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Tag: motivation

Dogs are greater motivation for buying first home than children or marriage, study says

flipflop

If you’re flipping houses — and based on my television viewing I surmise pretty much everyone in America is — you might want to give a fenced back yard the highest priority, higher even than that “en suite” master bathroom.

A study commissioned by Sun Trust, a mortgage company, shows that Millennial-age Americans are motivated to buy a home more because of their dog — or the possibility of someday having one — than they are by marriage of the birth of a child.

So forget that nursery, flippers — whether you’re in Orange County, Atlanta or Las Vegas. Don’t worry so much about those his and her walk-in closets. Instead, make sure the home you’re flipping has a nice sturdy fence.

True, if you’re one of those countless flippers who have combined your flipping with your own flipping TV show, watching a fence get built doesn’t make for riveting television. But then (sorry) neither does the laying of sod or the construction of a kitchen island. (Despite that, I keep watching for some reason.)

But back to the study … A full 33 percent of millennials between ages 18 and 36 said that canine-related concerns are what motivated them most to buy a home.

That’s more than the number who said they made the jump to home ownership because of marriage (25 percent), a new baby (19 percent), or to get a washer and dryer (18 percent).

A desire for more living space was the top motivator (at 66 percent), followed by a desire to build equity (36 percent). Third, though, were the needs of the dog, or a potential dog — including a fenced yard.

The survey was restricted to millenials who recently bought their first home.

It asked about their motivations for doing so, as opposed to the house features they were looking for.

So things like stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops — both of which seem vital based on my watching of too many television shows featuring spoiled people looking for a new house — were not factors.

The survey found that 42 percent of millennials who had never bought a home said that their dog, or the desire to have one, would be a key factor in their decision to make the jump from renting to owning.

The study found that 60 percent of first-time home buyers are millennials. It’s expected that, within the next five years, 80 million millennials will embark on their house-hunting journey, said Dorinda Smith, president and CEO of SunTrust Mortgage.

She said restrictive pet policies among landlords add to the numbers of pet owners seeking their own place.

“Some rental properties don’t allow pets and most rental properties are limited in space,” Smith said. “There’s also additional effort in keeping a dog in rental apartments.”

(Photo: Tarek and Christina El Moussa, hosts of “Flip or Flop, are separated with a divorce pending, but the show goes on, from HGTV; graphic from SunTrust Banks, Inc.)

71-year-old woman and her Chihuahua survive six days in the wilderness

geerHere’s a recent real life story that deserves to be made into a movie.

It’s about a 71-year-old woman who hiked into Olympic National Park with only the Hawaiian shirt on her back, a cellphone, her sunglasses, and an urn containing her husband’s ashes.

Also at her side was her dog, a Chihuahua mix named Yoda.

After spreading the ashes, Sajean Geer and Yoda got lost, and they would spend the next six days trying to survive in the wilderness.

Of course, Hollywood would totally mess up the story, casting Reese Witherspoon in the role of Geer, and that Beverly Hills or Legally Blonde Chihuahua in the role of Yoda.

Either that or they’d go with someone even younger, say an Emma Stone or a Jennifer Lawrence, and recast Yoda as a golden retriever, and possibly throw a deranged stalker into the mix.

And in so doing they’d miss the point — one wise woman (not to mention still a babe, and in no need of being de-aged) who kept her wits about her, fashioned a shelter, ate bugs with her dog and managed to survive, in large part because of the books she read, the people she loved, and the experiences she had in seven decades of life.

And she didn’t even need a crossbow.

The Seattle Times told her story earlier this week, and it’s definitely worth reading.

On her 71st birthday, Geer set out to scatter half of her husband’s ashes near Obstruction Point in Olympic National Park in Washington.

Jack, her husband of 34 years, had died in December of a heart attack, and she’d promised to scatter his ashes there and along the Kona coast on the Big Island of Hawaii.

After spreading the ashes, she climbed a hill, hoping to get her bearings, took a fall, and dropped the urn. As dusk settled in, she realized she was lost and her cellphone was useless.

“All my outdoor experience has been hiking on trails with signs, and I hadn’t had experience in total wilderness like that. All I could see is trees. I couldn’t find anything to orient myself with,” she said.

She found a log to sleep beneath and curled up next to Yoda for the first of five nights she’s spend in the wilderness.

Geer spent the next day walking, but became no less lost.

“I did this to myself,” she recalled thinking. “I’m in a dire situation. I have a Hawaiian shirt, no jacket. I had no water bottle, no knife, nothing to start a fire.”

But she had read a lot of books about foraging and survival, and she knew — in addition to finding water and shelter — she needed to keep a positive attitude.

“You have to have something in your head, to keep you motivated and alive,” she said.

By the third day, Geer decided to stop walking, stay in one place and hope for a rescue.

geershelter

She fashioned a shelter near a creek where two logs converged, covering the top with tree branches, moss and bark to keep the cold out. When temperatures at night dropped to the mid-40s, she snuggled up with Yoda.

Geer scavenged currants for food and, after an ant bit her, realized that could work both ways.

“I go, ‘Well, I’ve got a bigger mouth than you,’ so I ate it.”

Yoda, despite being a pretty spoiled dog, adjusted to the wilderness too:
“He would sit on my lap and I had all these flies around me. He would gulp flies right out of the air,” she said.

By then, Geer’s brother, Jack Eng of Seattle, was coming to the realization that his sister was missing. Eng asked police to check on her. They found no trace of her at her Port Angeles home. Two days later, she was officially listed as missing.

On Sunday morning — six days after Geer had left for the park — Eng got word that a National Park ranger on patrol had spotted her vehicle. An air search ensued.

Geer heard a helicopter and climbed up on a log, waving her arms. Rescuers dropped Geer a note telling her to stay put and a few minutes later a rescuer appeared. Because of the rugged terrain, a Coast Guard helicopter was called to haul Geer and Yoda up in a basket.

She was thankful for the rescue efforts, but also gave herself some credit for being a self-reliant sort.

As a child, shortly after World War II, Geer and her family moved to the United States from China. She grew up in a hut in the back of the laundry business her dad owned. At school, she was ridiculed — both for being Asian and being a “tomboy.”

“I had a tough childhood. I learned to discipline myself and to have a positive attitude,” she said. “I was brought up to take care of myself.”

Getting lost in the wilderness taught her a little more.

“When you’re by yourself up in the wilderness with nobody to talk to except your dog, you learn a lot about yourself,” she said.

She said she felt her late husband’s presence in the woods — but at the same time came to terms with him not being around anymore.

“It’s time to let go and let your own light shine, and stand up,” she said she realized. “This situation forced me. I realized I had to be on my own and move on to my life.”

(Photos: At top, Geer; lower, the shelter she made from fallen trees, moss, bark and tree branches; courtesy of Jack S. Eng, via Seattle Times)

Which motivates more — food or praise?

kadypraise

A study at Emory University suggests that dogs aren’t strictly the food-obsessed beasts they’ve traditionally been seen as — and that many, maybe even most, prefer attention and praise over a chewy treat.

While only 13 dogs participated in the study, there were only two of them who — judging from their neural reactions — showed a distinct preference for food over praise.

The study, published in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, is one of the first to combine brain-imaging data with behavioral experiments to explore what kind of rewards canines prefer.

“We are trying to understand the basis of the dog-human bond and whether it’s mainly about food, or about the relationship itself,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory and lead author of the research.

“Out of the 13 dogs that completed the study, we found that most of them either preferred praise from their owners over food, or they appeared to like both equally. Only two of the dogs were real chowhounds, showing a strong preference for the food.”

Berns heads the Dog Project in Emory’s Department of Psychology. It was the first to train dogs to voluntarily enter a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and remain motionless during scanning, without restraint or sedation.

Their previous research using the technique identified the ventral caudate region of the canine brain as a reward center and showed that region responds more strongly to the scents of familiar humans than to the scents of other humans, or even to those of familiar dogs.

Phys.org reports that, in the new study, researchers trained the dogs to associate three different objects with different outcomes. A pink toy truck signaled a food reward; a blue toy knight signaled verbal praise from the owner; and a hairbrush signaled no reward, to serve as a control.

The dogs then were tested on the three objects while in an fMRI machine. Each dog underwent 32 trials for each of the three objects as their neural activity was recorded.

Four of the dogs showed a particularly strong activation for the stimulus that signaled praise from their owners. Nine of the dogs showed similar neural activation for both the praise stimulus and the food stimulus. And two of the dogs consistently showed more activation when shown the stimulus for food.

Berns says the findings run counter to the old view that dogs “just want food and their owners are simply the means to get it … Another, more current, view of their behavior is that dogs value human contact in and of itself.”

In another part of the study, dogs were put into a Y-shaped maze in which one path led to a bowl of food and the other path to the dog’s owner.

The dogs were repeatedly released into the room and allowed to choose one of the paths.

While most dogs alternated between the food and their owner, dogs who showed a greater response to praise in the first part of experiment chose to go to their owners 80 to 90 percent of the time.

Berns said the study “shows the importance of social reward and praise to dogs. It may be analogous to how we humans feel when someone praises us.”

ozziefood

(Photos: At top, Kady, a Lab-retriever mix in the study who preferred praise from her owner to food; at bottom, Ozzie, a shorthaired terrier mix who chose food over his owner’s praise / Emory University)

Lion and dachshund: Who’s getting exactly what out of this relationship?

When it comes to animals, there are those softies among us who see nearly everything they do — especially dogs — as magical and motivated by love.

Then there are those — generally not ohmidog! readers — who see dogs as unfeeling beasts concerned only with their next meal and their own comfort.

When a dog does something that seems kind, noble or otherwise amazing, members of that first group will “ooh” and “ah,” while members of the second will say “so what?” Anything a dog does, in their view, is explainable solely by instincts, training and will to survive. That way dogs snuggle with you at night? They are just trying to keep warm. Those goo goo eyes adoringly staring at you? They’re just trying to manipulate you into providing a treat.

For sure, the first group may often read too much into the motivations behind a dog’s behavior. But, just as surely, the second group sometimes isn’t reading en0ugh.

I, being author of a blog on the amazing things dogs do, am clearly a member of the first group. But, also being a realist and even more of a cynic, I can sometimes — just sometimes — see the second group’s point. As soon as I watched this video, for instance — once my “awwwwwwww” came to the final “w” — I started wondering about the motivations of the lion and dachshund, and, realistically, who was getting exactly what out of this relationship.

Bonedigger, the lion, and Milo, the dachshund, live together at Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla. Milo was among a litter of puppies living a the park when Bonedigger, who suffers from a bone disease, arrived as 4-week-old cub. The pups and lion eat together every day.

After the meal, Milo licks Bonedigger’s teeth clean.

I’d venture Milo is not exhibiting love — or at least not love alone — when he sticks his head into the mouth of a lion. I’d submit, too, that Bonedigger’s dental hygiene is not Milo’s top concern. (Then again, you never know.)

More likely, Milo is after a few final morsels, and Bonedigger, for his part, cooperates because he appreciates the attention, or the gum massage, or having a wiener dog who serves as his own personal flossing aide.

Park president Joe Schreibvogel says the dogs and lion have eaten together since they were youngsters. They also cuddle with each other, and sometimes even mimic each other. It’s as if, species differences aside, they’ve become a pack.

“The dogs thought it was just a big puppy and have loved each other since,” Schreibvogel, who goes by the name “Joe Exotic,”  told Today. The video of the lion and the dog has brought some needed attention to the Oklahoma zoo, which suffered about $18,000 in damage during the recent tornadoes. A spokesperson for the zoo says they’ve taken in about 100 homeless animals — domestic and exotic — since then.

But back to Milo and Bonedigger, and the question at hand.

Who’s getting what from this unlikely inter-species relationship, and who is benefitting most — the tooth-sucking canine, or the massive feline, who, rather than roaring at the little dog, says “ahhh” (or is it awwwww?) and lets him have at it?

My guess, is it’s a third species, one whose members sometimes over-analyze, and sometimes under-analyze, but still haven’t loss the ability to be amazed; one whose members — just as Bonedigger seems to appreciate a good tooth-licking — like to have their hearts warmed now and then.

Judging from the half million views this video has gotten in the past month,  I’d say it ‘s us.

Faith takes her message of hope to soldiers

Faith, the two-legged dog, continues to spread inspiration — most recently last weekend when she visited McChord Air Force Base and Fort Lewis in Washington state.

Faith met thousands of soldiers — some headed to war, some coming back.

“She just walks around barking and laughing and excited to see them all,” Faith’s owner, Jude Stringfellow, told the Associated Press.

“There is a lot of crying, pointing and surprise. From those who have lost friends or limbs, there can be silence. Some will shake my hand and thank me, some will pat her on the head. There is a lot of quiet, heartfelt, really deep emotion.”

Faith, a Lab-chow mix, was born to a junkyard dog around Christmas of 2002. Her mother rejected her and she was rescued by Jude Stringfellow’s son, Rueben, now in the Army. The mother and son taught the dog to walk on her rear legs — using peanut butter and a lot of practice.

Since then Faith has done the talk show circuit, and Stringfellow has become a motivational speaker. She has written two books about Faith and is working on a third, “Faith Walks.”

They get more than 200 letters and e-mails a day, run a website and make dozens of appearances every year, including stops at veterans’ hospitals across the country to cheer injured soldiers.

Rueben Stringfellow left Iraq in September and is stationed in Alaska. He is scheduled to get out of the Army and head home on Jan. 1.