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Tag: school

Bomb-sniffing dogs coming to Ohio campuses

osu

I’m all for dogs on college campuses, and all for campus security.

But news that the governor of Ohio wants every campus in the state to have its own bomb-sniffing dog troubles me — mostly for what it says about our times.

Youngstown State University was presented a bomb-sniffing dog Monday as part of a pilot program that officials eventually hope to expand throughout the state’s public universities, the Associated Press reported.

Bomb sniffing dogs were to be presented at Ohio State University yesterday and at Bowling Green State University today.

Kent State University already has one, and wants to get another.

Ohio’s public safety director, John Born, says it’s all part of Gov. John Kasich’s plans to strengthen school safety for students — from preschool to college age.

Born says the dogs can respond to threats and conduct security sweeps for large-scale events, such as athletic games or visits by dignitaries.

It costs more than $12,700 to buy each animal and pay for initial training and equipment. Ohio Homeland Security is covering the costs with federal grant money.

The universities provide the officers who become the dogs’ full-time handlers.

“There’s just not enough explosives dogs in the state for the need depending on where you are, so this is hopefully the beginning of a more comprehensive effort,” Born said.

Participating universities have to agree that the dogs will be available if there is an off-campus need, such as a threat at a high school.

(Photo: Ohio State University police officer Joanna Shaul and her canine, courtesy of Ohio State University)

Laboratory use of dogs on the upswing

Given the endlessly rising popularity of dogs, and our increasing emotional attachment to them, medical researchers who use them for experiments can expect stronger and growing opposition to the practice from the public, a leading expert in canine-human interaction told a conference at Johns Hopkins University this week.

James Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, was the keynote speaker at a conference sponsored by the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The 30-year-old, non–profit center promotes humane science by supporting the creation, development and use of alternatives to animals in research, product safety testing, and education. It seeks ways to replace animals with non-animal methods, reduce the numbers of animals necessary, or refine methods to make them less painful or stressful to the animals involved

Serpell and other speakers both pointed out that after decades of declining, the use of dogs in medical research has increased in the last couple of years.

U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show that the number of dogs used in medical research and testing dropped from 200,000 in 1973 to 66,000 in 2007, said Tanya Burkholder, chief of the Small Animal Section at the National Institutes of Health. Now, she said, the number has risen to about 75,000 a year.

Much of the increase is likely a result of advancements in, and the promise of, gene therapy.

Ivan Pavlov

Dogs have always been a valuable research model for scientists, going as far back as Aristotle’s day. Their size, physiology and cooperative behavior have made them convenient models for scientists, who, like Pavlov’s dog, grew conditioned to using them in experiments.

While public opposition to subjecting dogs to medical experiments resulted in the practice dwindling in recent decades, the use of dogs has crept up again in the last two years due to advances in molecular biology, genetics and the sequencing of the canine genome.

Because dogs get about 220 of the same inherited diseases and disorders that humans do — including Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia and retinal degeneration – medical researchers are able to study the underlying genetic defects and, through dogs, seek cures.

This means dogs are being bred to be born with the diseases in colonies at U.S. universities and research institutes and, in the case of South Korea, cloned to be born with the diseases.

No one at the conference went so far as to suggest a halt to using dogs in research, but Serpell warned that the practice does come with risks, and a price.

Dogs evoke protective and nurturing instincts in people, and those have grown stronger as the dog-human relationship has evolved — to the point that dogs are viewed more as family members than family pets. Public opposition to the laboratory use of dogs has continually grown in the last few decades.

Researchers need to be cognizant not just of society’s strong feelings about dogs, but also about dog’s strong feelings for humans, Serpell said.  “Many dogs undergo severe distress when contact with a human is limited or thwarted. We don’t give that regard sufficient credence,” he said.

The stronger attachment to dogs is in part due to breeders focusing on creating animals for purposes of human companionship, unlike in the past when they were bred for the work they could do. Serpell noted that baby-like features, for one thing, appeal to humans.

Showing photos of dogs, Serpell pointed to one and said, “This animal looks like it was invented by Walt Disney.”

Our attraction to dogs stems too from the fact that they make eye contact with humans more than any other species, and studies have shown that petting, or even looking, at a dog increases our levels of oxytocin.

“These dogs are turning us on by looking at us,” he said.

Our evolving closeness to dogs has implications for the laboratory, he noted, and perhaps all of society.

Serpell pointed to commentator Tucker Carlson’s recent statement that dogs are the social equals of humans, and that therefore Micheal Vick should have been executed for killing them.

“Lots of people feel the same way,” he said.

In praise of the dogged American worker

Some of you might remember Darcy — the too cute to strangle Boston terrier for whom I’ve served as babysitter while her mom and dad were away.

Twice, I took Darcy into my home for multi-day stays, where she proceeded to test my patience half the time, and be adorable the other half.

That was back when I had a house. Now, upon my return to Baltimore — having given up my home for the purposes of our continuing road trip – the tables have turned, and Darcy and her humans have most graciously taken Ace and me into their’s.

Where, as you might guess,  I proceeded to test their patience half the time (going so far as to clog up their toilet yesterday morning … the house guest’s worst nightmare), and attempted to be adorable (once I had my coffee) the other half.

And all this just before the start of school, no less.

Here in the city of Baltimore, yesterday was the first day of school — so,  with both Darcy’s mom and dad being city schoolteachers, it’s all the more impressive that, with everything else that was on their minds and agendas, they agreed to house one road-weary man and his 130-pound dog over the weekend.

There, in addition to the hazards of using too much toilet paper, this is what I learned:

Teachers — or at least teachers like Dan and Marite – should be appreciated much more. I say this not because they gave us shelter, but because in the days I spent with them I’ve seen how much of themselves, their own time, their own money, their hearts and souls, they pour into what they do.

Yesterday, as Ace and I sat drinking coffee on their front stoop after they left, I watched as children headed down the sidewalk for the start of a new school year, many of them tightly holding the hands of their parents. And I thought how fortunate they were — even in a school system as troubled as Baltimore’s — to have teachers like Dan and Marite. And how much worse things would be if they didn’t.

Dan spent the bulk of the weekend on his computer, finalizing his lesson plans, sweating the details. Marite cooked up some do-it-yourself orange Play-doh out of flour, water and food coloring. When we walked with the dogs down to the shopping center for lunch, Dan and Marite hit the Goodwill store, and came out with a full bag of classroom supplies.

They spent most of the weekend copying, printing and working away on their laptops, sitting side by side and sharing the couch with Darcy and Ace, who generally makes for a pretty jam-packed couch.

But Dan and Marite take chaos in stride. They seem to have mastered patience, which I guess all teachers must. They are so easy going that she probably won’t mind that I — lacking the technical know-how — am writing her name without the accent thing over the “e”.

While their home has plenty of clutter — I would describe their decorating scheme as contemporary-tornado — Ace and I only added to it, what with our leashes and dog bowls and dog food and camera and laptop and dirty laundry. We just wedged ourselves and our stuff in, and felt right at home. (Virgo that I am, I will admit I feared putting anything on a counter for fear it would disappear immediately under a stack of paperwork, laptops and school supplies. By the way, have you seen my glasses?)

The clutter, though – I’d say it’s 85 percent school related — is just another sign of their commitment.

One of the things that has struck me in our travels across America — and maybe it’s because I don’t at the moment have a “real job” — is how commited American workers are.

Most people seem to truly cherish their work — though not always their jobs. And there’s a difference. One’s “work” is doing what they got into a career to do, whether it’s teaching kids, righting wrongs or driving trucks, whether it’s lawyering or newspapering. One’s “job” is what that work has evolved into — thanks to managers, supervisors, corporate chiefs and stockholders.

We the workers, in a way, are their Play-Doh, and they tend to mold, bend and stretch us, sometimes to the point of snapping.

They take your one job and squeeze two more jobs into it; then shovel layers of bureaucracy on top, burying you under piles of  seemingly meaningless paperwork, and doing away with anything that might serve as support. They tell us to do more with less, and, at times, seem to be doing everything in their power to prohibit us from doing our jobs right. Then they — those at the very top — reap the benefits of the more, while we scrape by on the less.

I don’t think that makes me a Communist, just a pissed off worker — or a pissed off former worker, to be precise. (I kind of like the boss I have now, who looks a lot like me.)

As a nation, we fail to show enough appreciation for those doing the heavy lifting. And yet the heavy lifters keep lifting — they, and teachers especially, manage to stay fired up about the work, if not the job, despite shrinking benefits, paltry salaries and all the forces that seem intent on extinguishing that fire.

So, a little early for Labor Day, I salute the American worker, who, like the American dog, keeps at it — leaping obstacles, heeding commands, summoning up energy even when exhausted, snapping at and shaking off all the annoying little bugs that come down from above, buzzing in our ears and getting on our backs.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)

Third graders bring a dog park to New Jersey

Glassboro, N.J. has a group of third graders to thank for its new dog park — expected to open next year.

More than a dozen students from Dorothy L. Bullock Elementary School showed up at a borough council meeting in March, taking turns reading from a prepared statement, urging the council members to consider creating a dog park. It was signed by all their classmates.

Three months later, and even amid serious cuts elsewhere in the borough budget, the dog park, students recently learned, is a go.

Just before the school year ended, Glassboro Council President Tony Fiola and Councilman Ed Malandro went to the children’s classroom to deliver the news, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Malandro and Fiola had spoken to their class earlier in the year, and they invited the students to the next council session, encouraging them to present their thoughts on how their community could be a better place. After that their teacher, Shelly Petrozza, had the students nominate things they thought would improve Glassboro. It ended up a tie, with half the students favoring a dog park, half choosing a skate park. The children presented the council with a case for each proposal.

After research, the skate park was ruled out because of cost – at least $75,000, Malandro said. The dog park idea, on the other hand, appeared to be possible.

“We said, ‘This is something we can afford to do,’ ” Malandro said. “It lets us do something for the kids, and it lets them see government does work in the right ways.”

The dog park will likely be in East New Street Park, next to the Bullock school, and plans call for a plaque commemorating the role the third graders played.

“We all said to them, ‘Boys and girls, look at what you did. You’re only 8 and 9 years old,’ ” said their teacher. “I think they realized you do have power no matter how little you are.”

(Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer)

Congratulations to the class of 2010

Ace didn’t get to go to my son’s high school graduation, but we let him wear the cap for a while afterwards — stopping short of awarding him a dog-torate degree.

There were close to 300 seniors graduating from Florence High School in Alabama, and, being a Woestendiek, Joe’s turn to accept his diploma came pretty close to last. 

As hard as those bleacher seats had grown by then, it was a small price to pay for seeing the moment.

I only misted up once, when the seniors filed in, and my mind flashed back to the day 18 years ago when Joe, at 6 months of age, arrived from Korea at Los Angeles International Airport, whiny, tired and his full head of  jet black hair sprouting every which way, kind of like he’d stuck his finger in a wall socket. The hair eventually calmed down, and so did he.

And 18 human years whizzed by — too many of them spent too far apart.

His mom and stepdad are newly moved to New Albany, Mississippi, where Joe will spend the summer before going on to Rhodes College in Tennessee in the fall.

Ace and I plan to hang around here for a while, maybe taking a few day trips, and testing how long ex-wife hospitality lasts.

We checked out of the Knights Inn (where Ace got away with being 110 or so pounds over the weight limit) and made the two hour drive to New Albany this morning in a caravan of four cars – Joe’s mom, Joe’s grandparents, Joe, and Ace and me pulling up the rear.

This being ohmidog! and not ohmison!, it’s probably not the place to go on about how proud I am of my son … but I’m pretty darned proud of my son.

You, too, can get an online degree in dogology

Classes are underway at Dog College.

What is Dog College? It’s a series of free online courses — not for real college credits — being offered by Dog Fancy magazine in conjunction with DogChannel.com. It’s sponsored by Iams Healthy Naturals brand dog food.

dogcollegeThis semester has already started, and includes nine courses that pet owners take over three months — including classes on physiology, natural nutrition, communication, genetics, environmental science, health science and art history.

Each course includes advice and information from dog experts, and includes reading material, video or slide shows. To graduate, students must complete all of the quizzes with a passing score of 60 percent or higher. To receive top honors, students must take all of the quizzes and score 90 percent or higher on each one.

A valedictorian, chosen from those who score 100 percent on all quizzes, will win a year’s worth of Iams Healthy Naturals dog food provided by PETCO. To learn more and sign up, visit at DogChannel.com.

First graders bid their mascot goodbye

murryA first grade class in Florida has bid farewell to Murry, the fluffy white dog who served as their class mascot. 

For 10 years, Murry, who belongs to teacher Karen McGehee, had served as mascot of her classes at Astoria Park Elementary School in Tallahassee.

Adopted from the Tallahassee animal shelter, Murry only visited the class a few times a year, but his picture was displayed prominently in the classroom, where McGehee would warn misbehaving students, ”Remember, Murry is watching,” or “I don’t think Murry would like that, do you?”

She stamped his doggy image on the children’s especially good papers. His face was on the cover of her students’ sticker books. And he was the subject of a book, written by the class, called “Our Class Pet,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

“I think all kids, or at least most kids, love animals, especially dogs,” said Karen Hollenbeck, whose four children all passed through McGehee’s class and bonded with Murry. ”They accept you as you are — they ask no questions and give no criticisms.”

When Murry died, in December, ”we all cried,” said McGehee, who’d prepared for the dog’s demise.

She’d talked with  a grief counselor who provided tiny heart-shaped pillows with paw prints on them, enough for every child when she told them of Murry’s death. Murry’s vet donated dog-angel pins for each child in the class, as well as cards bearing Murry’s paw print and locks of his white hair.

McGehee also wrote a personal letter to parents about losing Murry and sent her students home with handouts on children and pet loss that Mezzina had given her. Because Murry had been adopted from the animal shelter, McGehee set up a box for donations for animals at the Tallahassee shelter — toys, treats, old towels and blankets.

McGehee, who is nearing retirement, isn’t sure if she’ll get another mascot for her classes.

“Murry was one of a kind,” she said. “He was special,”