came from a farm in Korea where he was being raised to become meat. That would tend to instill some nervousness in anyone.
Three months after being adopted by me, he still gets pretty nervous — around large groups, when hearing loud noises. I don’t know about his cortisol levels, but at these times he whimpers, sheds profusely — is there such a thing as projectile shedding? — and pees in inappropriate places, such as on my leg.
He is making great strides in every way, but Jinjja still needs to chill, and get less worked up by new situations.
Of all the factors that shape our dogs — genetics, environment, owners — time (and its cousin, patience) may be the most important ones of all.
So my game plan is to provide him with plenty of both, expose him to new settings and situations, and show him that not all the world is a dangerous place — all while being a mellow role model.
In other words, impossible as it might be, I’m going to have to become EVEN cooler.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 21st, 2017 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adrenalin, animals, anxiety, cortisol, dog, dogs, environment, factors, farm, genetics, humans, jinjja, korea, levels, meat trade, nervous, owner, owners, personality, pets, research, science, shape, stress, study, university of vienna, variance
Another massive rescue of Korean farm dogs is underway.
Activists on Tuesday freed 10 more dogs from a 200-dog farm in Wonju, 55 miles outside of Seoul, Reuters reported.
Dogs on such farms are raised to be slaughtered for their meat.
The farm, once it closes, will become the sixth shut down by local advocates and activists from HSI, who negotiate with dog farmers and assist them in getting started in different occupations.
HSI estimates there are 17,000 dog-meat farms in the country.
The removal of the dogs follows six months of negotiations, medical examinations and vaccinations. Because airline flights can only carry a limited number of dogs a day, it will take a couple of weeks for HSI to rescue all 200 of the dogs at the farm.
You can see a Reuters slideshow of the operation here.
HSI officials expected the dogs will be quickly adopted once they arrive at shelters in the U.S.
“As soon as they’re ready for adoption, we find that there are line-ups of people – literally people would line up at shelters – in the U.S. to adopt these dogs because people are so engaged by their sad and compelling stories,” said Andrew Plumbly, another campaign manager for the HSI.
Plumbly said hygiene at the dog farm was “non-existent,” and that dogs spent most of their lives outside in rusty cages.
A minority of Koreans consume dog, and the consumption of dog meat is declining.
Humane Society International hopes bringing more attention to the issue will lead the government ban the breeding of meat dogs in South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Olympics are being held.
(You can read more about Korean farm dogs, including mine, here.)
(Photos: Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 11th, 2017 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, animals, closed, closing, dog farms, dog meat, dog meat trade, dogs, eating dog, farm, farms, hsi, humane society international, jinjja, korea, korean, korean farm dogs, pets, slaughter, south korea, u.s., united state
Jinjja met Roscoe this week, and it was a mostly peaceful exchange.
In what was his first real outing since learning to jump in the car by himself, with help from a family heirloom, Jinjja had his first meeting with my brother’s dog at Winston-Salem’s Leinbach Park — neutral ground as neither had been there before.
They touched noses, sniffed each other out, and did well together — at least for the first 30 minutes.
So far, despite his unusual background — Jinjja was rescued from a farm in South Korea where dogs were being raised for slaughter — he has gotten along with every dog he has met, from the flirtatious basset hound who lives across the street to rambunctious poodle (one of five) who live next door.
We haven’t tried a real dog park yet, but I think he is ready for that. (And I almost am.)
Leinbach Park is semi dog friendly. Leashed dogs are allowed in the park. But dogs, leashed or unleashed, are not allowed on the hiking trail.
“Dogs are not allowed on the sandstone walking trail at any time. The reason should be obvious,” the city’s director of Parks and Recreation told the local paper a couple of years ago.
(Sorry, but the reason isn’t obvious to me.)
Still, we mostly heeded the warning, staying to the side of the path as much as possible, Jinjja sniffing for squirrels and Roscoe barking without provocation, which he’s prone to doing.
It wasn’t until we stopped walking and took a seat on a bench that, for no apparent reason, there were snarls and growls exchanged, followed by another brief confrontation. There was no real contact, and they seemed to make up afterwards.
Ace (my previous dog) and Roscoe never became the best of friends. They reached a certain detente after a confrontation that also seemed to have erupted out of nowhere, and left both a little bloody.
On the way back to our cars Jinjja and Roscoe got along fine. I was a little worried about getting him back in my Jeep. I was advised by shelter he came from that it wasn’t a good idea to try to move his body or pick him up. Even though he has almost totally let down his defenses with me, I still haven’t tried to lift him up yet.
Instead, to get him loaded, I used an ottoman from my living room, which my mother passed on to me. It has a cushion that was embroidered by a great aunt we all called “Tan.” When I back my car up to curb, the ottoman, along with a dangled piece of bologna, makes it easy for Jinjja to step up and jump in.
This was our first time without a curb. He hesitated a bit, but on the third try, just as the bologna ran out, he went for it, back paws getting a good grip on the carpet-like embroidery, and made it.
I’ve been leaving the footstool in my car, until I buy some kind of sturdy box to replace it.
(That will probably be about the time he realizes he doesn’t even need it.)
I still have Ace’s old ramp, but it’s pretty cumbersome, and Jinjja might resist climbing up it even more than he has jumping in.
Once Jinjja masters the leap into the back seat — with or without a step up — the footstool will return to the inside of the house, and I will continue to prop my own feet up on it, even if it is a work of art.
“No feet on the footstool” would be a stupid rule, much like “no dogs on the trail.”
Tan, whose real name was Kathleen Hall, was a teacher for many years and later a principal. There’s a school nearby that is named after her. She died in 1983. But I’m guessing what she shared with students lives on in them, their children and their children’s children.
The same can be said of her embroidered footstool, which is helping a South Korean dog who had no future hop into a car and see a little more of the world.
It’s one of those gifts that keep on giving.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 14th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, animals, behavior, bologna, car, dog, dog parks, dogs, farm, footstool, jindo, jindol, jinjja, jump, kathleen hall, leinbach park, meat trade, ottoman, park, parks, pets, roscoe, south korea, tan, winston-salem
Fourteen more farm dogs from South Korea have arrived in the U.S. and are bound for the Richmond SPCA for eventual adoption.
The dogs arrived Friday at Dulles International Airport after being rescued from a dog meat farm in Jeonju, where they would have faced being slaughtered and butchered after living short and miserable lives.
Working with local animal activists, HSI attempts to persuade the operators of dog farms to relinquish their dogs, close down their business and find a new line of work, sometimes assisting them in the latter.
The dogs who arrived Friday were rescued from a meat farm in Jeonju — likely the same one my new dog was in.
While dog meat farms are legal in South Korea, the latest arrivals — like the 31 that arrived at shelters across North Carolina in October — came from a farm that Korean officials found to be operating illegally (on someone else’s property) and ordered to close.
The latest 14 were sheltered, vaccinated and quarantined in Daegu and Isla before being flown to San Francisco and, eventually, Dulles, according to the Richmond SPCA.
Robin Starr, CEO of the Richmond SPCA, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that some of the dogs will be ready for adoption in about a week.
“When we save the lives of animals that were really facing not only short lives of utter misery but then a terrible death, nothing could be more central to the accomplishment of that,” she said.
(Photos: At top Jessica Bristow carries Mokpo; lower, another Korean dog stretches his legs after arriving in Richmond; by Joe Mahoney / Times-Dispatch)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 5th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dog farms, dog meat, dog meat trade, dogs, farm, farmers, farms, humane society international, jeonju, jindos, jinjja, korea, korean, meat, pets, rescue, rescued, richmond, richmond spca, spca, virginia
(Second of two parts)
Their eyes said yes, their feet said no.
All four of the dogs at the Watauga Humane Society — each being held in individual quarantined kennels after their trip from Korea — initially reacted the same when I stepped inside.
They’d take one step forward, their bright eyes shining with what seemed to be excitement, anticipation or maybe curiosity; then they’d take three steps back.
It was understandable. They’d come from a farm in South Korea — one of more than 1,000 such farms there where dogs are raised as livestock and sold as meat, where they’re often mistreated and neglected and have little human contact.
In the weeks since they were rescued from a farm in Jongju, quarantined and, along with 27 others, shipped to the U.S., the four dogs have grown a little more sociable by the day.
Yet clearly, they were still torn between the fear they had learned from experience and that innate something — call it resilience, goodness of spirit, or that seemingly limitless and often unexplainable love for our species — that all dogs are born with.
With dogs, that innate something, given a chance, almost always wins out.
That has been the case with rescued fighting dogs, puppy mill dogs, and those raised as meat. They’re willing, despite whatever mistreatment they endured at our hands, to give our species a second chance.
We sometimes return the favor.
Since the beginning of 2015, Humane Society International has worked with Korean animal activists to remove 525 dogs from Korean dog farms and ship them to the U.S. and Canada to find new homes as pets.
The organization works to persuade dog farmers to forfeit their canine livestock and move on to new careers, often providing financial incentives for them to do so.
The latest shipment was a smaller one — 31 dogs from Jonju, and they’ve been distributed among five different North Carolina humane societies and shelters that serve as emergency placement partners for HSI and HSUS.
All four of the dogs who came to Watauga Humane Society were Jindos, a breed known for their loyalty that originated on the island of Jindo, off the southern coast of South Korea.
The breed has been designated by the Korean government as a national treasure.
Yet they — especially the white and yellow ones — are commonly seen in cages at outdoor meat markets, waiting to be sold, slaughtered and butchered.
At the farms, the dogs spend most of their lives in cages, treated like livestock, at best — and sometimes worse than that.
How does a dog raised in those conditions go on to be a family pet?
In small and hesitant steps, not overnight, and not without some work and patience.
But the proven fact is, they do.
That has been the case with the the four previous batches of farm dogs who have been rescued from Korea and gone on to find adoptive homes in the U.S. and Canada.
“I can give you hundreds of stories of wonderful adoptions that have taken place with them,” said Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for HSI.
The four Korean dogs that came to the Watauga Humane Society had been there three days when I visited. In the quarantine area, I walked into each of their kennels and took a seat on the floor.
One sat in the outside section of his kennel and — no matter how much I gently coaxed — would take more than a step or two inside.
Another trembled in the corner, venturing a little closer after 10 minutes passed, but only close enough for a quick sniff.
One came within a few feet of me and retreated, before lingering long enough to allow herself to be petted.
The fourth would come close, then fall back, finally coming close enough to sniff my hand, and allow it to pet him. He decided he liked it.
“Every day gets a little better,” said the HSI’s O’Meara. “You’ll hear from the shelters, ‘He gets closer, he sniffed me today.’ It’s a big deal for a dog that wouldn’t come within five feet, and now its coming up and licking your hands.
“Some take months but they do get there and when they do, they’re wonderful companion dogs,” she added.
The four are expected to get out of quarantine next week. Then they’ll be taken to Asheville to be spayed and neutered. Depending on how the dogs react to that, the Watauga Humane Society could start taking applications from people interested in adopting them the last week in October.
Details will be announced on their Facebook page.
At the Cashiers Highlands Humane Society, applications are already being taken for the 11 Korean dogs they took in, though the dogs won’t be able to be taken home until after Nov. 7 when they are spayed or neutered.
Other dogs that were rescued from the farm in Jonju — an illegal one because the farmer didn’t own the land he was using — are at Paws of Bryson City, Moore Humane Society in Carthage, and Outer Banks SPCA in Manteo
Laurie Vierheller, executive director of the Watauga Humane Society, said helping the dogs find a home is rewarding in itself, but the benefits to a shelter go beyond that.
Taking in the dogs strikes a chord with the dog-loving community members whose contributions keep local humane societies afloat. It brings traffic to a shelter, and often those who come to see the dogs rescued in a high-profile case end up going home with one, or adopting another resident of the shelter.
The HSI’s O’Meara says some shelters and humane societies avoid getting involved as emergency placement partners because they want to focus on finding homes for local dogs in need.
But those who do take part, she said, have noted “a spike in adoptions, for all dogs, when they receive these dogs…One shelter, within two weeks of the dogs arriving, every dog in facility was adopted out.”
“It highlights the work they do in their communities. These homeless animals come with an incredible story. That brings in traffic, and brings in people who would provide wonderful homes.”
(Part one of this series can be found here)
(Photos: Jindol, at top, and the other Korean farm dogs soon to be available for adoption at the Watauga Humane Society; by John Woestendiek)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 13th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, animals, boone, dog, dog farms, dog meat trade, dogs, emergency placement partners, farm, farm dogs, free korea dogs, hsi, hsus, humane societies, humane society international, jindo, jindos, korea, korean, north carolina, pets, rehabilitation, rescue, rescued, resilience, shelters, socialization, watauga county, watauga humane society
The four new arrivals at the Watauga Humane Society, a no-kill shelter nestled in the hills outside Boone, N.C., started adapting to their new lives not long after they were removed from a farm south of Seoul, Korea.
They continued to grow a little less timid and fearful of humans while they were quarantined in a sanctuary there, flown to the U.S., driven hundreds of miles to five different shelters and quarantined again.
Soon, they’ll be making the final step on the way to becoming pets, instead of meat.
And those 31 are among 525 who have come to the U.S. and Canada since the beginning of last year, when Humane Society International added a new strategy to its campaign to bring an end to dog farms in Korea — closing them down one farm at a time.
Representatives of HSI, working with local animal activists in South Korea, have succeeded in shutting down five farms since then — usually by negotiating deals with the farmers and persuading them to pursue new, less brutal livelihoods.
One dog farm became a blueberry farm. Another switched from raising dogs to growing chili peppers. One dog farmer agreed to stop dog farming and, with help from HSI, started a water delivery business.
It’s only a small dent, given there are thousands of dog farms in South Korea, some with 1,000 dogs or more, all being raised to be sold for their meat.
They are commonly abused and neglected and spend their lives in crates before being sold to markets, where things get even crueler.
Farm dogs are sometimes boiled alive, sometimes beaten before slaughter under the belief that it makes their meat more flavorful. Their meat is sold to individuals and restaurants at open air markets, where you can pick a live one for butchering.
It’s all a perfectly legal tradition under laws in Korea, where a minority of the population still eats dogs, and many believe the meat offers health benefits, particularly in the summer months.
That minority is shrinking more as younger Koreans turn away from the practice, a fledgling animal welfare movement grows and the perception of dogs as family members becomes more widespread.
Perhaps, South Korea will, in time, outgrow the practice. Perhaps the Olympics coming to Seoul in 2018 — as it did in 1988 — will lead government officials, who did their best to hide it then, to take more meaningful steps.
Until then, animal activists — locally and globally — do what they can.
My first exposure to dog farms was seven years ago, when I went to South Korea to research a book I was writing on dog cloning. On the road to achieving that “feat,” researchers regularly bought and borrowed meat dogs from farms, using them for experiments, to help clone the first canine and to clone the dogs of pet-owning customers once the practice hit the marketplace.
I ended up at Moran Market — and quickly wished I hadn’t.
Images of what I saw then still pop up in my head, unasked. I’ll spare you the graphic details.
It is estimated that more than 2 million dogs are slaughtered for human consumption in South Korea each year.
Add in those consumed in China, Vietnam and other Asian countries, and as many as 30 million dogs a year are killed for their meat.
South Korea is the only country where the practice has been industrialized. The New York Times reported in May that government data show there are more than 17,000 dog farms.
The Humane Society program is an attempt to shine a light on the issue, while also giving at least a few of the dogs a chance. On top of that, it strives to show that farm dogs, stigmatized in Korea and often perceived as different from pet dogs, are one and the same.
In one of the largest agreements brokered so far, this past May, a dog farmer in Wonju turned over all 260 of the dogs he was raising — mostly on discarded scraps he collected from restaurants — in exchange for certain considerations.
The particulars of the deal weren’t announced, but HSI offers incentives to farmers — $2,000 to $60,000 depending on the number of dogs involved — who agree to forfeit their dogs and get out of the business.
That farmer, Gong In-young, told the New York Times that many of the dogs were just weeks away from being sent to the slaughterhouse.
Gong, in addition to his farm dogs, had a pet dog, too. Asked about the difference in the lives of his farm dogs and his own dog, a spitz named Snow White, he described it as “the difference between heaven and hell.”
The most recent batch of dogs transported to the U.S. by HSI was small by comparison.
The dogs lived on a small farm in Jeonju, about 120 miles south of Seoul. A Canadian organization, Free Korean Dogs, was tipped off about it by local activists and, upon further investigation, learned it was an illegal operation.
While dog farms are legal, this farmer and his dogs were squatters, occupying land that didn’t belong to him. Law enforcement authorities were contacted and ordered the farmer and the dogs off the land.
That left the farmer willing to negotiate, and he eventually agreed to turn all 30-plus dogs over to a sanctuary at the end of July.
HSI, working with Free Korean Dogs, then took steps to have them shipped to the U.S., making arrangements for them to be taken in and adopted out by no-kill shelters who participate in the Humane Society’s Emergency Placement Partners program.
Those who participate in the program accept dogs the Humane Society has rescued — from everything from puppy mills to natural disasters.
All 31 farm dogs, after their flight and a few days in Maryland, were brought to shelters in North Carolina.
In the parking lot of a shopping center in Cary, the dogs were turned over to volunteers from local humane societies and shelters in the state, the News & Observer reported.
Those shelters included Cashiers Highlands Humane Society, Paws of Bryson City, Moore Humane Society in Carthage, Outer Banks SPCA in Manteo, and the Watauga Humane Society in Boone.
I visited the four who went to Boone last week.
I wanted to take some photos. I wanted to see how anti-social and fearful of humans they might be, or if that resilience dogs are famous for was already becoming apparent.
I wanted to understand how hard it might be for them to shake the past. Many who have adopted them say they’ve gone on to make greats pets — as has been the case with many of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs, puppy mill dogs and other dogs who have seen and suffered from the worst in humans.
And in the back of my head, which is also where those images of meat market dogs linger, I was thinking I might like to have one.
(For part two of this story, click here.)
(Photos: From top to bottom, Jindol, one of the four Korean dogs now at the Watauga Humane Society, by John Woestendiek; caged dogs at a South Korean dog farm, by Jean Chung for The New York Times; dogs awaiting butchering at Moran Market in Seoul, by John Woestendiek)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 12th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: adopt, adopted, adoption, animals, cloning, dog meat, dog meat trade, dogs, eaten, emergency placement partners, farm, food, free korea dogs, free korean dogs, humane society international, humane society of the united states, jeonju, korea, meat dogs, Moore Humane Society, moran meat market, north carolina, olympics, Outer Banks SPCA, pets, rescue, rescued, restaurants, seoul, shelters, south korea, united states, watauga humane society
I’m old enough to remember being a little blue when Johnny Carson retired. I was enough of a part-time fan to be sad when David Letterman went off the air.
But tonight, when I turn on the television and Jon Stewart isn’t there, the result is going to be something a lot closer to actual mourning.
His departure from The Daily Show — after 16 years of calling some much needed “bullshit” on all the world’s bullshitters — will leave me with a void in my life, grieving for the loss of a being I saw more often than any friend or family member, except for my dog.
The only thing cushioning the blow is thinking about what new directions Stewart might head in, what his brilliantly acerbic mind might bring us next.
Not so surprisingly, it seems one of those directions might be a greater involvement in animal welfare causes.
Philly.com reports that Stewart and his wife, Tracey, recently purchased a New Jersey farm with hopes of turning it into an animal sanctuary.
In some ways, it already is. In addition to their two children, the Stewarts live with four dogs, two pigs, two hamsters, three rabbits, two guinea pigs, one parrot, and two fish, according to USA Today.
The Stewarts are also supporters of the organization Farm Sanctuary, which Stewart managed to plug — along with his wife’s new book — on the final show:
Tracey Stewart, a former vet tech and long-time animal advocate, is the author of the soon to be released “Do Unto Animals,” all profits from which will go to the Farm Sanctuary.
Jon Stewart has some similar leanings, as could be seen in some Daily Show segments, such as an eight-minute long piece about Chris Christie’s refusal to sign a bill that would end the lifelong confinement of pigs in crates so small they can’t even turn around.
And clearly Stewart has a soft spot for dogs.
The Daily Show was a notoriously dog friendly workplace, as reported by The Bark a while back.
Many a staffer brought their dog to work, and I’m guessing some of them were featured in this segment from the final show, in which Stewart paid tribute to his staff. Check out who’s occupying the executive suite, at about the 4:20 mark of this video:
Posted by John Woestendiek August 10th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal rights, animal sanctuary, animal welfare, animals, book, do unto animals, dogs, farm, farm animals, farm sanctuary, future, jon stewart, new jersey, next, pets, the daily show, tracey stewart, wife