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Tag: program

Canadian dog lover with autism created art featured on the National Dog Show program

dog-show-program

There’s a story behind the cover of the program for this year’s National Dog Show — one that strikes us as far more interesting than who won the annual canine beauty pageant.

(For the record though, it was Newton, a Brussels Griffon, who captured best in show at the Thanksgiving Day event, held in Philadelphia.)

The official show program this year featured a cover (above) designed by a Manitoba artist who began painting dogs as a way to cope with struggles associated with autism.

rottweilerAlec Baldwin’s parents were told when he was 2½ years old that he had mild to severe autism and likely wouldn’t be able to speak until he was 18.

They refused to accept that. When schools didn’t seem to be expecting much out of him, or doing much for him, they took him out, figuring they could do a better job themselves. But the big change came when they brought him a how-to-draw dogs book.

“He just took off,” his mother, Tanis, told CBC News

Alec drew every dog in the Canadian Kennel Club book, and then every dog in the American Kennel Club book. He used watercolour pencils and made 200 portraits of dogs that he gave to the owners of his subjects. He is a dog handler who shows at competitions and is a Special Olympics athlete going to Nova Scotia next year as part of the Manitoba team.

And, yes, at 24 now, he speaks:

It was after switching to paint that one of his pieces, a 40-by-60-inch night scene with 35 champion dogs, won best acrylic painting in the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba’s fine art show in Gimli last year.

Baldwin gave a poster of that painting to Wayne Ferguson, president of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, which runs the National Dog Show, who hung it in his den.

Ferguson then commissioned Baldwin to do a painting for the show.

The finished work shows the Philadelphia skyline at night, with 15 previous champion dogs in the foreground.

It appears on the cover of the program, the show’s VIP passes, posters and 8,000 brochures, even on the wrapper of the show’s official chocolate bar.

The painting was unveiled at a special gala for VIPs, including Baldwin and his mom.

“When I was at the show, I looked down at my VIP pass and it had his painting on it, and it dawned on me that everyone around here who was a VIP has his painting around their neck,” Tanis said.

“We’ve worked on his weaknesses and built on his strengths,” Tanis said. “That’s the best you can do with any child,” she added. “I’m really proud of him. He’s worked really hard — he’s had to work harder than anybody … But above all, he has a good heart.”

For retired racing greyhounds prison can be the path to adoption

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Prisons and greyhound tracks are, in many ways, pretty similar beasts and, whether you’re a person or a dog, you don’t want to spend too much time in the belly of either.

Both can be cold and institutional. Both require spending a lot of time caged. In one, you are encouraged to run; in the other, that’s not advisable. Whether you’re a greyhound living at a track or a human serving a prison sentence, your liberties are taken away, you do what you are told to do, and day to day life can be bleak.

Going from living at a greyhound track to living in a prison may not seem a step in the right direction, but for hundreds of greyhounds it has been.

For retired racing dogs, prisons are increasingly coming to symbolize, of all things, freedom.

Thanks to groups like Prison Greyhounds, featured in an article in this week’s Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel, racing dogs deemed to have lost their edge on the track, are learning the manners and behaviors they need to be successfully adopted.

prisongreyhoundsHeadquartered in Indianapolis, Prison Greyhounds is an all-volunteer organization that accepts dogs retired from Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club and places them with specially selected inmates at the Putnamville Correctional Facility in Greencastle, Indiana.

The dogs spend two months being trained and sleep in crates next to their assigned inmate’s bunk.

As with other prison programs that work with shelter dogs, the greyhound program — one of a handful across the country — provides benefits to the prisoners, and the prisons, as well.

The inmate handlers, who have been coached on dog training, gain job skills. And the presence of the dogs provides a calming effect on the entire prison population.

A team of two inmate-handlers is assigned to each dog. Prison Greyhounds covers the costs of veterinary care, bedding, leashes and other supplies.

Once the dogs graduate they’re ready for adoption, for a fee of $275.

(Photos from PrisonGreyhounds.org)

Turning stray dogs into crime fighters

Strutting down the street together in their matching vests, these Thailand dogs look a little like an alliance of superheroes — and that’s the idea.

The nonprofit animal welfare organization Soi Dog has teamed up with an advertising agency in Thailand to develop a program that will turn Bangkok’s stray dogs into crime fighters.

The plan is to outfit strays with camera-equipped vests. The cameras activate when a dog wearing the vest barks aggressively and the video is transmitted to police agencies or anyone else who wants to watch via a mobile phone or commuter application.

Stray dogs are abundant in Bangkok and other Thai cities — and they are often looked down upon or abused.

smartvestThe “smart vest,” according to those refining the prototype, could help their public image, protect them from foul play and provide more eyes on the streets and alleys of Thailand’s big cities.

In that way, the dogs often viewed as nuisances would become guardians angels on the crime-ridden streets and alleyways where they live their lives.

“It will make people feel that stray dogs can become night-watches for the communities,” Pakornkrit Khantaprap, a member of the creative team that came up with the idea at the Cheil advertising agency, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, told Reuters.

The project began in March this year and took about five months to reach the point where it could be tested.

The developer says a lot more tests are needed before the vest can be introduced into communities for trial runs.

Martin Turner, managing director of the Phuket-based Soi Dog Foundation, which works to save stray dogs and cats across Thailand, welcomed the initiative.

Turner says there are many cases of cruelty against street dogs in Thailand, despite the introduction of the country’s first Animal Welfare Law in late 2014.

The long-term goal of the project is to create a more harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship between strays and their communities.

“Our aim is to get people to perceive stray dogs in a better way and ultimately, solve the stray dog issue in the long term,” Pakornkrit explained. “The stray dog issue is becoming more crucial in Thailand. This issue leads to a bigger problem of animal cruelty and dog meat trades. We do not want to see that.”

(Video and photo from Reuters)

You’re just the cutest little audience ever … Yes … Yes … Yes, you are!

A business professor at American University is using dogs to help students overcome their fear of public speaking and hone their oratorical skills.

Bonnie Auslander, the director of the Kogod Center for Business Communications, started the program on a trial basis last year, pairing anxiety-prone business school students with patient canine listeners.

The thinking behind it is similar to that of programs around the country in which much younger students read to dogs to gain confidence in their reading skills.

“Addressing a friendly and nonjudgmental canine can lower blood pressure, decrease stress and elevate mood — perfect for practicing your speech or team presentation,” says the program’s promotional material.

For now, evidence of the benefits is mostly anecdotal, reports the New York Times.

With therapy dogs arriving on campus regularly during finals, Auslander got the idea to use dogs as a practice audience and she recruited six dogs with calm personalities.

They included Teddy, a Jack Russell terrier, and Ellie, a Bernese mountain dog.

We think it’s a great idea — assuming the dogs are willing to put up with all those speeches. On top of gaining confidence, students can learn the importance of inflecting their voices and gesturing to hold audience attention — though treats are proving to work better than either of those.

Auslander joked about having “an audience cat program some day that will be for speakers who are overconfident and need to be taken down a peg. The cats will turn away and lick their paws.”

Although we feel a little sorry for them, we wish the best to those dogs taking part in the program. And having had our own issues with public speaking, we wish great success to those students taking part.

We’re confident they will get their MBA’s and become great orators — identifiable only by their tendency to throw Milk Bones to their audiences.

Program works with Amish in southern Indiana to improve breeding conditions

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While Amish breeders are notorious for running puppy mills, some of those in southern Indiana are working with Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science to improve their breeding practices and, in the process, their reputations.

“It was time that we as breeders recognize that there are professionals out there that can help us and we need to involve them in our businesses,” said Levi Graber, a member of Odon’s Amish community who helps several breeders in the area.

Though the Amish aren’t known for reaching out, or letting people in, Graber contacted the university a few years ago about improving Amish-run breeding operations in the region. That led to a pilot program in which the operations are reviewed, and suggestions are made on how to improve them.

Already, those behind the program say, they’ve found that improving conditions and practices at the kennels leads to happier, healthier, better behaved dogs.

Under the program, which is open to non-Amish breeders as well, a set of voluntary standards will be created for breeders to follow, according to the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

“Many folks hear about breeding and animal welfare and they don’t know what (breeders) actually do. They just want to put them out of business,” said Purdue’s Candace Croney, director of the animal welfare center.

Most dogs she and her team of researchers have observed have been in good physical health, Croney said, but some had room for improvement in their behavior. Some facilities’ dogs were loud and dogs became over-excited when they saw people, which Croney said indicated they weren’t used to seeing people often.

The research team advised those breeders to make sure something positive happens for the dogs, such as receiving a treat, every time someone comes into the kennel area. They also suggested letting the dogs out in the yard daily to exercise and socialize.

The changes made a big impact, Croney said. Over four months, the dogs in the kennel with the most behavioral issues became calmer when they saw people, and they physically looked better.

“We’ve seen a very positive impact on some of the things she recommends,” Graber said. “I’ve seen more contented, happy dogs.”

Once the trial program is complete, a third party will audit the breeders’ practices, Croney said.

Breeders who qualify will receive a certification that she said goes beyond the standards mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which cover areas such as housing, sanitation, food, water and protection against extreme weather and temperatures.

Graber said the community feels fortunate to work with Purdue and emphasized that the breeders don’t want to sell puppies that disappoint anyone.

Not all Amish-run breeding operations are like those that end up on the news, noted Dale Blier, who works for Blue Ribbon Vet & Supply in Odon and sells supplies to many breeders in town.

“The majority of dog breeders in Indiana treat their dogs the same way they treat making furniture: They want to be the best at it they can,” he said.

(Photo: A child sits with puppies at a breeding operation in Odon that’s working with Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science program; by Levi Graber)

Bet your dog’s wardrobe doesn’t have this …

dogspacesuit

Even if you consider your dog the best-dressed canine on the planet, he or she probably doesn’t have one of these — a Soviet-made, late 1950’s-era doggie spacesuit.

If your dog simply must have this corset-like, lace-up, oxygen tube-included piece of Sputnik couture, be prepared to bid (in the neighborhood of $10,000) at an upcoming auction to be held in Berlin on Sept. 13. (If you can’t make it to Berlin, absentee bids can be made online.)

According to the website Auctionata, the suit was likely worn by USSR space dogs Belka and Strelka during training sessions for the Korabl-Sputnik 2 mission.

It was made — from cotton, nylon, aluminium, rubber and laces — by RSC Energia, the largest Russian manufacturer of spacecraft and space station components.

Only a small number of the dog spacesuits have survived, and this one is said to be in good condition, according to the auctioneers. The spacesuit is now the property of Collection Andora, in Germany.

Dogs played a key role in the Soviet space program. While the U.S. used chimpanzees to see if humans could survive the effects of being rocketed into space, Russia opted for dogs.

Laika, a Russian dog, became the first animal to orbit Earth in 1957, though he died during the mission from stress and overheating.

Belka and Strelka returned to Earth safely after spending a day in space in 1960.

(Photo: Auctionata.com)

LAX dogs provide different kind of security

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From an Irish wolfhound named Finn to a Rottweiler named Maggie Mae, 29 dogs of various breeds are providing a different kind of security for travelers at Los Angeles International Airport.

The dogs have been comforting frazzled travelers for a year now, through a program called PUP, or Pets Unstressing Passengers.

finnFinn started last November, the day after a gunman opened fire at Terminal 3 and left a Transportation Security Administration officer dead, according to the Los Angeles Times

“I think after the shooting, Finn attracted attention because he represented something comforting,” owner Brian Valente said in an airport statement. “As passengers asked questions about Finn and started to pet him, I could see their bodies relax and their demeanors change.”

The one-year anniversary of the program was marked yesterday at a meeting of the L.A. Board  of Airport Commissioners.

The dogs all wear bright red vests, and mingle with passengers in post-security-screening areas. The program is aimed at reducing the anxiety of travelers by letting them pet and play with the dogs.

The dogs are registered with Therapy Dogs, a national organization that supports pets that visit places such as hospitals, nursing homes and other special needs centers.

To see more of the dogs, click here.

(Photos: Los Angeles World Airports)