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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.)

On the way to Provincetown

With the sun in our faces, a coffee — both venti and bold — in my cupholder, and a gas tank half empty, we’re departing Connecticut for the 3-hour drive (we hope) to Provincetown, located at the wispy tip of Cape Cod.

We won’t be making it in time to see Provincetown get its official award as the dog-friendliest town in America, but we’ll be pulling in at some point.

Already we have veered off the course taken by John Steinbeck and Charley. His first stop after crossing the sound was to visit his son, at a school called Eaglebrook in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Our route is veering widely east, through Providence, along Cape Cod and up to the island’s northern tip.

The honor of being the dog-friendliest town is being bestowed on Provincetown today by Dog Fancy magazine, which put it at the top of its list of the of dog-friendliest cities in its 2010 DogTown USA contest.

The criteria used to select the winning city included dog-friendly open spaces and dog parks, events celebrating dogs and their owners, ample veterinary care, abundant pet supply and other services, and municipal laws that support and protect all pets.

Provincetown’s Pilgrim Bark Park finished at No. 2 in the magazine’s national dog park ratings, and Dog Fancy editor Ernie Slone called Provincetown “an entire town where virtually every establishment opens its doors to dogs – even the bank.”

We’ll see about that – chances are, it being a ritzy sort of area, we’ll be needing to visit a bank.

The drive, I expect, will be an invigorating one. Already the trees are showing a tiny tinge of fall color, a hint of the breathtaking blast and crisper temperatures that lie ahead as the season progresses and we go further north.

Come to think of it, my gas tank isn’t half empty after all; it’s half full.

What the Vick dogs taught humans

In 2007, it was one of the most sickening, disheartening stories of the year — NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s arrest and imprisonment on dogfighting charges. Revelations of what transpired at Bad Newz Kennels showed just how cruel some humans can be.

By 2009, though, the story of Vick’s dogs had become one of the most heartening of the decade. What made the difference? Mainly, the dogs – the pit bulls. For despite what they’d been put through, despite being abused, trained as killers or used as bait, they were — once the decision was made not to euthanize them – amazing the world with their remarkable resiliency.

Saving and rehabilitating the former fighting dogs of Michael Vick was not achieved without a battle, and not without the efforts of a lot of dog-loving, self-sacrificing humans. But the silver lining that eventually shone through the dismal story was provided mainly by the dogs, who showed that, no matter how bad a human messes them up, there’s hope.

Once again, the irrepressible species was teaching us humans a lesson.

Vick’s former pit bulls have gone on to reside in new homes with young children, become cherished pets, serve as therapy dogs and, in many cases, serve as shining examples of what is right with and special about the much-maligned breed.

How all that transpired is rivetingly detailed in a new book by Jim Gorant, “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption.”

(For a preview, you can read an article by Gorant in today’s Parade magazine.)

In the book, to be released next month, Gorant expands on his 2008 Sports Illustrated  story on the Vick dogs (the one that featured Baltimore’s own Sweet Jasmine on the cover), recounting how they were rescued from Vick’s estate and how — though euthanasia was routine until then for animals seized from dogfighting operations – they were saved from that fate by an outpouring of public appeals.

The outcry helped lead to a court order that Vick pay nearly a million dollars in “restitution” to the dogs — money used to allow a handful of agencies across the country  to rehabilitate them.

The book recounts the ASPCA-led evaluations of each dog — and how, though there were a few hardened fighters among them, many more were dogs ready to be loved, ready to forgive and try to forget.

In “The Lost Dogs,” we learn more about Johnny Justice, the former Vick dog that participates in Paws for Tales, which lets kids get more comfortable with their reading skills by reading aloud to dogs; about Leo, who now spends three hours a week with cancer patients and troubled teens; and about Sweet Jasmine, who was coming out of her shell while living in Baltimore until she got loose and was hit by a car.

The book lists the outcomes for all 49 of the surviving pit bulls that were seized in April 2007 from Bad Newz Kennels, the Smithfield, Va., dogfighting ring run by Vick, then quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, now — getting a multi-million dollar second chance of his own — a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

While experts were expecting only 5 percent of Vick’s dogs could be rehabilitated, only two, initially, had to be put down. One was excessively violent and the other was suffering from an irreparable injury. For the rest, though, there was hope, and no small amount of faith – which, more than anything else is what “The Lost Dogs” is about.

Rather than showing aggression, the Vick dogs tended to be  “pancake dogs”— animals so traumatized that they flattened themselves on the ground and trembled when humans neared, much like our friend Mel, the former Vick dog we recently met in our travels through Dallas.

Many more seemed to be dogs with normal temperaments, but who had simply never been socialized.

Accomplishing that fell to the handful of animal welfare organizations that stepped forward, offering to take the Vick dogs in and work to rehabilitate them — among them Baltimore’s Recycled Love, California’s BAD RAP, (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls), and Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.

As Gorant writes in the Parade magazine article, “… rescuers argued from the start that rather than be condemned as a whole, the dogs should be individually assessed and treated — and this has turned out to be one of the great lessons of the Bad Newz dogs. Generalizations and preconceptions are as unhelpful and counterproductive for pit bulls as they are for people.”

(To read more dog book news and reviews, visit ohmidog’s “Good Dog Reads” page. ”The Lost Dogs,” and some of our other favorite dog books, can be purchased at ohmidog’s Amazon Affiliate store.)

Running with dogs: All you need to know

Runner’s World magazine isn’t on my list of must-reads, anymore than jogging is on my list of must-dos, but I’m tempted to slowly walk out and get the latest issue right now — for it has gone (you guessed it) to the dogs.

Everything you ever wanted to know about dogs and running with them seems to be covered — from the top running breeds to how to avoid dangerous run-ins with dogs. It also has an interesting debate on whether dogs should be allowed off leash on running trails.

What are the top running breeds? Depends on the type of running you are doing. Runner’s World recommends weimaraners, goldendoodles, German shorthaired pointers, vizslas and Jack Russell terriers for long steady runs of more than 10 miles.

If you’re into shorter, speedier jaunts, go with a pit bull, greyhound, retriever or beagle.

If you’re running through more rugged terrain, or obstacles, choose a border collie, vizsla or Belgian sheepdog.

The magazine also suggests certain breeds for hot weather runs and cold weather runs.

Being Runner’s World, the magazine doesn’t suggest what type of dog is best for laying around and watching TV. But I can help you out there. Bulldog!

You can find links to all the dog-related articles in the issue here.

Provincetown named dog-friendliest city

Dog Fancy magazine has named Provincetown, Massachusetts, America’s most dog-friendly city.

This year’s 2010 DogTown USA contest, sponsored by WAHL Clipper Corp., named the 40 dog-friendliest cities across the U.S. in honor of the magazine’s 40th anniversary.

The criteria used to select the winning city include dog-friendly open spaces and dog parks, events celebrating dogs and their owners, ample veterinary care, abundant pet supply and other services, and municipal laws that support and protect all pets.

“All dog owners know of a few local shops or restaurants that allow dogs, but it is remarkable to have an entire town where virtually every establishment opens its doors to dogs – even the bank,” says Ernie Slone, Dog Fancy editor.

“Where else can you take your dog along for a whale-watching or sunset cruise, walk miles of off-leash scenic beaches year-round and enjoy one of the nation’s finest dog parks? Provincetown nearly swept our major awards this year, with its Pilgrim Bark Park finishing at No. 2 in our national ratings of dog parks.”

Rounding out the top 10 cities, according to a press release, are:

•Carmel, Calif.
•Madison, Wis.
•Benicia, Calif.
•Fort Bragg, Calif.
•Lincoln City, Ore.
•San Diego, Calif.
•Virginia Beach, Va.
•Sioux Falls, S.D.
•Salem, Ore.

The complete list of all 40 cities is available in the September issue of Dog Fancy, on newsstands July 27, 2010.

Vick tops lists of most-hated athletes

For the second year in a row, Michael Vick has been rated the most hated man in sports, according to an annual Forbes magazine poll.

The NFL quarterback, who completed his sentence on dogfighting charges last year, was disliked– or worse — by 69 percent of respondents.

Vick, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was one of five NFL figures on the 10 most-hated list.

Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, took second place on the list with a 66 percent disapproval rating. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger, who was embroiled in a sexual assault investigation this spring, ranked third with a 57 percent rating.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tied for fourth with Tiger Woods.

Cesar Millan and wife file for divorce

Cesar and Ilusion Millan have announced they are filing for divorce.

“We are sad to announce that after 16 years of marriage we have decided to file for divorce. The decision was made after much consideration and time. We remain caring friends, and are fully committed to the co-parenting of our two boys,” said a statement posted on Millan’s website Friday.

People magazine reports that Ilusion Millan filed for divorce at Los Angeles court Friday, citing irreconcilable differences. She is seeking primary physical custody of the kids with visitation for Cesar, 40, as well as spousal support from the longtime host of the National Geographic Channel’s “Dog Whisperer.”

Millan came to the U.S. from Mexico with $100 in his pocket and a dream of becoming a famous dog trainer. He succeeded – with the help of some famous Hollywood clients — establishing an empire that includes dog products, a television show, a new magazine and several best-selling books.

His show begins its sixth season Oct. 9 and his fourth book, “How to Raise the Perfect Dog,” is in stores now.

Millan and his wife also founded the nonprofit Cesar and Ilusion Millan Foundation, which promotes animal welfare by supporting the rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming of abused and abandoned dogs.

Playgirl asks Vick to pose, for benefit of PETA

Convicted dogfighter and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has been invited to pose for Playgirl, and the magazine says it will donate $1 million to PETA if he accepts.

“I sent the request to Michael Vick on Wednesday,” Daniel Nardicio, Playgirl rep told Life & Style Weekly. “But we haven’t heard back yet … I figured he paid back society for dog fighting, but what about the animals? This way he could donate a large sum to PETA and all he’d have to do is pose for the magazine.”

Why the magazine would choose PETA as the beneficiary, as opposed to any of the organizations that actually took in the surviving dogs from the quarterback’s dogfighting operation, is a mystery. Maybe it figured that would make their gimmicky offer even more controversial and rake in  more publicity.

In which case, ’nuff said.

More animal emotions: Chimps mourn a friend

chimpdorothy

 
As a footnote to our discussion yesterday on animals and emotions, we bring you the story of Dorothy, a female chimpanzee in her late 40s when she died last year of congestive heart failure.

As the photo above shows, a crowd of fellow chimps gathered and watched solemnly as she was wheeled to her burial.

The November issue of National Geographic magazine features the photograph, which has since “gone viral,” turning up in websites, TV shows and newspapers around the world, according to a National Geographic blog

The photographer, Monica Szczupider, is a volunteer at Cameroon’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, where Dorothy had lived for eight years. The center houses and rehabilitates chimps victimized by habitat loss and the illegal African bushmeat trade. 

After a hunter killed her mother, Dorothy was sold as a “mascot” to an amusement park in Cameroon, where she spent the next 25 years tethered by a chain around her neck, and was taught to drink beer and smoke cigarettes for the amusement of onlookers.

In May 2000, Dorothy was rescued and relocated along with ten other primates. As her health improved, she cared for an orphaned chimp named Bouboule and became a close friend to many others, including Jacky, the group’s alpha male, and Nama, another amusement-park refugee.

“Her presence, and loss, was palpable, and resonated throughout the group,” Szczupider said. “The management at Sanaga-Yong opted to let Dorothy’s chimpanzee family witness her burial, so that perhaps they would understand, in their own capacity, that Dorothy would not return. Some chimps displayed aggression while others barked in frustration. But perhaps the most stunning reaction was a recurring, almost tangible silence.”

Hailing Cesar: Times looks at Millan’s empire

cesarmillan

 
With “The Dog Whisperer” starting its sixth season, his new magazine hitting the stands last month and his fourth book going on sale, the New York Times Saturday took a long and mostly complimentary look at Cesar Millan and the empire he has built since crossing the border illegally 20 years ago.

Proclaiming him a “cultural icon”  the article recounts how the once-penniless native of Culiacán, Mexico (he became a U.S. citizen this year), became a dog trainer to the stars, then the world.

One of his first clients was Jada Pinkett (before she added the Smith) who in the early 1990′s was 20 and starring in a television sitcom. Millan helped Pinkett take control of her four Rottweilers, and they went on to become friends. When Millan told her he wanted to be on TV, the article says, she told him he wasn’t ready, and needed to study English.

Pinkett and Will Smith started recommending Mr. Millan to friends in the entertainment industry, starting with director Michael Bay, who needed help controlling his 230-pound mastiff, Mason. He’d later go to the aid of  Oprah Winfrey, former Disney chief Michael D. Eisner and director Ridley Scott, among others.

In addition to books, a magazine and a television show, Millan and his wife, Ilusion, runs Cesar Millan Inc., a constellation of businesses that coordinates Millan’s speaking engagements and executive leadership seminars;, and puts out a line of products including DVD’s, collars, organic dog food, fortified water, shampoos and toys. His website, cesarmillaninc.com, grosses annual sales in the mid-seven figures, according to a company spokesman.

The Times article devotes only one paragraph — tssst! – to the debate over Millan’s macho leader of the pack techniques:

Not everyone agrees with Mr. Millan’s methods. “Positivist” trainers like Ian Dunbar reject the idea that a submissive dog is a happy dog. Mr. Dunbar advocates treating dogs as companions, not followers. While Mr. Millan uses his hand like a mother dog uses her mouth — to nudge dogs to behave — Mr. Dunbar shuns physical corrections and relies instead on treats and rewards.

Despite any controversy, Millan’s fame and empire are only expected to grow.  This summer, the National Geographic Channel struck a deal with Fox to syndicate “Dog Whisperer” next fall.

(Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic Channel)

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