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Tag: iraq

Marine’s support dog shot by police


A former Marine sniper’s support dog was shot by police in Dacono, Colo., after escaping from his yard and acting in what police say was an aggressive manner.

Mongo, a 3-year-old pit bull, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the chest.

His owner, James Vester, is seeking an explanation and an apology from police, whose behavior, he noted, seemed more like something you’d see on the streets of Iraq.

“I didn’t think I would see that again. You see it in Iraq — and then you see your best friend here get shot,” said Vester, who got Mongo, a certified emotional support dog, to alleviate stress after returning from combat.

Vester said he was doing yard work when Mongo got loose. A neighbor called police because Mongo began barking at her dogs from across a fence. When two officers arrived, Mongo barked and growled and lunged at one of them, according to police reports.

Some neighbors disputed the police account, according to Fox 31 News in Denver.

“There was no noise at first, I just heard the gunshot — then the dog started crying,” said Heather Viera, who was told by police to go back inside her home when she stepped outside.

Another neighbor, Jenny Stevens, says she was a few hundred feet down the road, walking her dogs, when she heard the shot. She said she didn’t hear any barking or growling before it was fired. “It was dead silent. There was not a bark, there wasn’t a growl. The cop did not say stop to the dog, the cop didn’t yell anything.”

Dacono Police Chief Matthew B. Skaggs said an investigation was being conducted.

“I think it is important to remember these things develop very quickly,” the chief said. “If you look in the report, the officer did say specifically that the dog got within six feet of him and at that point he felt like it was his only option.”

Students’ hard work foiled by thief

Students at Woodlands High School in Conroe, Texas raised $9,000 to help purchase a land-mine sniffing dog — only to see the money snatched by a thief.

Teacher Susan Hollier  said about 2,000 people from across the community attended a Woodlands High School walk and fundraising festival on Saturday.

Two student clubs — Interact and the Council on International Affairs — started working on the project in February, with hopes of raising $20,000 to pay for the purchase and training of a Belgian Malinois. The dogs are sent around the world to detect mines so communities in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam can use the land again.

Part of the money raised was also going to pay for a Woodlands High student to travel to Bosnia to see the dogs in action. The clubs’ project dog was going to visit the high school in May.

Around noon Saturday, though, a suspect grabbed a box of donated money from a student and ran, according to the Houston Chronicle. Hollier said all but $253 was stolen.

“It’s really just heartbreaking, especially when this one dog would save up to 10,000 lives in its five to seven years of service,” said Shelby Howard, 18, president of Interact. “It’s really hard to see all our hard work just taken from us in a matter of seconds. It’s hard to believe someone would go to that level.”

What are the clubs going to do about it? Start all over again, Shelby said. “We’re definitely not going to just let it go. This is a worthy cause.”

Iraq seeing influx of dogs, but not as pets

iraqdogIraq, a country not very welcoming to dogs, will be welcoming more than 1,000 of them in the next five years — all trained to sniff bombs and assigned to the Iraqi police force.

“Iraqis are not fully comfortable with dogs yet,” says Brig. Gen. Mohammad Mesheb Hajea, who is in charge of the Interior Ministry’s fledgling K-9 unit. “But the people are coming to love them, because they realize what they can do to keep us safe.”

Twenty-five dogs and their human handlers graduated earlier this month from Baghdad Police College’s newly created K-9 course, USA Today reports. And 120 more bomb-sniffing German shepherds, Malinois and Labradors are scheduled to be incorporated into Iraq’s police force by the end of this year.

As in many Muslim countries, Iraqis generally see dogs as unclean animals who shouldn’t be allowed in the home.

But authorities says Iraqis are recognizing the contribution canines can make.

“There is no better investment to countering the threats of bombs and explosives,” said Col. Randy Twitchell, chief U.S. military adviser to the Baghdad Police College. “The Iraqi security forces are recognizing how useful a role that dogs can play in securing the country.”

The U.S. military is paying for the dogs – $12,000 each.

The American advice to bulk up the K-9 units was initially met with resistance.

The vast majority of bomb-sniffing dogs now being used at Iraq’s airports are owned by foreign contractors. Those contractors will be phased out and replaced by Iraqi government-owned dogs and their police handlers, Hajea said.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Made in Maryland: Kuranda Beds take off

kurandaHard times for Mike Harding led to dogs around the world resting comfortably.

Harding got laid off from his Wall Street firm in 1987, and it was that setback that led him to start his own company — Kuranda Dog Beds in Glen Burnie, The Capital in Annapolis reported yesterday.

Quickly becoming an industry standard, and a fixture at kennels and shelters, the chew resistant, elevated cots are sold out of small office near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport — about 30,000 of them a year.

Harding says he never expected the dog bed to make a profit. Instead, he had higher hopes for another product — a roller that absorbs water from tennis courts and ball fields, called the Super Sopper. It never took off.

But Kurunda beds have since 1993 when Harding’s friend and investor, Paul Connolly, took the bed to a local kennel to gauge interest. The interest was there but the bed — the prototype was round — took up to much space.

That sent Harding back to the drawing board, where he came up with a new rectangular model.

“We immediately started making sales to boarding kennels, breeders, and hunters,” Harding said.

Since then, the bed has continued to evolve, and draw praise from kennels and shelters who need durable beds that stand up to high pressure washing.

All of the beds come out of the Glen Burnie building, where employees assemble the kits that are shipped to customers from Texas to Hong Kong.

In 2005, Connolly came up with the company’s “Donate a Bed” program, which allows anyone to use Kurunda’s website to buy a bed at wholesale and then donate it to a shelter. Forty of the donated beds recently went to Iraq for the dogs used by the military to sniff out explosives.

Dog miraculously survives Baghdad bombing

One hundred and twenty-seven human lives were lost, but a dog miraculously survived a massive bombing in Baghdad Tuesday – even though the building she was chained to collapsed.

The dog was first spotted chained to a roof railing after the Tuesday bombing, standing on a wall ledge over the collapsed home.

The owner of the dog, Farouq Omar Muhei, returned to his destroyed home and was reunited with the ginger-colored mutt today, the Associated Press reported.

“Lots of neighbors thought I was dead,” he said  after his dog, Liza, was carried down to the street.

Officials initially said Muhei and his family were among the victims. But, to the surprise of neighbors, already marveling over the dog’s survival, he returned with his 14-year-old son, Omar, after being treated for cuts and other injuries. They were the only family members home at the time of the attack.

Only a few portions of the home remained standing — including one section of the roof where Liza was chained. The dog’s water bucket was by her side, but was empty when Muhei’s brother, Fuad, climbed over the rubble to unchain the dog. The dog, waiting calmly, yawned as Fuad approached.

Once carried down to the street and reunited with Muhei, 46, the dog — who he purchased as a puppy six years ago in Baghdad’s main pet market –shook with joy and lapped water from a puddle, according to the AP report.

“After we crawled out of the rubble of our home, I said to my son, ‘the dog is dead’,” said Muhei, who sells candy and small items in the local market. “But my son said, ‘No, I saw her.’ I came back today to rescue my dog.”

Nubs’ story headed for the big screen

nubs3Warner Bros. is buying the story of Nubs, the stray Iraqi mutt who befriended a group of Marines and was shipped home to the U.S. by one of them.

Nubs — so named because most of both his years were lopped off by Iraqi soldiers — befriended Marine Major Brian Dennis and his fellow soldiers while Dennis was on patrol in the Anbar province. When Dennis was required to report to another location, 70 miles away, he bid Nubs farewell, but two days later, Nubs showed up at his new camp.

The story became a media phenomenon in the fall, with Dennis and Nubs appearing on  “Today,” “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

In addition to Dennis’ life rights, filmmakers have acquired the top-selling children’s book “Nubs: A Marine, a Mutt and a Miracle,” which Dennis wrote with Mary Nethery and Kirby Larson. The Little, Brown Books for Young Readers title was published two weeks ago and sits at No. 4 on the New York Times children’s best-seller list.

Justin Zackham (“The Bucket List”) will write and produce the film, according to a Reuters report.

(You can learn more about Nubs, and other dog books, on our book page, Good Dog Reads.)

Veterans Day: To many more happy returns

Veteran’s dog honored as “Dog of the Year”

archie-dog-of-the-yearArmy Sgt. Clay Rankin’s dog, Archie, was named 2009 Dog of the Year by the ASPCA.

Rankin suffered spinal injuries in Iraq, and Archie, who has been his service dog for four years, helps him cope with the aftermath of his war experience – post-traumatic stress disorder, physical challenges and difficulty with crowds, according to the Dallas Morning News.

“I think it was well deserved,” Rankin, who lives in West Virginia, said after accepting the award in New York City on behalf of Archie, an 8-year-old black Lab. “I think he’s Hero of the Year.”

“Archie’s loyalty and perseverance in helping Sgt. Rankin accomplish his daily tasks has allowed the veteran to regain his confidence and independence, move forward with his life and continue serving the country he loves,” the ASPCA noted.

Others recognized at the ASPCA awards ceremony were four men from Missouri who worked on the frontlines of the largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history; Alayne Marker, who along with her husband, Steve Smith, runs the Rolling Dog Ranch for disabled animals in Ovando, Montana; and Monica Plumb of Powhatan County, Virginia, who raised funds to purchase pet oxygen masks for fire departments across the country.

Former Iraqi dog “Nubs” on Today Show

dennisnubs.jpgNubs, the one-time Iraqi street mutt — so named by American soldiers for the stubs where his ears used to be — appeared on this morning’s Today Show, along with the Marine major who rescued him.

Nubs befriended Marine Major Brian Dennis and his fellow soldiers while Dennis was on patrol in the Anbar province.

When Dennis was required to report to another location, 70 miles away, he bid his friend farewell and left with little hope that Nub would survive on the war torn streets. Already, the dog had his ears cut off, and had been stabbed in the side with a screwdriver — both, Dennis believes, by Iraqi soldiers.

Two days after Dennis arrived at his new location, Nubs showed up.

Dennis said he was inside headquarters when a fellow Marine came in and said, “You’re not going to believe who’s outside.”

“Who’s outside?” Dennis asked.

“Nubs is outside,” the soldier said.

After a joyful reunion, Dennis was informed that, since the military prohibits keeping dogs in war zones, he had four days to get rid of him. Given the bond they’d established and the dangers Nubs faced, Dennis was hesitant to do that.

Strays in Iraq, Dennis said today, serve as a needed escape for soliders — “an escape from the drudgery and the mundane life and the bad things you see at times.”

Dennis and his friends launched an Internet campaign and raised $5,000 to send Nubs to a friend in the U.S..

In March 2008, about a month after Nubs arrived, Dennis returned from Iraq and was reunited with the dog.

Now the whole story has become a book, “Nubs, the True Story of a Mutt,  a Marine and a Miracle.”

Old soldier’s dog keeps his memory alive

laiaBy day, Army Maj. Steven Hutchison — a Vietnam veteran who came out of retirement at age 59 to fight in Iraq — was rough and tough, crusty and disagreeable, a man with little respect for the rules.

He violated one of them nightly, sleeping with his arms wrapped around Laia, a stray yellow puppy he had taken in from the streets.

Hutchison died in May, killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his truck — the oldest soldier to die in the Iraq war. But Laia lives on.

Laia was transported back to the U.S. by Operation Baghdad Pups, preserving not only the pup, but — as described in the Detroit Free Press yesterday — the memory of Army Maj. Steven Hutchison, as well.

“Whenever Laia was around,” Hutchison’s “demeanor and personality changed 1,000%,” Sgt. Andrew Hunt wrote in an e-mail to Hutchison’s family. “He was never without a smile; he was so much happier in life.” When a senior officer ordered Hutchison to get rid of the dog or face disciplinary action, Hutchison sent her into hiding with a friend at a far outpost on the border of Iran. The puppy broke free and ran away, returning one day to Hutchison’s base with a broken leg.

The day Hutchison was killed, Laia was spotted chained up outside a tent by Jerry Deaven, an employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Detroit. He was visiting Iraq to research terrorist funding.

“What’s going to happen to her, now that the major is gone?” Deaven asked. A few members of Hutchison’s team said they wanted to take her, but they were getting redeployed. “If I didn’t take the dog, they would have had to put the dog down,” he said. Read more »

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