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Tag: mutts

One-eyed dog charms crowd at Crufts

A purebred flat-coated retriever won best in show, but it was a one-eyed mutt named Dudley, and his dazzling performance in an agility contest, that won over the crowd at Crufts — the pretentious, I mean presitigious, UK dog show that concluded this past weekend.

Dudley, a six-year-old Lhasa apso-pug mix who lost his eye as a pup, and later was given up by his owners,  won an official Crufts rosette for his performance in the agility ring, beating out other rescued dogs in the competition, according to the Southern Daily Echo.

While we’ve been known to poke fun at purebred dog shows, it’s good to see them — on both sides of the pond — opening things up to mixed breeds, like Dudley. And, if  the crowd reaction to him is any sign, it’s something they should do a lot more of.

“He was definitely the crowd’s favorite and got a huge cheer as he ran round,” Dudley’s owner, Lara Alford, from Southampton, said. “Over the last few days he has had so many admirers – he’s probably been one of the most photographed dogs at Crufts this year.”

Dudley had his right eye removed as a puppy because of an infection. At 14 months, his owners surrendered him at an animal adoption shelter.

Alford, shortly after adopting him, noticed his speed and maneuverability and began training him in agility. As they run the courses, she always stays on his left side, so he can see her.

At Crufts, the training paid off.  “It was one of the fastest rounds Dudley’s ever done,” she said.

More than 21,000 dogs vied for honors at Crufts, which opened Thursday. In the best-in-show competition, Jet, a flat-coated retriever, beat out a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, a German shepherd, a boxer, a wire fox terrier, a standard poodle and a bichon frise.

Westminster Dog Show: An opposing view

Best in Show

Best in Show Pictures

If the following take on Westminster reads like its coming from some PETA hothead that’s because it is.

Then agains, hotheads are sometimes worth listening to.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, and her remarks appeared in the form of a guest column in the Sacramento Bee.

Pollard-Post recounts watching Westminster in her youth, usually with a bad case of strep throat, and with her dog Katie at her side…

“But had I known then that Westminster – and the dog-breeding industry that it props up – share the blame for the mutilation and deaths of millions of dogs each year, I would have changed the channel faster than you can say ‘Sesame Street.’

“Back then, I had no idea that the snub-nosed bulldogs and pugs prancing around the ring may have been gasping for breath the whole time because these breeds’ unnaturally shortened airways make exercise and sometimes even normal breathing difficult. I didn’t know that the “wiener dogs” that made me laugh as their little legs tried to keep up may have eventually suffered from disc disease or other back problems because dachshunds are bred for extremely long spinal columns. I didn’t learn until much later that because of inbreeding and breeding for distorted physical features, approximately one in four purebred dogs suffers from serious congenital disorders such as crippling hip dysplasia, blindness, deafness, heart defects, skin problems and epilepsy.

“I remember feeling shocked when I learned that Doberman pinschers’ ears naturally flop over, and that their ears only stand up because they are cut and bound with tape when the dogs are puppies. And I felt sick to my stomach when I discovered that cocker spaniels have beautiful, long, flowing tails, but American Kennel Club breed standards call for their tails to be amputated down to nubs. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that these procedures ‘are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient’ and they ’cause pain and distress.’

“… Like many people, I hadn’t made the connection that every time someone buys a purebred dog from a breeder or a pet store, a dog in a shelter – a loving animal whose life depends on being adopted – loses his or her chance at a home …

“Dog shows also encourage viewers to go out and buy purebred dogs like the ones they see on TV from breeders or pet stores. This impulse buying robs shelter dogs of homes, and even more dogs end up homeless when overwhelmed people discover that the adorable puppy they bought ruins carpets, needs expensive vaccinations and food and requires their constant attention.

“My own parents succumbed to the lure of purebreds: They purchased Katie from a breeder. Katie was an exceptional dog and my best friend, but it saddens me to think that other loving dogs waiting behind bars in shelters missed out on a good home because we thought we needed a certain breed of puppy.

“Thankfully, some things have changed. After Katie passed away, my parents adopted a lovable mutt from the local shelter. I haven’t had strep throat since I was a teenager. And if the dreaded illness strikes again, you’ll find me cuddling on the couch with my rescued dog, Pete, watching movies – not Westminster.”

Should you feel guilty about your purebred?

petaprotestAfter PETA’s protest at Westminster, The New York Times posed a timely and interesting question yesterday: Should the buyers and owners of purebred dogs feel guilty — given the number of dogs euthanized in shelters and the abuses that continue in purebred breeding?

Then they bounced that question off four experts on dogs and their place in society.

The responses are well worth reading in their entirety, but here’s the overly condensed version:

Francis Battista, co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society:

The only truly guilt-free purebred dog is one acquired from a shelter or breed rescue group … What’s an exploitive breeder? Any breeder that can’t provide a loving, in-home environment for a pregnant bitch, and a safe home environment surrounded by loving people for new born puppies, is exploitive. Anyone who breeds as a business rather than for the love of the breed is exploitive.

Stanley Coren, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and author of ”The Intelligence of Dogs,” “How Dogs Think” and more:

Nearly 40 percent of dogs do not make it through their first year with their first owner, and instead are returned to their breeder, given to a shelter, euthanized or abandoned, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Humane Society … The advantage of purebred dogs is that they provide us with some level of predictability.

Mark Derr, author of “A Dog’s History of America” and “Dog’s Best Friend”:

This need to find “unspoiled” or rare breeds is tied not only to a desire for the next “hot” dog but also recognition that purebred dogs for all their beauty or uniqueness often have multiple genetic problems that are as much a result of the way they are bred as are their appearance and talents … But with purebred dogs accounting for 25 percent of those in shelters and countless more with dedicated breed rescue groups, virtue would appear to lie in giving a dog a home.

Ted Kerasote, author of “Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog”:

Dividing the world into those who should feel guilty for owning a pedigreed pooch and those who can feel self-righteous for rescuing a mutt does little to solve the two major challenges domestic dogs face today: careless breeding and an antiquated shelter system … Assigning blame to one or the other won’t do much to bring more genetic diversity into the world of purebred dogs or help shelters operate in more diverse and life-saving ways. Nor does instigating guilt give the slightest nod toward the magic that happens when a person and a dog, purebred or not, fall in love.

The Power of Bow Wow Now

muttstar

The creator of the comic strip MUTTS has teamed up with spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle on a book that celebrates dogs, life and ”living in the moment” — the latter being a philosophy best taught by members of the canine species.

Normally motivational speak quickly takes a Tolle on me, but I will admit to liking “Guardians of Being,”  both for the point it makes, and the way it makes it –  more light-hearted than heavy-handed, thanks in large part to Patrick McDonnell’s deft touch.

McDonnell uses the cast of characters from the MUTTS strip to illustrate Tolle’s lessons on the value of staying in the present moment, appreciating the oneness of life and recognizing the beauty we sometimes forget to notice around us.

guardiansofbeing

McDonnell is the award-winning mind behind MUTTS, which appears in over 700 newspapers. (He’s also on the board of the Humane Society of the United States and a long-time advocate of dogs and the environment.) 

Tolle, author of “The Power of Now,” speaks and teaches around the world. He lives in Vancouver, Canada, but spends most of his time on the bestseller list.

After reading “The Power of Now,” McDonnell sought out Tolle to collaborate on “Guardians  of Being.”

“He created a passionate, humorous, enlightening meditation on the power and grace that animals can bring into our lives,” McDonnell said of Tolle. “Eckhart has translated what our companion animals have been telling us for ages: Life is good. Live in the now. Enjoy.”

Simon Cowell shows his soft side

Who’da thunk it? American Idol’s Simon Cowell, prone to snarling at young and hopeful humans, is a PETA-certified animal lover.

Not being a close follower of his extra-curricular activities, I didn’t know Cowell has loaned his unexplainable celebrity to campaigns against wearing fur, for spaying and neutering, and cautioning against leaving dogs in hot cars.

Leave it to PETA to straighten me out.

Here are some excerpts of a recent interview PETA had with Cowell:

On mutts:

“…If I was buying a dog, I wouldn’t buy it from a pet shop, I’d go to a rescue shelter … It’s not where the dog came from, it’s the dog. … I get really annoyed when people start telling me about the make and the model of their dog like (it was a) car … A dog is a dog, no matter what background they’ve got … Often, the mutts, the strays have got more personality than a highly bred pedigree.

On dogs as accessories:

Well, I think the fashion accessory thing has become quite the thing here. You’ve got the rap and pop stars carrying around the highly bred dogs …. They think it’d be embarrassing to be seen carrying a mutt … when actually it would be endearing — people would think they cared more about the dog than their image.

On Bobama:

I think we’ve got to be balanced on this…I think it’s nice that they have made an issue of buying a dog for the kids. What I think would be great would be if they also took in a shelter dog, just from anywhere, to balance it. I’ll even pay for the dog food!

On dog shows:

Well, again, I have two thoughts about them, because I think the vast majority of people who go and watch something like Crufts or who are involved are animal lovers, not animal haters. The problem (in the U.K. at least) is that we have elitism in the dog world, which does bother me, for who’s to say what makes the perfect dog?

Yeah, dawg. The nerve. What gives those dog show judges the right to put contestants through the hoops and then sit back in judgment?

For Cowell’s full remarks, visit The PETA Files blog.

Mixed up dog — one last dance with DNA

What do these four breeds have in common — besides getting labeled as vicious from time to time?

All four (Rottweiler, Akita, chow and Staffordshire terrier, aka pit bull) are in my dog Ace, according to yet another DNA test (last one, I promise). The best guess now is that one of Ace’s parents was a Rottweiler, the other a combination of Akita, Chow and pit bull.

Together, they formed this creature:

How the product of four “feared” breeds could be such a gentle giant might be explained several ways.

For starters, they aren’t vicious breeds — just breeds that, due to the acts of a few members, have seen themselves smeared as a whole. Secondly, we would contend, when you start mixing up breeds, though some purebred purists might be offended by it, some wonderful things can happen. Third, maybe, just maybe, nurture is more important than nature.

Then again, maybe DNA testing — scientifically solid as it may be — isn’t always the full and final answer.

After all this was our third test, and our third different diagnosis.

The first DNA analysis was performed in connection with the Baltimore Sun series, “Hey Mister What Kind of Dog is That?” The Canine Heritage test from Metamorphix, using a cheek swab taken from Ace, determined he was Rottweiler and Chow. At the time, the test checked for 38 breeds.

The second came after Mars Veterinary offered us a free Wisdom Panel MX Mixed Breed Analysis kit, which can detect the presence of more than 150 breeds. This one required a visit from a vet to take Ace’s blood, and the results showed he was 50 percent Rottweiler, 25 percent Akita, and 25 percent other unknown breeds.

While we were waiting for our results on that one, Canine Heritage got back in touch to let us know the newer version of their  test — still using a cheek swab — could now detect 100 breeds. They offered us a free re-test, so we swabbed Ace’s mouth again.

The results of that one arrived in the mail last week.

Makers of the tests say it helps dog owners better understand their pets’ behavior, and better be on the lookout for potential medical problems, many of which are prevalent among certain breeds. In that regard, testing a dog’s DNA can serve a useful purpose. But there’s a potential for misusing them as well — if, for instance, they ever become a tool for enforcing breed bans.

In that case, Ace, with his components, would be Public Enemy No. 1. Should that ever come to pass, none of this ever happened, and Ace is actually a, uh … Portuguese water dog/Labradoodle mix.

Baltimore Sun unleashes “Unleashed”

There’s a new animal blogger in town, and she used to be my boss.

Mary Corey, the Baltimore Sun’s features editor has taken over my old Sun blog (“Mutts”), given it a new name (“Unleashed,” not to be confused with the sister paper Los Angeles Times pet and animal blog) and is off and running.

The revamped blog launched last week with a poignant debut entry on the death, two months ago, of Mary’s dog, Gracie.

We’ve added Unleashed to our blogroll, and we wish Mary all the best in her new venture.

Does what’s in the mix really matter?

Now that I know Ace is a “Rokita” mix (50 percent Rottweiler, 25 percent Akita, 25 percent anybody’s guess), what can I do with the information?

And what of Elliot? Does knowing his somewhat fuzzier lineage — 25 percent golden retriever, 25 percent boxer, and 50 percent unknown — provide any information that might be helpful to him and his owners?

The experts at Mars Veterinary, makers of the Wisdom Panel MX mixed breed analysis, say yes — that knowing what’s in your mutt can help you better understand his or her behavior, and better be on the lookout for potential medical problems.

With Ace, they say, I should be aware of the potential for hip and elbow dysplasia, as both of the known breeds in him are prone to that. I should keep him on the lean side (something I’ve been unable to do with myself), and consider supplementing his diet with glucosamine, for optimal joint health. Also, since Rottweilers and Akitas are both prone to cataracts and other eye problems, I should keep an eye on his eyes.

With Elliot, hip dysplasia is also a concern, as, later in life, is cancer, which has a high incidence in boxers and golden retrievers. Elliot, based on the breeds found in him, could also be predisposed to skin issues, allergies and hypothyroidism.

Depressing as it all sounds – I, for one, would rather not know what afflictions lay ahead for me – I’ll admit that the information is somewhat useful.

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Ciao, chow chow, I’m Akita now

 

My dog’s lineage took another wild swerve last night when it was revealed that — contrary to an earlier DNA test that showed him to be Rottweiler and chow — he is actually Rottweiler and Akita.

The two detectable breeds in my dog Ace (left) and Elliot (right) were revealed at our “ohmidog! Identity Crisis and Breed Reveal Party,” which raised $500 for the Franky Fund for sick and injured animals at Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS).

While Ace’s mix was correctly guessed by a member of the crowd that gathered at the Idle Hour Tavern for the reveal, nobody nailed the two breeds that showed up in Elliot Gould: boxer and golden retriever.

Kelly Gould, Elliot’s owner — though she has nothing against boxers and golden retrievers — immediately demanded a recount, saying the DNA test’s findings were not at all in line with what she suspected.

Elliot, the winner of our “What’s in Your Mutt” contest, spent the day before the party at my house, where he behaved, in true mutt fashion, magnificently. At the Idle Hour, guests sized up Ace and Elliot, and tossed their guesses, along with their Franky Fund donations, into a fishbowl.

At 8 p.m., the envelopes were opened and the test results were announced. The two winners — in Elliot’s case, the person who came closest, picking boxer/shepherd — will receive ohmidog! sweatshirts. From the rest of the entries, three more winners were drawn to receive dog treat baskets, courtesy of K-9 Kraving Dog Food.

Thanks to K-9 Kraving, the Idle Hour, Mars Veterinary (makers of the Wisdom Panel MX Mixed Breed Analysis test kit), Dr. Johnny Slaughter (the vet who took the blood samples), and all those who showed up for the party.

(Tomorrow: Now what? We’ll take a look at what, if anything, the test results mean — to the dogs and their caretakers.)

Crazy mixed up dogs: Breeds revealed tonight

We doubt that Baltimore’s mayor — upon whose shoes my dog once sat — will be showing up but, if you want to drop by, here are the details for our “ohmidog! Identity Crisis and Breed Reveal Party.”

Where: Idle Hour Tavern, 201 E. Fort Ave., Baltimore

When: Today, 6 – 9 p.m.

Background: My dog Ace had his DNA tested a year and a half ago, as part of a series of stories and dogumentary I did for the Baltimore Sun. The test, based on a swab from his cheek, showed him to contain Rottweiler and chow. Since then, the tests have become more sophisticated, and capable of detecting more breeds. So we tested Ace again, this time, using the Wisdom Panel MX Mixed Breed test kit, which analyzes DNA through blood samples. It came out differently. We also tested Elliot, who won our “What’s In Your Mutt?” contest. Two breeds were found in him as well.

Tonight, you can meet the dogs and, in exchange for a donation to the Franky Fund for sick and injured animals at BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter), make a guess as to what breeds are in them. The two who guess correctly will receive (in the mail) ohmidog! hooded sweatshirts. (In the event of ties, the earlier guess wins.) We’ll start taking guesses at 6 p.m. The “reveal” takes place at 8 p.m.

Our little celebration of mutthood will also include a raffle for a treat basket from K-9 Kraving Dog Food, human snacks (including, of course “mixed” nuts), information on how to find out what’s in your mutt, and other prizes.

All proceeds will go to the Franky Fund.

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