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Tag: pets

Michigan funeral home holds service for dog who comforted thousands of the grieving

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Hollie, a golden retriever who for 16 years comforted mourners at a Kalamazoo funeral home, was remembered yesterday with a ceremony in her honor.

Betzler Life Story Funeral Home held an open house for the therapy dog they believe to have been the first used in Michigan by a funeral home.

While more funeral homes have begun having therapy dogs on the premises, Betzler’s started their program at a time it was mostly unheard of.

Scott Betzler, Hollie’s owner, got the idea while he served on the board of directors of the Kalamazoo Humane Society. That organization offered a pet visitation program for nursing homes at the time, and Betzler decided to try to incorporate it at the funeral home.

“It was very different at the time to have a dog in a funeral home,” said Patrick Bauschke, a funeral director at Betzler. “But Hollie made it the most natural fit. She’s worked thousands of funerals and visitations and helped countless people.”

“Mention the Betzler name and chances are people will remember Hollie,” he added. “She happily greeted people at the door, mingled throughout visitations and services, and offered a calming and comforting influence on those who needed her most.”

Bauschke said Hollie had a soothing effect on visitors — “an unmatched sense of knowing just who needed her and when.”

holly2MLive reported that setting aside some time for people to remember and honor Hollie was an obvious idea.

“So many people have adored her, it is a time for people to come in and visit,” Funeral Director Joe Buysse said. “We have so many people who say, ‘I remember when I was here for Grandma or Uncle Charlie and she was here. She was a big comfort to me when I was a kid. Now I’m grown up.’ It is amazing how she has touched so many people.”

Hollie completed temperance training through the Kalamazoo Humane Society and was the first official funeral home therapy dog in the Greater Kalamazoo and Paw Paw areas.

Her work was featured in articles by the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association, the Michigan Funeral Directors Association and the Kalamazoo Gazette.

She was often taken on visits to local senior communities, and visited elementary schools for book-reading sessions with children.

You can read more about Hollie’s life here.

With Hollie’s passing, the funeral home says her role will be taken over by Ellie, a 3-year-old English retriever who has been working alongside her.

(Photos: Betzler Life Story Funeral Home)

Few restaurants comply with official request to stop serving dog meat during Olympics


As the Winter Olympics got underway in PyeongChang, dog meat was still being openly served in most restaurants that offer it, despite attempts by the government to keep a lid on the practice.

The South Korean government had requested restaurants cease the practice and even offered subsidies to those that did, but only two of the 12 restaurants serving dog meat in PyeongChang complied, a county government official told AFP.

A minority of South Koreans still consume dog meat — most commonly in a soup called boshintang — many of them in the belief it leads to increased energy during the hot summer months.

Between 1 and 2 million dogs a year across the country a year are butchered and sold at markets and to restaurants.

Well before the Olympics began, activists stepped up campaigns to ban dog consumption, with protests in Seoul and online petitions urging boycotts.

In PyeongChang, the county government asked the restaurants with dog meat items on the menu to stop serving the food in exchange for subsidies.

“Some of them initially shifted to selling pork or things instead of dog meat only to find their sales plunging sharply. They then switched back to dog meat,” PyeongChang County government official Lee Yong-bae told AFP.

“We’ve faced a lot of complaints from restaurant operators that we are threatening their livelihood,” he said.

Signs advertising dog meat dishes such as boshintang, yeongyangtang or sacheoltang have been replaced with more neutral ones such as yeomsotang (goat soup) to avoid giving “a bad impression to foreigners” during the games, according to Channel News Asia.

South Korean authorities periodically try to persuade restaurants to change their menus or drop signs suggestive of dog meat during major international events hosted by the country, as was the case with the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

The tradition has declined as the nation increasingly embraces the idea of dogs as pets instead of livestock, and most younger South Koreans avoid it.

A Gangwon province official told The Associated Press there were no plans to relocate dog farms situated near Olympic areas. There is one farm near Pyeongchang; six near Jeongseon, where the downhill skiing course is located; and 10 in Gangnueng, the coastal town that will host events like figure skating and hockey. Gangwon has 196 registered dog farms, though most are closer to Seoul.

While NBC isn’t too likely to be showing us any of the during its Olympics coverage, USA Today provided a fairly expansive report on one such farm today

Hundreds of dogs have been removed from Korean dog farms by Humane Society International and sent to the United States for adoption, including mine, a Jindo named Jinjja.

The group assists the farmers in establishing new careers in exchange for closing down and surrendering their dogs.

duhamel2One Olympic competitor, Canadian figure skater Meagan Duhamel escorted two rescued farm dogs on a flight back to Canada after competing in a qualifying event last year in PyenongChang.

Duhamel adopted one of them, through the group Free Korean Dogs.

“Most of the time, he just wants to sit in everybody’s arms,” Duhamel said of the dachshund mix, named Moo-tae. “He doesn’t even care to play, he just walks up to everybody and wants to be held.”

Duhamel, a silver medalist in Sochi, is hoping to assist in closing a dog farm once the Olympics conclude. She, American skier Gus Kenworthy and American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis have appeared in a public service announcement about the dog meat trade.

Duhamel has arranged to fly home another rescued farm dog when she returns to Canada, so it can be put up for adoption there, according to CBS News.

(Photos: At top, Park Young-ae, owner of Young Hoon Restaurant, arranges dog meats at her restaurant in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Associated Press; photo of Duhamel and Moo-tae, courtesy of Free Korean Dogs)

How some dogs came to have floppy ears

It is generally accepted that most species, over time, adapt as the environment in which they live undergoes changes — to the point that their bodies physically alter.

Charles Darwin wrote about it 150 years ago, raising questions about why the once perky, upright ears of certain animals — namely wolves — had evolved to become, often, with domesticated dogs, floppy.

It was subsequently named “domestication syndrome” — the process by which domesticated mammals come to possess heritable traits not seen in their wild progenitors.

But why it happens is still theorized about.

My own theory (and bear in mind, it is coming from a former ape) is that, with dogs, once they started living with humans they no longer needed those alert and upright ears to detect threats; that, just maybe, they found what they more needed was a way to muffle human noise, as that species can be pretty damn loud. So, over time, their ears evolved from being pointy antenna-like sensors to sound-muffling flaps.

Basset hounds and bloodhounds, for example, clearly do not want to hear a single word we have to say.

How, then, would my theory explain the many breeds of dogs that still have pointy ears? Simple: Those are the ones who want to hear everything humans say, most likely because they don’t entirely trust us. (This also explains why cats still have pointy ears.)

As the video above shows, my theory is probably wrong.

It’s from the NPR science show Skunk Bear — which is very good at simplifying science for the increasing number of humans whose attention spans are shortening to the point they require cartoons to understand something.

Cartoons are especially helpful when the explanation involved includes words like “neural crest cells” and “postmigratory embryonic interactions”.

Basically, the latest thinking is that it is a deficiency of neural crest cells — which affect everything from adrenalin to ear cartilage — that is behind the change in appearance in domesticated species.

As Darwin noted, 150 years ago, numerous species with erect ears had become droopy eared after domestication, including “cats in China, horses in parts of Russia, sheep in Italy and elsewhere, the guinea-pig in Germany, goats and cattle in India, rabbits, pigs and dogs in all long-civilized countries.”

All, with domestication, were experiencing a form of erectile dysfunction. Thanks, humans.

“The incapacity to erect the ears,” Darwin concluded, “is certainly in some manner the result of domestication.”

A century later, experiments in the Soviet Union proved Darwin was right on target.

Russian geneticist Dmitry Belyayev took 130 foxes from fur farms and started a breeding program. He started with the tamest foxes and then bred their offspring again and again, always choosing the tamest.

After a few dozen generations, Belyayev’s foxes were totally tame, and becoming more and more floppy eared.

More recent research points to those neural crest cells as the factor.

Does this mean your pointy-eared dog is less tame than its floppy-eared counterpart?

I wouldn’t read that much into it. But I’m often wrong. I’m only human. Perhaps someday another cartoon will come along to give us the answer.

(Photos: John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

Frankel seeks aide to help promote her dogs

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Bethenny Frankel — entrepreneur, “Real Housewife of New York” and attention who … whoa, don’t say that — is looking to hire an assistant to manage her dogs’ schedules, take photos of them and further propel their fame (and her’s) on social media.

Page Six reports that Frankel placed an online ad seeking an assistant with “thick skin” who would be able to work full time on tasks that would include managing the schedules of her dogs and taking pictures of Frankel and her pets “to provide content for social media.”

It’s not clear from the ad whether all of the duties would be related to her canines.

With some of the described duties for instance — such as “maintain upcoming wardrobe queue,” “coordinate daily looks” and work “onsite with CEOs for glam” — it’s a little fuzzy whether she’s talking about herself or her dogs.

In any case, though, she’s apparently seeking some help to shape up her image. (And what real, limelight-craving person doesn’t need a little of that?) Apparently her 1.6 million Instagram followers — and that doesn’t include her dogs’ accounts — aren’t enough.

Frankel is involved with dog rescue causes, and she had at least three dogs of her own up until October when one died.

frankelCookie, 17, had a seizure, and Frankel made a video of the dog and herself during the crisis and posted it on social media.

That drew some criticism — mostly from people wondering why she was making a video instead of taking the dog to a vet.

The following day, she did, but Cookie died that weekend.

Cookie had her own Instagram account, as do two of her newer dogs, Biggy and Smallz.

Frankel has written several books and launched her own line of “Skinny Girl” meals and beverages. She has also appeared on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” “Skating with the Stars,” and was the subject of the reality television series “Bethenny Ever After.” Her talk show, “Bethenny,” premiered in 2013 and was canceled in 2014.

(Top photo: Frankel with Biggie and Smallz / Bravo TV; bottom photo, Frankel with Cookie / PEOPLE)

After 38 years in prison, innocent man freed — and gets to bring his dog home, too

At first glance this story made no sense — a man who spent the past 38 years in prison wins his freedom when his innocence is finally proven and is reunited with his dog.

No dog — no matter how loyal to his owner — lives that long.

Turns out though, that Malcolm Alexander came into possession of the dog while serving his sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a facility which, while it has a reputation as a tough place, offers several dog programs and even breeds its own guard dogs.

Alexander, 58, had been proclaiming his innocence since he was convicted of sexual assault and sent to prison at age 20.

On Tuesday, he was welcomed home by his 82-year-old mother, his son and his grandson – both named Malcolm, and other relatives.

Earlier in the day, A Jefferson Parish judge vacated Alexander’s 1980 aggravated rape conviction and his mandatory life sentence after finding that Alexander had not been provided with adequate legal assistance, and that DNA evidence discovered in 2013 excluded Alexander as a suspect in the sexual assault.

After the ruling, Alexander did not return to the prison, where both his belongings and his dog remained.

innocenceThe next day, he was reunited with the huge black Lab, Nola.com reported.

“You ain’t got nothing to worry about no more,” he told the 9-month-old pup upon reuniting with him. “I told you we gonna be free. I told you they was gonna get us out.”

Alexander’s case was undertaken by The Innocence Project, which helped him gain his freedom.

Alexander had raised the dog since shortly after his birth. He named the dog Innocence, and calls him Inn for short.

Inn was born at the prison to another dog at the facility, according to Vanessa Potkin, an attorney with The Innocence Project.

Potkin and other staffers traveled to Angola Wednesday to retrieve Inn and Alexander’s property and return them to Alexander.

(Photo: Michelle Hunter \ NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

More mistreated greyhounds — in Spain

America isn’t the only country where greyhounds are exploited and mistreated.

We may have our racing tracks, and those blood farms, but there is some even more horrendous treatment of greyhounds going on in Spain, where more than 50,000 galgos, or Spanish greyhounds, are destroyed each year — most often in cruel fashion.

Spanish greyhouds come from different lineage than American greyhounds, but they are very similar and have the same shy, sweet and gentle dispositions.

In parts of Spain, they are used for hunting, but when they start to slow down, they are cruelly disposed of by some Spanish hunters, or “galgueros” — at a rate of about 50,000 per year.

Most of the dogs, called “galgos,” are used for one or two years and then discarded, and those who perform poorly are often tortured to death

The Spanish government has mostly ignored the issue, but perhaps an upcoming documentary, now in editing, will cause enough of a stir to lead it to take some action.

“YO GALGO is a feature film about life and traditions in the villages, about an invisible genocide taking place while the authorities look the other way,” the maker of the movie says on its website. “It’s about the tireless people working to rescue these dogs, and about the new and modern Spain versus the conservative and traditional one.”

Yeray Lopez Portillo describes the documentary as “an investigative feature film that paints a picture of the consequences of these hobbies for hundreds of thousands of galgos. It shows us a glimpse into human nature through the use of these dogs; the abuse, the tradition and the silence kept by people and institutions about it. A clash between the modern and old Spain.”

His kickstarter campaign explains:

“Every year healthy galgos are killed, beaten to death, drowned or abandoned when they no longer live up to their owners’ expectations. The breeders, the so called galgueros, breed hoping to end up with the fastest dog to compete and hunt the hare, but overbreeding leads to the ‘throwing out’ of thousands and thousands of galgos every year.”

Those who have proved to be good hunters are taken to shelters to be euthanized when they’ve lost their edge. Those who have not face being burned with acid, dragged behind cars, sacrificed to fighting dogs, skinned alive and buried alive.

The most famous torture is called the “piano dance,” which involves hanging the dog by the neck with the feet just touching the ground as it struggles to breathe until it is strangled to death by its own movements.

As explained in an article in The Dodo, the breeders and hunters maintain the torturing “washes away the dishonor” of having a dog with poor hunting skills.

Because the galgos are regarded under Spanish law as working dogs, they are excluded from the laws relating to pets.

The Spanish government did pass laws in 2004 concerning abuses and neglect, but they have not been used to prosecute anyone.

Hunting with greyhounds also takes place in Portugal, Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom, but the cruelest abuses are in Spain.

For more information, visit galgorescue.org or the Yo Galgo Facebook page.

Dog’s tongue freezes to manhole cover

Be prepared to cringe a bit at this — just like you did with that flagpole scene in “A Christmas Story.”

The unlucky dog was spotted attempting to pull her tongue free after it froze to a manhole cover in Vladivostok, Russia, where temperatures have been running around 5 degrees.

A good Samaritan spotted her and poured bottled water on her tongue hoping to free it.

After draining the bottle, the stranger shouts for help.

The dog is later shown free and apparently uninjured as she gets a pat from the good Samaritan.

It is not known if the dog had an owner or was a stray, or whether she received any treatment from a vet.

The video was made in Vladivostok on Thursday.