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Black lab has Michael Jackson’s disease


Rowdy has been poisoned by river water and shot by police officers, but it’s a far less threatening skin condition that gives the 13-year-old black Lab his unique look

Rowdy has vitiligo, a disease whose most famous victim was Michael Jackson. In Rowdy’s case, it causes him to lose color in different patches on his body.

rowdy2Rowdy has lost the color pigmentation around his eyes, making him look like he’s wearing a mask.

“He’s like our own little celebrity around town,” Rowdy’s owner, Tim Umbenhower told KPTV. “Everybody loves to stop us and wonder what we did to him or if we painted it on there.”

Umbenhower and his wife Niki, who livein Canby, Oregon, say Rowdy survived poisoning by river water and had to have his stomach pumped.

He was also once accidentally shot by police during what they thought was a burglary.

Niki, on her Facebook page, mentions the possibility of appearing on The Ellen Show and in a movie — and while she might just be joking, stranger things have happened.

(Photos: Niki Beiser Umbenhower’s Facebook page)

Prototype device allows blind people to keep tabs on the health of their guide dogs


Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a device that allows blind people to better monitor the health and well-being of their guide dogs.

The researchers are fine tuning a vibrating harness that monitor a dog’s breathing and heart rate and shares the information with the dog’s handler, according to NC State News.

“Our goal is to let guide dog handlers know when their dogs are stressed or anxious,” said Sean Mealin, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the technology.

Mealin is blind and works with his own guide dog, Simba.

“This is important because it is widely believed that stress is a significant contributing factor to early retirement of guide dogs and other service animals,” Mealin said. “The technology may also be able to help handlers detect other health problems, such as symptoms of heat exhaustion.”

The researchers developed a specialized handle, equipped with two vibrating motors, that attaches to a guide dog’s harness.

harnessOne motor is embedded in the handle by the handler’s thumb, and vibrates – or beats – in time with the dog’s heart rate.

When the dog’s heart rate increases, so does the rate at which the motor beats.

The second motor is embedded in the handle near the handler’s pinky finger, and vibrates in synch with the dog’s breathing. The vibration increases and decreases in intensity, to simulate the dog breathing in and out.

“Dogs primarily communicate through their movements and posture, which makes it difficult or impossible for people who are blind to fully understand their dogs’ needs on a moment-to-moment basis,” said David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of the paper.

“This challenge is particularly pronounced in guide dogs, who are bred and trained to be outwardly calm and avoid drawing attention to themselves in public.”

The paper, “Towards the Non-Visual Monitoring of Canine Physiology in Real-Time by Blind Handlers,” was presented yesterday at the Second International Congress on Animal Computer Interaction, in Johor, Malaysia.

(Photos: NC State News)

Dollar store dog treats are subject of recall

goodnfunA brand of chicken dog treat most commonly sold at dollar stores is being recalled by the manufacturer due to possible Salmonella contamination.

According to the FDA, Salix Animal Health has expanded its earlier recall of Good ‘n’ Fun Beefhide Chicken Sticks.

The initial recall pertained only to the lot in which Salmonella was discovered during sampling by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Now, the company, out of what it calls an abundance of caution, is recalling other lots made around the same time.

The recalled Good ‘n’ Fun – Beefhide Chicken Sticks were distributed nationwide to Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar retail stores. The recalled product is packaged in a 2.8 ounce bag stamped on the back side with an item code number of 82247 and with an expiration date ranging from 02/2018 to 07/2018.

Salmonella can affect animals eating the product and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated products.

Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.

No other Salix product is affected by the recall. Customers who have purchased the recalled product are urged to dispose of it or return it for full refund.

For more information, contact Salix Animal Health’s consumer affairs team at 1-800-338-4896.

Ace is home, and I’m ready for 62


Call it an early birthday present — Ace is home and doing remarkably well.

After surgery to remove his bladder stones, and an overnight stay at the animal hospital, I picked him up yesterday evening.

I was warned he could be leaky for a few days, and that his pee could contain blood — much like that I’m still scrubbing out of my living room carpet from the morning before surgery — but, sequestered in the kitchen, he made it through the night.

When I let him out this morning (after relieving myself, it should be noted), he walked down the stairs, did his business, and came back to lay down on the front porch, just as he normally does.

All of which leads me to marvel, yet again, about what a stoic and resilient beast he is — far more so than I.

I turn 62 tomorrow and, believe it or not, I am happy to do that. I am happy for my year as a 61-year-old to be over. It included, in this order, quintuple bypass surgery for me, the death of my father, and the death of my mother.

When Ace became completely blocked up this week by what X-rays showed was a horrific number of bladder stones, and the veterinarian recommended, even with some risks, immediate surgery, I balked.

Might it be possible, I asked, to wait until after Sept. 5? My 61st year has been a particularly accursed one, I explained, and I don’t want to give it one last chance to hurt me.

Between saying it out loud, and the look on my vet’s face, I realized I was being ridiculous. Tomorrow is fine, I agreed. That was Tuesday.

stones 001Thursday, Ace was home, having emitted just one tiny whimper on the drive. On my ride home from the hospital, after heart surgery, I emitted a dozen whimpers, six grunts, four goddammits, and more than a few dirty looks at my brother for hitting bumps.

During the night, I heard Ace moan once. I, due to back problems, probably moaned 10 times last night.

I took three months to recover from my surgery; Ace looks like he is going to take about three days.

True, they were different kinds of surgeries. True, Ace is on pain pills, more than I would ever be permitted. Ace was prescribed Tramadol — and is to be given eight 50-milligram pills a day. My doctor, who prescribed the same for my back pain, at the same dosage, says I can only take two.

Still, on the one-to-ten scale of stoicism, Ace rates at least a nine, while I can barely eke out a two.

Ace — in his early 80s, if you compute his age in human years — is handling old-man-hood much better than I am.

He didn’t like being sequestered in the kitchen. He prefers following me from room to room and keeping me in sight. But he put up with it, and with no leakage or accidents the barriers have already been lifted, at least during daytime hours.

He is mostly sleeping, and mostly sleeping with his eyes wide open, which I’ve never been able to figure out how he does.

stones 007In addition to the drugs, and a bill for more than $2,000, the vet gave me what he said was just a small “sampling” of what was taken out of Ace.

There were hundreds of little stones, enough to make a nice bracelet, should there be a jewelry maker out there who is interested in — and not too grossed out by — taking on the job.

I also brought home a dog without the monstrous front claws Ace used to have. I’ve written before about our efforts to control those. Since Ace was going to be under anesthesia anyway, I requested he be given a pedicure. In retrospect, given the vet spent hours meticulously removing all the stones from Ace’s bladder, I feel a little guilty about that.

On the other hand, it symbolizes the fresh start that I hope comes for both of us when I turn 62 tomorrow.

He, with his bladder purged of rocky deposits, and his claws at a reasonable length. Me, with a still-ticking heart, my favorite season virtually upon us and, most importantly, my dog back at my side.

With his bladder getting badder, Ace goes under the knife for removal of stones

????????(Updates can be found at the end of this post)

This is a mostly selfish post — aimed at getting all of Ace’s friends and fans to think positive thoughts today as he goes under surgery for bladder stones.

Yes, they are back.

Never really went away, apparently, since his last X-ray a couple of months ago —  despite the obscenely-priced special dog food I kept him on for a couple of months.

Instead, they’ve only increased — to the point where it now appears a good portion of the real estate in his bladder is occupied by them.

After his catheterization in May, everything  appeared, on the outside, to be fine.  Things were flowing nicely. But over the weekend, his urine stream slowed to a dribble, like a coffee maker, and he was, while otherwise in good spirits, straining to pee.

On Sunday I took him to an emergency vet. They were getting ready to catheterize him, when he peed on his own and passed a stone.

By Tuesday though, his stream had slowed to a drip again, and he was lethargic. I took him to his regular vet, where X-rays showed stones filling his bladder and cluttering his urethra — so many that surgery appeared the only choice.

They catheterized him again and sent him home with me for the night before returning him for surgery this morning.

This morning, Ace, who is 10, woke me up early, with the clicking of his claws on the hardwood floor as he trotted from room to room, as he does when he needs to go out. This time he was dripping blood, or bloody urine, in every room of the house.

He eagerly hopped in the car for the trip to the vet, but balked a little about going inside. Either he knew something was up, or didn’t want to face another catheterization. He balked again when it came time to say goodbye and walk off with the vet tech.

Now I am back home, cleaning up blood and waiting for the phone call. The vet’s biggest concern is the stones that may or may not remain in his urethra after yesterday’s catheterization — the urethra, in boy dogs, being a circuitous tube that is prone to problems. He hopes to be able to flush any of those out without having to slice into that area.

Those are the gory details.

Here’s what you can do. Send some positive vibes our way, as many of you have before when my aging dog or my aging self have faced medical uncertainties. I, in exchange, will keep you posted.

No need to write. No need to call. Just think a good thought. I’m not sure I telepathically receive those, but I’m pretty sure Ace does.

Update 1: Ace is out of surgery, which his vet described as the most difficult such operation he has done in his career, due to the amount of stones, particularly those in Ace’s urethra. He managed to clear them all out. Ace is still under the influence of general anesthesia, and it’s not clear yet whether he will be coming home tonight. We’ll be making that call in a couple of hours. Deepest thanks to Dr. Raymond Morrison at Ard-Vista Animal Hospital, to all those who commented here and on my Facebook page, and everyone else who has kept my big ol’ dog in their thoughts.

Update 2: Ace isn’t getting up and around, so he’ll be staying at the animal hospital tonight. Plans are to pick him up tomorrow.

Update 3: Ace is still at the animal hospital, as of Thursday. Vets say they want to monitor him throughout the day, but that I can pick him up this evening.

Some recommended reading: “Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself”

Dog_Medicine.cvr_Seems that hardly a month goes by that we’re not reading about — and duly reporting on — some new scientific study showing how dogs, for us humans, are good medicine.

Whether its lowering our blood pressure, upping our oxytocin (that hormone that makes us feel warm and fuzzy), or keeping us sane (no small task), you can bet there’s a study underway at some university somewhere seeking to unravel — and dryly present to us — more hard evidence of yet another previously mysterious way that dogs enhance our well-being.

Given that, it’s a nice change of pace to plunge into a more anecdotal account — one that looks at the near magical mental health benefits one woman reaped through her dog, and does so with candor and humor, as opposed to sappiness.

“Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself” is a book that shows, far better than any scientific study, just how valuable — no, make that priceless — the human-dog bond is.

The memoir spans a year in the life of the author, Julie Barton, starting when, just one year out of college and living in Manhattan, she had what we used to call a “nervous breakdown.”

A barely coherent phone call from her kitchen floor brought her mother racing to her side from Ohio to take her home.

Barton was diagnosed with major depression — one that didn’t seem to lift, despite the best efforts of family, doctors, therapists and the pharmaceutical industry. She spent entire days in bed, refusing to get up.

Around the same time doctors started her on Zoloft, Barton told her mother she’d like to get a dog. Her mother thought that was a great idea. A few weeks later, they were bringing home a golden retriever pup. Barton named him Bunker.

On that first night, Bunker started whimpering in his crate, and Barton crawled inside with him:

“It occurred to me as I gently stroked his side that this was the first time in recent memory that I was reassuring another living thing. And, miraculously, I knew in that moment that I was more than capable of caring for him. I felt enormously driven to create a space for Bunker that felt safe, free of all worry, fear and anxiety. For the first time in a long time, I felt as if I had a purpose.”

Barton’s depression didn’t lift overnight; it never does. But, as the artfully written story unravels, Bunker gives Barton the confidence she needs to start a new life on her own in Seattle.

The are plenty of bumps ahead, and more than a few tests, but, given we’re recommending you read it for yourself, we won’t divulge them here.

The book is being released in November by Think Piece Publishing, but you can pre-order it here.

Or you can wait for the next scientific study that comes along, proclaiming — in heartless, soulless prose — to prove one way or another what we already know:

Dogs are good for the heart and soul.

Flashdance star Jennifer Beals confronted over leaving her dog in parked car

Actress Jennifer Beals was confronted by a citizen for leaving her dog in a parked car in West Vancouver.

The 51-year-old actress, best known for her starring role in 1983′s “Flashdance,” left the dog in her Ford Escape Wednesday, reports Canada’s Global News.

A passerby saw the dog in the vehicle, with a passenger-side window open a few inches, and called authorities.

When Beals returned after about five minutes, before police arrived, the man told her leaving the dog in the car wasn’t safe.

Beals, who is in Vancouver shooting a TV series, assured the man everything was fine and drove off.

She later defended her actions. “I am not only a loving dog owner but a discerning one,” she told USA TODAY in a statement.

“The morning was a cool 73 degrees. I, and others, were wearing jackets. I rolled all four windows down and left the car for five minutes to pick up my laundry with my car visible to me the entire time.”

She says she was curious when she returned to find a crowd milling around her car.

“I wondered why two people congregated around my car taking pictures of my (dog). Proud mama thought it was because she’s so gorgeous. While I appreciate their vigilance and what must have felt like courage on their part, they were barking up the wrong tree.”

Marcie Moriarty of the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said, even on a day when temperatures reached no more than 77 degrees, dogs shouldn’t be left in parked cars.

“Definitely not. Not in this sort of heat,” she said. “That’s a German Shepard-type dog it looks like … they’re already carrying a coat on them. In this temperature, I don’t think that would necessarily create the type of cooling effect that would ever be sufficient.”

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