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Tag: put down

An Act of Dog: A memorial to the millions of shelter dogs put down in America


It’s easy to ignore statistics. They’re cold and dry and lack soulful eyes. And when the numbers are overwhelming — like the 5,500 unwanted dogs who are put to death daily in U.S. shelters — we tend, as a rule, to find life is more comfortable and less depressing when we don’t do the math.

Louisville artist Mark Barone is an exception to that rule. Rather than ignore the problem, he decided to put a face on it — 5,500 of them, in fact.

For two years now, he has been painting portraits of dogs who have been put down at shelters across the country, and he’s more than halfway to his goal: 5,500 portraits that he hopes will someday — unlike their subjects — find a forever home.

Barone and his partner, Marina Dervan, call the project “An Act of Dog.”

Their hope is the works will someday be displayed in a permanent memorial museum, which — between its emotional impact and the funds it would help raise for no-kill rescues and shelters – could help lead to their larger goal,  a no-kill nation.

Mark, a well-established artist, had moved to Santa Fe when, about three years ago, he lost his dog of 21 years, Santina.

“It was kind of a sad time, and I thought it would be therapeutic for Mark to go to the dog park,” Marina recalled. “I thought it would be helpful for him to get some dog love, and it was. It was really great. It got me in the mood to think about adopting another dog. Mark wasn’t at that stage, but it didn’t stop me from looking.”

Looking for adoptable dogs online and at local shelters, she quickly learned the sad reality that she says neither she nor Mark, up to then, were aware of — that millions of dogs in need of homes are put down at shelters every year.

“Instead of finding a dog, I found out all these horrifying statistics,” she said. She shared them with Mark, along with images and videos of dogs who had been, or were on the verge of, being put down.

He asked her to stop sharing, but she kept up.

“If we don’t look at it, nothing will change,” she said. “So he looked at it, as painful as it was, and day or two later, we were standing in the kitchen and he asked me the number of dogs killed everyday in the country … I gave him the number 5,500, based on statistics from Best Friends.”

It was then that the idea of honoring shelter dogs by painting 5,500 portraits of those who had been killed was born, and along with it, the longer term plan of a memorial museum, along the lines of the Vietnam Memorial and the Holocaust Museum.

First, they started looking for the studio space to get started on the task, mailing out inquiries in search of a city or town that might offer free space for him to paint.

Santa Fe wasn’t interested. Louisville was among about 30 places that were.

That’s where the couple lives now, and where Mark has completed about 3,200 of the portraits — some of them life- sized, some of them larger.

“It’s the big ones, 8 feet by 8 feet, that slow things down,” Mark said.

Only one of the 8×8-foot paintings depicts a dog who died a natural death — Mark’s dog, Santina. According to Marina, Santina will serve as the gatekeeper of the exhibit. Other large portraits feature  Batman, a 10-year-old pit bull who was left outside in 21 degree weather, and was found dead at a shelter the next morning, and Grant, who was deemed unadoptable due food bowl aggression and put down.

The large paintings — there will be 10 of them — will include the individual stories of those dogs, representing the most common reasons shelters give to put animals down.

“It’s pretty much the wall of shame,” Marina said.

Mark and Marina are still looking for a permanent place to house the works, and for sponsors and benefactors for the museum, and they have some promising leads, both in Louisville and around the country. In addition to being an educational center, the museum would also be an outlet for selling merchandise that features the images – shirts, cards, and other products. An Act of Dog, which is a nonprofit organization, would pass on all profits to no-kill facilities and rescue groups.

The dogs in the paintings come from shelters all around the country. Their photos are submitted by rescue groups, volunteers and shelter employees. They have all been put down.

Mark and Marina object to the use of the term “euthanized” when it’s applied to healthy animals. “Deliberately ending the life of a healthy and treatable pet is killing.  Deliberately ending the life of a medically hopeless and suffering pet is euthanasia,” Marina said. They don’t much like “put to sleep,” either.

“Semantics are a powerful way to keep people from the truth and our mission is to show reality without the candy wrapping,” she added.

Mark paints everyday, from sunrise to sunset. At night, he and Marina work on the An Act of Dog website. They’re both foregoing salaries at this point.

Mark has served as a consultant to cities interested in using the arts to revitalize blighted areas, among them Paducah, Kentucky, and its Paducah Artist Re-locaton Program. Marina worked 20 years coaching corporate executives.  

Now they’ve cashed in their retirement savings and are devoting full time to the project.

“We could turn away and pretend like we didn’t see what we saw, or we could do something about it,” she added. “If that means we have to live poor,  we’re OK with that, because we know we did something.”

They’re working now in studio space provided by the Mellwood Art Center in Louisville, where they did end up adopting a new dog, named Gigi, from a local shelter.

What drives the couple, though, are all the dogs who don’t get out alive — the thousands put down each day.

“The no-kill movement is making strides, but not fast enough,” said Mark who, on those days he doesn’t feel like painting, reminds himself of the bleak numbers, and the 5,500 reasons — every day — he must continue.

To learn more about An Act of Dog, and how to become a sponsor or benefactor, visit its Facebook page or the An Act of Dog website.

(Photos and video courtesy of An Act of Dog: At top, a collage of Mark’s paintings; Mark and Marina in their studio; some of the larger paintings, with Mark’s former dog, Santina, at left; and three shelter dogs dogs Breeze, Freckles and Sky)

“Last Minutes wih Oden”

The short documentary above — and, be warned, it will make you cry — chronicles the last minutes of a dog named Oden.

One of more than 6,500 submissions from thousands of artists and filmmakers, “Last Minutes with Oden” won top honors in a video contest sponsored by Vimeo, the online video sharing website.

The video focuses on Jason Wood and his dog Oden, who got cancer and had a leg amputated last year. But the cancer spread, leading Wood to make the anguishing decision to put down the dog who taught him how to love.

The video by Eliot Rausch documents the last day of Oden’s life. Vimeo’s panel of judges named it the best documentary, and the best video, and Vimeo presented the owners with a grant of $25,000. The awards were presented last month in New York City.

Jeremy Boxer, Co-Director of the Vimeo Festival + Awards called the video “one of those rare, intimate shorts that leads with its heart and soul.”

Hero dog accidentally euthanized

Target — a dog credited with saving soldiers lives in Afghanistan, and brought to the U.S. by one of them — was accidentally euthanized yesterday at an Arizona animal shelter.

Target’s owner, Sgt. Terry Young, found out his dog had been killed when he showed up at the shelter to claim her.

The dog had escaped from his backyard over the weekend.

“When it comes to euthanizing an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow,” Ruth Stalter, Pinal County animal-control director, said in a statement. “Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures.” 

The county is investigating the accidental euthanization at its Casa Grande shelter.

In Afghanistan, Target snapped and barked at a suicide bomber, who was trying to enter a building on a military base. The bomber instead set off his bomb in a doorway. Five soldiers were injured, several of whom credited Target with helping save their lives.

“I just can’t believe that something like this would happen to such a good dog,” Young told the Arizona Republic.

When he returned to the U.S., Young brought Target with him to his home in the Phoenix area.

A county spokesman said a shelter employee has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Young said he found the gate to his backyard open on Friday morning, the day after Veterans Day.

Heather Murphy, a spokeswoman for Pinal County, said Target was found by a nearby resident, who put her in his backyard and called the pound.

Later that night Young saw Target’s picture on a website used by Pinal County’s animal control office, and, assuming the shelter was closed for the weekend, figured she would be safe until he could pick her up Monday.

When he arrived, he filled out some forms and a staff member brought him another dog. Young then showed the employee a picture of his dog. Then he waited for an hour.

According to the Republic, Young saw one worker sobbing. And the director of the shelter told him there had been a mistake.

Is Tango a pit bull? Decision expected today

tangoWhether an Australian couple’s half million dollar investment in keeping their $300 dog alive was successful is expected to be learned today.

Kylie Chivers and John Mokomoko have been locked in a six-year battle with the Gold Coast City Council in the Supreme Court over its identification of their dog Tango as an American pit bull, as opposed to an American staffordshire terrier.

The city’s ruling that Tango is a pit bull meant the dog was automatically deemed dangerous and would be required to be euthanized.

To avoid that, the family moved Tango to a kennel more than five years ago, where it could be registered as an American staffordshire terrier.

Today, a judge is to decide Tango’s fate in a decision which could have ramifications for thousands of dog owners, the Gold Coast Bulletin reports. The city is arguing the American pit bull and American staffordshire terrier are the same breed, which means it would fall under its breed ban.

“The fallout of the decision could be horrendous,” said Mokomoko, 47, who works as a Brisbane airport security officer.

The case prompted Mokomoko to work 98-hour weeks at his former security job at a desalination plant to pay the cost of the kennel, weekly travel, lawyers and documentation, including Freedom of Information requests, and video evidence.

Along with thousands of pages of documents, the couple also obtained DNA samples from Tango’s parents and submitted a breed identification test to the court, arguing the 22-point identification checklist was flawed.

The American staffordshire terrier clubs of Queensland, Victoria and Northern Territory have asked the city council to drop the case.

If the family wins, Mokomoko believes it will prompt litigation from other owners who may have had their dog wrongfully identified as pit bulls.

California man seeks vet insurance — for self

You can’t blame Hal Ziegler for trying — what was good enough for his golden doodle, he figured, would be good enough for him.

Facing exorbitant increases in his health insurance payments, Zeigler, a self-employed consultant, called up the pet insurance company that covers his dog Charlie — for $37 a month — and asked if he could get a policy for himself.

“They laughed,” Ziegler, 47, of Mission Viejo., told the Orange County Register. “I knew what the answer would be but in reality I wasn’t joking.”

Ziegler noted that his dog, Charlie, has seen his claims paid promptly and without dispute by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) , including those for vaccinations and a trip to the veterinary emergency room.

Ziegler’s dealings with Anthem Blue Cross haven’t been nearly as simple and swift, and the price of his coverage keeps going up — a 34 percent jump this year alone.

And even then, it sounds like he lacks coverage for a major medical event. “One one of our greatest fears is to be in a catastrophic medical emergency,” he said.

Being without health insurance myself I can relate to the problem faced by Ziegler and so many others who have been priced out of the health market. So I’ll share my secret plan, if a major medical problem comes my way: I’m going to go to the vet, get him to give me a bacon-flavored treat, scratch me behind the ears and gently put me down.

Police dog dies after illustrious career

0215_ricky2_410A Pennsylvania community is mourning the loss of Ricky, an 11-year-old German shepherd with an outstanding temperament and an even more impressive resume.

Among his accomplishments, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

Helping protect two presidents; assisting at ground zero after 9/11; apprehending numerous criminals; checking hundreds of potential bomb sites, four of which contained live material; locating two missing children, one of whom was autistic; and interacting with thousands of elementary-school students.

Ricky, who belonged to West Caln Township Police Chief Curt A. Martinez , began his career when he was less than a year old at the Coatesville Area School District, where Martinez worked at the time as a school district security officer.

In May 2002, a budget crisis led the district to put Ricky on the auction block, a decision that provoked public outrage and led to Ricky’s appearance in People magazine. The ensuing publicity helped raise the  $4,000 needed for Martinez to buy Ricky.

When Martinez went to work in the West Caln police deparment in Chester County, he took Ricky went with him. Martinez has led the West Caln force for three years.

Martinez said Ricky began barking incessantly last week. After visits to the veterinarian and the animal hospital, Martinez learned the dog had a softball-size tumor in his spleen.

“He was clearly in pain,” Martinez said today. “We had to put him down.

“Everyone in the township is taking it pretty hard,” Martinez added. “It’s a loss to the community, too; he was a great police dog.”

A memorial service will be planned, but Martinez has not worked out the details.

“That face and their eyes tell the story”

Here’s a look inside the cavernous warehouse in St. Louis that has served as the emergency shelter for the hundreds of dogs seized in this summer’s massive five-state dog-fighting raid — the largest in U.S. history.

The Humane Society of Missouri, at one point, was sheltering more than 400 dogs, and 100 newly born puppies, at the emergency shelter, the first public access to which was granted last week to the Associated Press.

More than 120 of the seized pit bulls have been placed in foster homes, but about that many still remain in the temporary shelter. Another 160 dogs were put down because of injuries, illness or behavior.

“They are not a vicious animal. They are the victims of abuse,” said Debbie Hill, vice president of operations for the Humane Society of Missouri. “That face and their eyes tell the story. They only want to be in someone’s home, on a couch, or sleeping at someone’s feet, maybe chew up a rug or two for entertainment. They’re learning for the first time how to be a dog.”

Animal behaviorist Pamela Reid, who was part of the team that evaluated the dogs, said a surprising two-thirds tested well for nonaggression and adoptability. She’s fostering one puppy, although one of her favorite dogs had to be euthanized because he showed aggression toward men.

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