Lessons from a Dog

(Courtesy Matthew Scully)

In empathy, gratitude, loyalty, the sweetness of life, and all the good that comes from the love of a fellow creature

Every family has its own private calendar of commemorative dates, recalled for events good or ill. For my family, long ago On This Day in History — March 28, 1960 — something wonderful happened when a young stray dog found our door in Casper, Wyo. He was destined to leave so sweet a mark that no incident in our lives back then quite compares with his arrival. And since he happened to come along just before I turned a year old, I like to claim him as my perfect first birthday gift.

He was golden brown with a distinctive white stripe between the eyes, and white muzzle, chest, and socks to go with it. On a snowy, cold night, he came into the house on the heels of my father, who had just returned from a business trip. The reward for this daring move was a round of patting, a chorus of “Can we keep him?” from the children, food and water from my mother, and refuge in our garage. In the days afterward, various “Found Dog” notices went unanswered, though some months later, as I recall the story, a local waitress overheard my parents describing the mutt and recognized him as her long-gone “Yogi,” who had been constantly wandering off, chasing cars and the milk truck, and running into other trouble — which perhaps explained why custody went unchallenged. He never lost the independent streak, but in short order he had left his garage quarters behind him and settled into our home. He stayed with us 16 years, with a name that captured our change in circumstance as well as his, inscribed on a tag in case he ever disappeared on us: “lucky. please return me to . . .

My brothers, sisters, parents, and aunts would all attest that no finer companion could have followed us through those years. To the serendipity of one stray chancing upon one open door, I owe boyhood experiences I would not exchange for any others, and some lasting lessons I might otherwise have missed. Other blessings, since then, have come my way, but something about this one has refused any command of time to fade away, pulling, well, doggedly at my memory. One of my brothers, who also was especially attached to Lucky and who took care of him most of his life, told me decades later that in some ways Lucky was my most formative influence, leading even to a book in 2002 on the theme of animal welfare — Dominion — that I dedicated to him. And I’ll take that compliment, at risk of reproach for misplaced affections or for unseemly excess in tribute to an animal. A guy could do a lot worse than making a dog his inspiration, especially this dog.

Having been just a toddler when Lucky appeared, I don’t recall much of his colorful prime that followed in Wyoming and then Colorado, Ohio, and New York (the dog wasn’t the only restless one in our family). It happened that charge over him fell to me in his later years, after four of five siblings had departed for college in the early 1970s, leaving just me and my youngest sister. My most enduring impressions of Lucky begin then. I suppose I came to see him with new eyes, now that the house was quieter and he was suddenly my regular pal and first serious responsibility. The wisdom, therefore, was what a young teenager stood to acquire from an elderly dog, at a time that found us in New Rochelle, outside New York City. As I think about him now, 44 years since we parted on the trail, it comes down to four canine lessons that have shaped my outlook and enriched my life, offered here as just another entry in the vast literature exploring all that can be learned in the company of a dog.

One lesson I credit to Lucky (“Lucky Silver,” if we’re being formal) is an awakening to a profound reality — a heavy lift for a dog, but he did this by simply drawing me outside myself into an appreciation of other creatures, as interesting, worthy, and important in their own right. When you’ve watched a dog (perhaps especially a senior dog) dreaming — stirring, whimpering, playing out memories or scenes of things feared or hoped for — it alerts you to the fact that you’re not the only one in the room with an emotional life going on. I’ve long thought that domesticated animals have, from this angle, even more to tell us than wild ones do, being relieved of the relentless pressures and blind instincts of the wild (much as we have been, after all) in a way that reveals their latent capacities and distinct personalities. With a dog even more than with a wolf, you get to see what’s really there, who that creature is.

For me, from the age of about 13 to 17, this meant the presence, day and night, of an animal who could be sensitive, proud, sad, elated, content, uneasy, concerned, lonely, curious, apprehensive, depressed, insulted, forgiving, devoted, brave, and loving — while, outside our family, being in his senior years somewhat reserved but generally benevolent, unless you happened to be a rival dog or a squirrel presuming to come too close. Put whatever qualifiers you want on these words and attributes, but for a dog it is the same emotional landscape as it is for us. And that’s a big truth for a kid to figure out.

As an adult, I read a few of the more noted books by behavioral researchers, cognition experts, and the like who attempted to demonstrate that the appearance of animal emotions, or even of consciousness, is just that — merely an appearance. Sure, with good old Lucky the jubilant tail-wagging might start when I came within sight or scent from 200 yards off on the way home from school every afternoon, but I shouldn’t read too much into that: All such displays by dogs, we are informed, are just pack instinct, “hardwired,” and their love for us just a projection of our imagination. The faithfulness and self-giving of war dogs, police and rescue dogs, guide dogs, comfort dogs in hospital wards and hospices are all likewise explained away and trivialized by theories that would deny these and other creatures their due.

Enough to say that some people, while giving every appearance of rationality, must be hardwired to deny the obvious. (And by the way, the behavioral theories about what makes us tick usually aren’t so flattering either.) I knew as a teenager that this was no slavering, stimulus–response machine passing the days with me, or some being merely placed there for my benefit and enjoyment, with no story or feelings of his own that really mattered. Mature dogs, in particular, acquire an emotional depth that behaviorist doctrine can only strain to account for. Sometimes in his final half year or so, as Lucky and I sat outside in tranquil moments — or else went to some wondrous new place like the shore in Larchmont, N.Y. — he took it all in with that same kind of contemplative, last-glance air I have seen in very old people surveying their favorite sights, a dog of stiff, slowing gait feeling and pondering things even if I couldn’t always say exactly what they were.

Aging dogs surely sense that they have many more yesterdays than tomorrows, which might explain as well those looks I used to get late at night, when Lucky was sore and weary and maybe a little afraid, and seemed to need assurance that I was near and everything was all right — as at other times, in his own manner, he offered assurance in return. Once, I noticed an expression so sad (and with a touch of rebuke, as I recall it now) that it made for a kind of revelation. Early one night I was frantically throwing on a change of clothes, about to race off to a high-school friend’s party I had just heard about. Seeing Lucky sitting across the room staring at me, clearly understanding that our evening plans were off, I suddenly realized that no party could possibly be more important than being with that 15-year-old dog. I belonged with only one friend just then, and so stayed, that night and others thereafter. I guess I wasn’t one for half-measures back then: To maximize my Lucky time, I soon vanished altogether from high school, at no loss to the school or to me.

Such impressions, hitting me at an age when they could really sink in, help explain why, when people referred to me as Lucky’s “owner,” I insisted on correcting them. How could this thinking, feeling creature and venerable friend of mine be anyone’s property? He might belong with me, yes; to me, no. And this awareness of one animal’s standing, as more than just some congenial yet ultimately incidental and replaceable extra in my own story, grew over time into a general respect for all animals as having a place and dignity of their own. Any time other creatures, wild or domesticated, can open our eyes to the reality that they belong here too, that they have pretty exceptional abilities and qualities themselves — that it’s a big world, and we humans aren’t the whole show — they do us a favor. Discerning their goodness, as our companions in creation who share in life’s happiness and travail alike, makes the world better and more beautiful, if also, at times, less convenient to our own wishes. The religious-minded might call this the reality of every creature revealing its Maker’s touch, all dear to Him for their own sake, and we’re lucky ourselves if we discover it early on.

That leads to empathy — a second timely lesson for a teenager, though for some, of course, it never takes. Lucky was about twelve when the leash was passed to me, beginning his health slide a little past the age of 14. No longer the speed title-holder who once chased our own car and was still gaining on us at close to 30 mph; or the ferocious family hero who one night had scared off burglars in Littleton, Colo.; or the gritty survivor of weeks on the streets after going astray again in ’63 or ‘64; or the twice-a-day regular with the graceful trot around Beechmont Lake in New Rochelle, he was getting frail, unsteady, and in need of help and reassurance that I felt privileged to give. It was just a repaying of debts for all the times he had come to me and to others in our family to guard, cheer, or comfort — never failing, though there were times when I scarcely deserved it.

One day on our walk, I faked a fall from a tree, just to observe Lucky’s reaction because he always growled uncharacteristically when I began to climb one. Perhaps he still thought of me as the baby of the family, needing extra protective attention, but in any case I had only to reach up and grab hold of a tree branch and, whatever he was doing on our walks — sniffing around, wading into a stream — the moment he noticed me climbing, those ears went up and he’d trot over to intervene, growling and a few times taking matters into his own mouth by pulling me down by the pant leg. On this occasion, as I pretended to fall with a yelp and lay limp on the ground, he ran to me, as fast as a guileless senior dog could, nudging me, looking nervously around, whimpering as he tried to figure out how to handle the crisis. Across the lake, in view, was our house at 92 Pinebrook Road. He looked in that direction, then down at me, then over to the house, then at me, and so on for a few more seconds, before bolting to run back around the lake toward our house. Then, just as abruptly, he doubled back and returned for more pacing and nudging, having clearly decided “No, I have to stay with him!” Reciprocal loyalty, when you’ve got a dog like that, doesn’t get any easier.

Or I think of one night later on when he was distressed by tensions in the house — ever attuned to his emotional surroundings — and knew what to do. Despite arthritic pain and other infirmities, he pulled himself alone up a staircase — steps he hadn’t ascended for months without me carrying him — just to be with me at a lonely moment. I missed what must have been the harrowing sight of that climb, realizing he was upstairs only when I heard the familiar claw sounds as he reached the top landing, and saw that white muzzle push open my door as he entered and came over to press his head against me. Evidence, as if any were needed, that the empathy ran both ways.

Those months especially, of looking after Lucky in his twilight, I wouldn’t trade for other memories. Years later, in Los Angeles, my wife Emmanuelle and I had an uncannily similar experience with an Australian shepherd–type dog named Herbie, who was 13 or so and dumped at a shelter by someone who, we surmised, thought he was done for and didn’t want to deal with the long goodbye. Whoever that person was missed out on the chance — lasting, as it turned out, more than two years — to see how grand, deeply endearing, and loving a senior dog can be in that final stretch of life.

Both experiences brought home for me the vulnerability of all animals who are left to depend on human sympathy and to trust in our good will, their well-being and fate entirely in our hands; and also their innocence in suffering, and the connections that come with the destiny we share. I marvel sometimes at the callousness and arrogance of those who routinely harm animals — shooting, trapping, poisoning, prodding, slaughtering, or experimenting on them with no thought of how it feels on the receiving end, or else even relishing the experience of absolute domination. To see such people so freely dispatching death in every direction, you’d think that death has no plan for them. With all of us bound as we are toward the same horizon, there ought to be a little more humility, self-restraint, and sense of solidarity than that.

To connections of a different kind, I trace a third canine lesson that has steered me right, from sentiment to moral conviction. Not everyone draws this lesson the same way from their own experiences; I’ve known plenty of people better and smarter than I am who disagree, as to both specific conclusions and the importance of the matter itself. But where humanity’s general policy of leniency to dogs is concerned (and there are some grim exceptions), I’ve never seen a way around one basic problem.

Here, as I got to thinking in those days with Lucky, was this one animal I knew and cared for. What about other, comparable creatures and my attitude toward them? In the normal process of reasoning from particular to general, I realized that while compassion for one animal is admirable and meaningful, what’s it really worth if not part of a consistent way of life?

Dogs are intelligent creatures, capable of suffering and of boundless joy. Everyone with a dog knows the crazed raptures that can follow the mention of going for a walk — or, in Lucky’s case, even a hushed invitation to go “‘round the lake?” But even if more pronounced in dogs, or more vividly expressed, these capacities of mind and emotion are hardly unique among animals. So do other creatures inhabit that world of awareness, happiness, and grief, including the ones we humans subject to such harsher lives — to serve, if we’re being candid, unnecessary ends justified by not much more than habit and profit. Why is causing one to suffer not the same as causing the other to suffer? Why love the one and ignore the misery of many others — simply putting them out of mind — given that as creatures of conscience we alone have a choice in such matters? Follow that line of thought and there’s no going back. You’ll no more want to eat an animal from a factory farm than make a meal of the one you just walked around the block.

Such was my youthful thinking, and in 46 years as a vegetarian, the last 23 or so as a vegan, I have never heard a remotely persuasive argument as to why any animal product could be more important than my duty to spare other creatures from needless affliction. All the more these days, as the market brings forth one substitute after another for goods extracted by animal exploitation — new products equal or superior in quality and, as for meat, invariably healthier — what reason is left not to switch to them?

Sometimes it takes a dog to help us think straight. In this case, the lesson was moral coherence. With that came a lifelong loathing of cruelty to animals, in any form or under cover of any excuse, as the abuse of power and betrayal of trust that it is. So many vicious, squalid enterprises profit from animal suffering, employing practices that long ago lost any defensible rationale, on such a fathomless scale that — to take just the meat industry — about 60 percent of all the earth’s mammals today are pigs, cows, and other animals in factory farms. In a given year, some 70 billion creatures altogether must endure that wretched existence, knowing nothing of life in this world except confinement, pain, and fear. In places carefully hidden from view, these institutional cruelties are permitted in law and encouraged by demand, all because of vague and often arbitrary distinctions bearing little relation to actual need or to objective reality. They are rationalizations for doing the ruthless, easy thing, or for passively allowing others to do it for us. Two kinds of moral logic protect dogs while leaving their animal equals to merciless abuse. Two versions of ourselves allow the contradiction. None of it squares or adds up to anything we could call a set of civilized standards. But a nicer, happier way of stating this lesson is that for humanity, dogs show us the way. We can learn to treat all animals by standards that are more consistent, more honorable, more gentle and peaceful.

The last lesson I owe to Lucky calls to mind a moment that, whenever things haven’t broken my way in life, has always served to keep the scale in balance, one afternoon when we discovered he was missing. On foot, I searched for miles along our usual paths and beyond. My father just then arrived home from out of town and we continued the pursuit by car. Lucky was old and arthritic, it was winter, starting to snow, and getting dark. At the last glow of daylight, as our dog faced his doom alone, we had to decide where else to look. I urged one way but my dad’s better instincts said let’s try another, on a street where we had lived a few years before. When we came around that curve on Elk Avenue and spotted that limping, wet dog in the distance — and when he turned his head and saw us — it was pure happiness, all around, followed by all the further euphoria of bringing home the wanderer and wrapping him in blankets.

Not so long afterward, I took out the blankets again, on a winter afternoon in February 1976 that must have set a Westchester County record because it felt like spring. On a mattress I had dragged into our backyard for Lucky to lie on — the squirrels darting about, no longer alarmed by his presence — we had one more day to feel the breeze and the warmth of the sun together. That was the first time I heard the expression “savor the moment,” from my mother, and I’ve never heard or read it since without recalling the scene.

I put those memories down, along with others like them, as a general lesson in the sweetness of life, in gratitude, and in all the good that comes from the love of a fellow creature. Not a bad legacy to leave a friend. Not a bad showing for one hound to make.

He died in our house, and when my dad and I carried Lucky in for cremation of his remains — dust to dust, courtesy of Miller and Clark Animal Hospital — I told the vet to leave the collar and tag on, so he might go forth into the unknown with proper ID. Not for us to say what becomes of a beautiful, brave, and noble dog at journey’s end. But if he has turned up at some other door, I trust they’ll note the name of the family and the request for return

Alabama girl, 4, missing for 2 days found safe with her dog

Brie Stimson | Fox News
Published on March 28, 2020

A 4-year-old Alabama girl was found safe with her dog Friday afternoon — a mile from her rural home after she went missing for two days.

“I’m so happy and grateful to God for watching over my beautiful granddaughter and bringing her safely back to us,” Evelyn “Vadie” Sides’ grandmother, Harriet Sides, said.

Vadie was walking her dog under the supervision of a caretaker Wednesday afternoon when the caretaker said she turned her head for a second and the girl “essentially disappeared.”
Alabama girl Evelyn Vadie Sides, age 4, missing; search underway
Authorities deployed helicopters and drones Thursday to help find her.

“The dog was with her protecting her the whole time,” Lee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Andrew Peacock, said, The Birmingham News reported.

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said Vadie was in good shape: responsive, alert and talking.
“No words are capable of describing everyone’s relief,” Jones said after the girl was reunited with her parents, according to FOX 6 in Birmingham. “We are just, ecstatic might be a good word… and the best part is she is with her mama.”

Around 300 volunteers had joined in the search through the wooded area.

“Our thanks just don’t seem like enough, but they have our sincere and heartfelt thanks for the sacrifices they made — all the volunteers that came with one goal in mind and that was finding this little girl and getting her back to her mom and dad, which just happened a few minutes ago,” Jones added.


Sex: Female
Breed: Terrier x
Age: 1 year

Welcome to Marleys Mutts Nutmeg!

Nutmeg was rescued from Kern County Animal Services after she’d been picked up as a stray. Poor Nutmeg had a long miserable bout with kennel cough. What ever strain she caught lasted forever and she was on multiple rounds of antibiotics to clear it up. She’s totally healthy now and ready to find her forever home!

Nutmeg is shy at 1st and takes a minute to warm up to dogs she doesn’t know. Once she realizes they’re nice she’s good with other dogs. She gets super attached to her people and would love nothing more than her very own human to snuggle up with. She’s crate trained and house trained.

Nutmeg is a sweet sensitive girl who’s looking for a lap and a family to call her own so if you’re looking for a cute little terrier apply to make Nutmeg part of your family.

Fill out my online form.

Fighting coronavirus fears and isolation with the love of our pets

by Joan Morris | Published: Mar 27, 2020 7:00 AM via Apple News

Not a lot to be cheery about these days, but if we look around us, we can see lots of love and support from our pets. To honor their eternal loyalty and friendship, here are photos and stories from folks who are finding comfort in their pets.

If you’d like to share a story and photo, email them to jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Include the pet’s name, your name, the city you live in, and a few sentences on how your pet is helping.


I got my dog, Spotacus, at Humane Society Silicon Valley a couple of months ago because I needed someone to sit in my lap and my cats aren’t lap cats. He’s 22 pounds but still tries to curl up small enough to stay in my lap without falling off.

It’s even more important to have that comfort now that I can’t hug my friends. As a vet, I’m still working, so I’m lucky that I’m still seeing other animals, too.



3 Ways To Get Your Dog To Sleep In On Weekends

We’ve all been there before. After a long week of hard work and fulfilling other responsibilities, all you want to do is turn off your alarm this weekend and sleep in. And so far, it’s going as planned–until you hear them. At 6AM sharp on a Saturday morning, your dog is sitting at your bedside, watching and moaning for you to get up.

Unlike us, our pups have no idea what the weekend means. Dogs are, quite often, creatures of habit. They get accustomed to a routine that we usually set.

If you’re someone who has to wake up at 6AM on the weekdays, that’s exactly what your pup will do, too, even on weekends. But even though they have a set routine, that doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone.

Here are three simple ways you can adjust your pet’s routine and get that extra hour or two of sleep on the weekends.

1. Adjust Your Dog’s Feeding Schedule

Most of the time when our dogs are up bright and early, it’s because of one simple reason–they’re hungry. And when they’re hungry, there’s no chance of you getting any extra winks in.

Pushing your dog’s feeding schedule back by an hour will encourage them to wake up a little later than usual. Adjust both breakfast and dinner times slowly by 15-minute increments every couple of days until you reach an hour’s difference.

Also, try not to feed them as soon as you wake up on weekdays. Wait at least 30 minutes before breakfast time. This will help your pup get used to the idea that it’s not time to eat just because you’re awake, so they may be less inclined to wake you up for food.

2. Exercise Before Bed Time

Another reason your pooch might wake you up early in the morning is because they need to go potty. An easy way to fix this is to let them out right before bedtime. Taking them on long walks during the day will also help tire them out.

According to vets, depending on their breed and overall health, all dogs should get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. If it gets too dark in your area, playing fetch in the backyard or doing indoor exercises will also help.

These types of activities will not only empty your pet’s bladder for the night, but it will also tire them out enough that they may wake up later than usual.

3. Make A Perfect Place To Sleep

Wherever your dog sleeps at night, make sure that it’s a place specifically for sleeping. Most dogs are light sleepers and in tune with their sharp senses. That means if sunlight is peeking through the windows where they sleep, it can definitely wake them up.

Make sure you close the drapes in their sleeping room to keep the morning sunlight from waking them up. If your dog is sensitive to sound, make sure your television is off and all their squeaky toys are put away. Playing ambient sounds or soft classical music can help them fall into a deep slumber.

If your dog is being crated, you can cover it with a blanket to keep their sleeping place dark and comfy while they snooze.

Things To Keep In Mind Before Changing Their Routine

There are two basic things to keep in mind before changing any of your dog’s routines.

The first thing to consider is your dog’s age. If they’re a young pup–not even one year old—then it’s best to take them out whenever you hear them crying or when they wake you. Their bladders are still not fully developed, and they need to go more frequently. The same can be said for older dogs who might start to show signs of incontinence.

The other thing to consider is their health. Keep an eye on their frequency of needing to go out, especially during the night. If it seems like your pooch is waking you up at least once every couple of hours, they might have a urinary tract infection or digestive issues and may need a trip to the vet.

No matter what methods you try, hopefully you and your dog will be able to enjoy that extra hour or two of sleep on the weekends!

Does your dog let you sleep in on weekends? Do you have any advice for other pet parents who could use some extra sleep? Let us know in the comments below!

Every animal up for adoption at Wisconsin Humane Society finds home amid coronavirus pandemic

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — The Wisconsin Humane Society has been overwhelmed with support for their animals amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Worried they wouldn’t have enough staff and volunteers to care for animals, on Sunday, March 15, WHS asked for the public’s help to foster cats and dogs.

Despite the chaos and uncertainty of the pandemic, WHS said the community stepped up in a big way.

In just five days, 159 animals found a new home, and another 160 animals found foster homes.

“Take a moment to let that sink in… 319 animals are snoozing on couches instead of sitting in kennels,” WHS said in a Facebook post. “We couldn’t possibly express how grateful they are.”

WHS said there is not a single animal available for adoption — they’re all in homes! Of course, WHS said there will be more animals coming in that will need help in the coming days.

For now, WHS will be facilitating adoptions at the Milwaukee and Green Bay campuses by appointment only. Racine, Ozaukee, and Door County campuses are closed at this time.

“We’re so grateful to our community for taking all of these changes in stride. We wish we could thank you all in person, but for now, we send our love virtually. You. are. amazing,” WHS said on Facebook.

If you see an animal you’re interested in helping foster or adopt, CLICK HERE.


Adopt a Dog and Busch Will Give You a Free 3-Month Supply of Beer

Now might be a better time to adopt or foster a pet than you think, the beer brand says.
Mike Pomranz

If you’re lucky enough to have a dog or other pet during self-isolation, they’re likely helping you weather this new era of social distancing, working from home, and ordering all of your dinners and drinks via delivery. But before this coronavirus crisis took over the news cycle, a growing trend was food and beverage companies stepping up to help find homes for dogs—something that’s equally (maybe even more) important now.

Back in November, North Dakota’s Fargo Brewing Company made national headlines by putting photos of adoptable dogs on beer cans. Then, last month, one of the biggest names in beer jumped on the idea: Coors Light ran a program that helped cover dog adoption fees. Earlier this month, a New York pizzeria received attention for partnering with the Niagara SPCA to put rescue dog flyers on pizza boxes. And now, another well-known beer brand is providing a liquid incentive to help out our canine friends during the COVID-19 outbreak: Busch has launched a new “Foster a Dog, Get Beer” program.

Teaming up with Midwest Animal Rescue & Services (MARS), from today (March 25) until April 22, Busch is offering a free three-month supply of beer to anyone who fosters or adopts a dog from the rescue. (It comes out to about two beers per day, according to the brand.) Of course, pet adoption isn’t necessarily an activity you should undertake explicitly to get free alcohol―but if you’ve been seriously considering adopting a dog anyway, why not get some free beer at the same time?

And perhaps more importantly, the campaign also brings attention to the fact that pets are still looking for homes in these turbulent times. MARS points out that now is actually a great time to adopt a “COVID Buddy” if you’re able to―not just because pets can provide companionship but also because many rescues have been forced to close, putting even more dogs in tough situations. So despite a short staff, the Minneapolis-based MARS is continuing to work through this crisis.

“It’s an unprecedented time in our world right now, and when we saw the stories about animal shelters shutting down we wanted to lend our support,” Daniel Blake, vice president of value brands for Anheuser-Busch InBev, told me via email. “A lot of Busch drinkers live in the Midwest, so the Midwest Animal Rescue & Services (MARS) was the perfect partner for us. We know our community will get behind us and answer the call.”

Beyond giving adopters free beer, Busch also kicked off the partnership by donating $25,000 to the shelter. If you’re looking for a pet, Busch says that MARS is largely focused on adoptions in the Midwest, but they do have the capabilities to work nationally.

Pit Bull Dragged His 7-Month-Old Sister By Her Diaper Out Of The Family’s Burning Home

For the most part, babies and dogs are a great combination to have in any home. However, when it comes to dog breeds, Pitbulls are often judged as not being a family-friendly breed. But anyone who’s owned one knows that isn’t true. And one mother in California learned that first-hand after her family underwent a major tragedy.

Latana Chai and her child Masailah were chilling at their home when their neighbor’s house suddenly went up in flames. The fire then began to spread to Latana’s home, but she was completely unaware of the impending danger – until her pitbull Sasha began barking.

Latana heard Sasha making a commotion in the backyard, so she went to investigate. That is when Latana was shocked to see the inferno coming for her home. In the time that it took Latana to process what was happening, Sasha had already dashed into the home and to the back room where baby Masailah was sleeping.

Sasha and Masailah were born around the same time, and their bond was undeniable. As a result, Sasha, who is roughly the same size as the seven-month-old baby, grabbed Masailah by the diaper and began to drag her to safety.

Thanks to this heroic dog, the family has enough of a warning to get out in time and avoid disaster.

Watch the video below:

Do Nervous Dog Owners Have Nervous Dogs?

At a beginners’ dog obedience class, one of the trainers and I noticed that one member of the class, a young woman with a large male German Shepherd, seemed insecure and stressed. She was nervously clenching and unclenching her hands and tended to fidget rather than stand in place. The interesting thing was that her behavior seemed to be mirrored by her dog. He exhibited clear signs of stress — he was licking his lips and yawning — and his ears would flick downward whenever the instructor in the center of the room raised her voice or moved quickly. The trainer who I was sitting beside observed the situation and commented to me, “You know what they say: The tension flows down the leash.”

Her comments reflected something that has been casually observed by many dog trainers, which is that an anxious and nervous dog owner often seems to have a tense and nervous dog. Recent research from the University of Vienna seems to back up these casual observations. The team of investigators was headed by Iris Schöberl of the Department of Behavioral Biology, and the study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Like many recent studies on the emotional reactions of dogs (and people), the researchers looked at the levels of cortisol, a hormone related to an individual’s response to stress. If you are simply taking a “snapshot” of someone’s emotional state, the higher the cortisol level, the more stressed the individual is likely to be. However, if you are trying to get a picture of the overall levels of emotion and anxiety that a person or a dog generally experiences, it is more important to look at how the cortisol levels vary when he or she is exposed to stressors over time.

The reasoning comes from research by Canadian behavioral endocrinologist Hans Selye on what he called the General Adaptation Syndrome. He noted that when an individual encounters a stressor, the body rallies to defend itself, which includes the release of the stress-related corticosteroid hormones. However, if the stressors continue over long periods of time, or are simply very frequent, the ability of the body to combat the effects of subsequent stress becomes weaker and weaker. A highly stressed individual will not be able to react as well to the most recent stressor, and this will show up as a smaller change in the concentration of cortisol. So if you find an individual who shows only a small change in cortisol levels when confronted by stressors, it is likely that you are looking at someone who has been reacting to anxieties, worries, and so forth frequently and for a long time.

This new study involved 132 dog owners and their pets. The amount of the stress hormone cortisol was measured in the saliva of both the dogs and their owners a number of times, while the dogs were exposed to a variety of new situations designed to be mildly anxiety-provoking. One example is when an individual wearing a ski mask and a hood approaches the dog in a threatening manner. Another is when the owner is asked to walk the dog across a somewhat unstable wire mesh bridge. Yet another involves simply separating the owner from the dog for a period of time.

A large number of behavioral measures were also taken, including measures of the owner’s personality. Perhaps the most interesting findings from this research had to do with two personality dimensions — neuroticism and agreeableness.

For psychologists who study personality, neuroticism refers to the tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depressionpessimism and vulnerability. You can think of people who are high in neuroticism as being sensitive and nervous, while people who score low in neuroticism are secure and confident. In this study, the dog owners who scored high in neuroticism had dogs with low variability in their cortisol. This suggests that dogs with highly neurotic owners are less able to deal with pressure and stress.

We can contrast this to the personality dimension of agreeableness, which reflects a tendency to be cooperative and friendly, rather than suspicious and antagonistic toward others. You can view this as a measure of the degree to which a particular person has a trusting and helpful nature and an indication of whether that person is well-tempered or not. This study finds that the dogs with owners who are highly agreeable have greater variability in their cortisol response, suggesting that they are better able to cope with situations involving tension and strain.

There are some interesting sex interactions which are also pointed out by these new data. Previous research has shown that male dogs belonging to female owners are generally less sociable and relaxed than male dogs belonging to male owners. Some researchers have also pointed out that females tend to score somewhat higher on measures of anxiety and neuroticism. This current research seems to confirm these trends since male dogs owned by female owners tend to have less variability in their cortisol responses, suggesting that their ability to cope with anxiety and stress is less efficient.

The researchers are quick to emphasize that the real importance of their results is that the social and personality characteristics of both the dog and the owner tend to interact. How the dog owner responds to situations could shape the personality and the behaviors of their pets. As Schöberl summarizes the conclusions of the team, “Owners behave differently because they are pessimistic or neurotic, and perhaps dogs read the emotions of their owners and think the world is more dangerous — so they are more reactive to it. It looks like people who are pessimistic have dogs which are worse at coping with stress than others.”

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission.


Texas Pack Hounds Charge to the Rescue for Rhinos in South Africa, Nabbing 145 Poachers So Far

(EnviroNews World News) — Kruger National Park, South Africa — Between 2008 and 2018, poachers killed about 4,000 rhinos in South Africa’s Kruger National Park and its surrounding private reserves. These thugs typically take only the horn to sell for unfounded medicinal use in Asia. They oftentimes leave the still-living rhinos to die — some choking on their own blood while the outlaws make their getaway.

In years past, Kruger used man-dog pairs to track the poachers, but the teams were too slow, failing to catch the brazen bandits because the dogs had to remain on a leash. South African National Parks, which oversees Kruger, knew it needed a different approach with the rhino population dwindling toward extinction. They asked the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) to look into pack dog programs.

“Building a pack dog team is a massive undertaking,” Theresa Sowry, CEO of SAWC, told National Geographic in an interview. “You need the right genetics, the right training, and, most importantly, the right mindset to bring it all together.” Kruger wanted to test free-running pack dogs but didn’t have the resources to allocate to the project.

That changed in 2017 when Ivan Carter, Founder of the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance, stepped in to help finance the project. “We had no idea if free-running dogs would work for anti-poaching purposes in Africa.” So, Carter introduced Sowry to Texan and dog breeder Joe Braman in an effort to find out.

Braman, a rancher and law enforcement officer, grew up breeding free-running American coonhounds and training them to hunt in packs with his father. Sowry visited Braman in Texas to see the dogs in action.

Braman demonstrated the capability of his pack hounds by using a person in a tackle suit as the target. The pack split up and competed with each other, scrambling to be the first to find the target’s scent. Once they picked up the smell, the pack chased the person, who went up a tree, where he was then surrounded. Sowry was suitably impressed and invited Braman to South Africa.

“I was just going to go over and do an evaluation and help them train a few dogs,” he remembers. But it turned into a lot more than that.

Implementing the program wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Braman met Kruger’s Lead Dog Trainer Johan Van Staaten, who had a different, gentler philosophy on how a canine should be handled all together. But Braman still believed aggressive dogs were the key to solving the poacher problem.

“It’s all about intimidation,” Braman said at the time. “If a dog starts attacking you, the first thing you’re going to do is throw the gun and climb a tree.”

Van Staaten wasn’t comfortable with Braman’s training techniques or results though. He had never trained his dogs to attack, and believes in a more natural training technique that allows the animal to find what it likes to do and is suited for.

“They’re really hard on their dogs. They work with whips. Shouting at dogs — shocking them if they don’t do the right thing,” said Van Staaten. “[The dogs] have to want to work.”

After watching a video of a rhino aspirating on its own blood, Braman decided the South African training process was too slow. He went back to Texas to train dogs. When Van Staaten joined him, he found aggressive dogs that were biting the human decoy so hard it was leaving bruises under the protective outfit. Van Staaten called Sowry and told her what was going on. “‘Do we really want to go this way?” he asked. “We are going to kill people!” After some discussion, Braman agreed the training might be too intense.

“I was training dogs to be mean. And I mean ‘mean,’ dude! I wanted to send a message to the poachers… I was allowing the emotion of the [rhino] video to dictate how we trained the dogs,” Braman admitted. “We pulled back a bit.” He spent two more months working with the dogs and then sent them to South Africa, and the rest is history.

So far, the dogs that Braman trained in Texas have helped apprehend 54 percent of the known poachers in Kruger — a marked improvement from the three to five percent of their standard K-9 units. Through September 2019, the dogs had helped capture 145 poachers and 53 guns.

Men and dogs work as a team with helicopters protecting the dogs from predators and armed men protecting the dogs from gunfire. “It’s a high-risk job for human and dog,” Van Staaten told NatGeo. “But with training and with standard operating procedures, we try to minimize the risk.”

South Africa and the rhinos aren’t the only beneficiaries of the new dog training techniques either. Braman is now teaching man’s best friend to combat human trafficking in the U.S. and successfully using animals that don’t bite.

“I learned a lot in Africa,” he said. “When I got there, I just wanted control. I had to learn patience. I had to collaborate. And it made me a better person.”

According to National Geographic, there are about 20,000 southern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) left in the wild and just over 5,000 black rhinos (Diceros bicornis). South Africa has approximately 80 percent of the wild rhino population within its borders. According to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), western black rhinos (Diceros bicornis longipes) have recently gone extinct, while only three northern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) are left – all of which are females leaving no possibility of a natural breeding. All three live in Kenya, where they are kept under 24-hour guard.