DOG WRITER DOROTHY
Sniffing out the Poop on Canines
Dorothy Hinshaw Patent is an award-winning author of nonfiction books for young readers, many of them about canines, both dogs and wolves. Along the way, she’s uncovered lots of information to share, including her own research stories and quality sources for canine information. Enjoy her weekly dog blog covering tales of service dogs, rescue dogs, military dogs, and other beloved dogs.
I’ve been on the road in Europe, enjoying many things, including visiting museums and noting lots of dogs in art, like the one above doing what dogs have always done when no one is looking! I think it’s fun to see canine friends immortalized in paint and wonder about their lives so long ago. I always find when I’m in Europe my American timeline gets seriously disturbed–at home, a building that’s a hundred years old is ‘wow.’ In Europe, a tour guide will call it ‘quite new.’ The same goes for art.
It’s interesting that the different types of dogs have existed for hundreds of years. Take this image from Bruegel’s 1565 painting “Hunters in the Snow,” depicting the return from a fox hunt. It’s easy to identify various breeds with different jobs. There are long-eared dogs in the foreground for finding the fox’s scent, greyhoundlike dogs for chase, and small terriers to dig out the fox from its den.
This dog–I think it’s also from Bruegel, but I forgot to label it–looks like a pointer. The expression on its face as it looks up to its person is universally recognizable!
Sometimes the dogs don’t resemble something familiar, at least to me. This one is from another Bruegel painting, and I wonder if its ears have been trimmed and if so, did they put on dog fights way back then?
Lastly, here’s a gorgeous dog from a cooperatively created painting from Van Dyke’s studio around 1620. It’s called “The Calydonean Boar Hunt.” Frans Snyders painted the animals in the work, Jan Wildens did the landscape, and Van Dyke completed the whole painting. I can’t see this dog as similar to a breed I’m familiar with, but I wouldn’t mind having just like it in my home!
Photographer Sophie Gamand used to feel irrational fear at the sight of a pit bull. Then she decided to explore her fear and found a great way to help change the image people have of pit bulls–create lovely photographs after crowning them with garlands of delicate flowers, hardly what you would expect a pit bull to be wearing. Not only are the flowers lovely and the dogs irresistible, the flowers provide a symbol of the transitory nature of life for too many pit bulls in today’s world. Read more and see more images at http://huff.to/1FlzCJ8.
Some of the resources I list elsewhere on this blog may be unfamiliar even to serious dog folks, such as www.doglawreporter.blogspot.com. I stumbled across this goldmine of reliable dog information while writing my book “Dogs on Duty: Soldiers’ Best Friends on the Battlefield and Beyond.” Dog Law Reporter is by John Ensminger, a New York lawyer who grew up with dogs. His father, M.E. Emsminger, authored the classic volume “The Complete Book of Dogs.”
Here’s John with his buddy, Chloe
As you would expect, John often posts about legal matters related to dogs, but his posts cover a lot more territory than just that subject. Sometimes his topics are purely practical, such as http://doglawreporter.blogspot.com/2015/08/all-major-us-airport-terminals-will.html , which lets people with service dogs know that all airports except for the smallest will soon have special locations where dogs in transit can relieve themselves. Other times he provides in depth information about dogs in history, such as The Dogs of the Great Plains Nations, a fascinating detailed chronicle of the uses of dogs by Great Plains tribes over time.
Common topics of this blog are modern issues such as service dogs, military working dogs, and service dogs. It’s easy to search for subjects that interest you, so take a look at this great web resource. You can search the archives by subject at the top of the home page screen or by year or recent month of publication near the bottom of the righthand sidebar. The sidebar also lists popular recent posts.
One of the great things about dogs is they help us get our bodies moving and take us to fun places.
You may not have a dog-friendly beach available like these folks in California, but there are leash-free dog parks in many towns and cities these days. For me, just watching the dogs enjoying their freedom to run and play spurs my own happy energy.
You can find dog parks near you easily online simply by searching “dog parks” along with your location.
While working on “Saving Audie: A Pit Bull Puppy Gets a Second Chance,” I naturally became concerned about the fate of the other Vick dogs. One image stood out in my mind, a photo of a thin, scared puppy from the Vick operation that appears in the book. Her face haunted me for months, and I couldn’t find out her fate.
Then, one day, that sad neglected canine burst forth on Facebook with her own fan page–Ginger Girl, Public Figure. There she was, smiling for the camera and happily amusing her loving person, Stacy.
Now, Ginger Girl has the perfect life–trips to the beach, romps in the field, naps on the bed.
What more could a dog ask for? Well, dogs like jobs, and Ginger gets to go to work with Stacy, at the SPCA for Monterey County, CA. The most important part of her job is accepting treats from her co-workers at the shelter. Makes them feel good.
Like many rescue dogs, Ginger is a bit shy, but over time she has conquered most of her fears with Stacy’s help. Her favorite activities, aside from graciously accepting treats, are taking naps, riding in the car, and hitting the trail. She could do without cameras and thunderstorms.
Last fall, I looked forward to the opportunity finally to meet Ginger as my husband and I began our long drive home to Montana from a winter in Oceanside, CA. Not only would I get to meet her and Stacy, I’d be able to join in her 10th “faux birthday” party. Of course we don’t know the actual birthdays of the Vick dogs, but birthdays are always fun to celebrate, and April 1 seems a ‘cool’ day to be born.
Unfortunately, minor disaster struck, and our car’s clutch gave out on an Los Angeles freeway, forcing us to delay our departure and miss the birthday party at the shelter. I could see from Stacy’s photo from the gathering that Ginger Girl wasn’t perturbed by my absence!
It’s National Dog Day, a chance to celebrate our favorite animal companion. Many shelters across America are celebrating this day by offering “specials” on adoptions. And even if your local shelter isn’t into specials, today’s a day to consider making a new and very special friend.
Shelter dogs offer so many choices–if you live in the city and have only a little space, you can choose a short-legged friend who has to run to keep up with your walking.
A longer legged pet can join you on a run. And you can choose from all sorts of colors–light or dark–and coat types–soft or wiry, long or short. So, if you’ve been debating adding a dog to your family, visit your local animal shelter today and see if your canine soulmate is there waiting for you.
It’s standard practice for service dogs to spend their early lives in the homes of regular folks, often in loving family situations. The puppy raisers know how to teach their charges basic commands and spend time with others in special situations, like on buses, at ball games, watching fireworks, all sorts of stimulating and sometimes potentially frightening situations.
Now imagine this: puppies being raised in isolation from the outside world in a sterile environment with minimal stimulation and not that much variety of situation. Could that work to give the young dog the kind of life experience that could lead to a successful career in our noisy, busy world?
Yes, it can, and in what might seem a particularly unpromising environment, prison. The people who run a program at Auburn University that trains explosive scent-finding dogs got frustrated by family puppy raisers who “spoiled” their charges by letting them up on couches and feeding them potato chips. They found that the more rigid, focused environment of prison, with inmates as puppy raisers, actually succeeded far more often in providing the dogs with the training and discipline they need to prepare them to be successful explosive finders.
Now, the Auburn University team relies on inmates at five different prisons to raise the puppies that will go on to vital jobs protecting the public from hidden explosives.
The carefully selected puppy-raising inmates living in the Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls, GA, share a special dormitory. The dogs’ crates are located right up against the inmates’ bunks. The prisoners participate actively in training their dogs.
The dogs are the only successes that result from this program. So are the inmates– Warden Grady Perry says, “A lot of these guys have never been given a lot of responsibility, and this is their chance not only to be a responsible adult but a responsible citizen.”
To read more and see a slide show of the program, go to http://tinyurl.com/noy6vws.
May, 2010: As I knocked on the door, photographer Bill Muñoz and I heard a dog barking loudly from inside the house, and we exchanged nervous glances. Our anticipation was high, because we were about to meet Audie, a young pit bull rescued three years earlier from Michael Vick’s notorious dog-fighting operation. Bill and I were working on a book about Audie for young readers, and Audie’s person, Linda, had agreed to let us feature her dog.
Linda let us in as Audie barked like crazy from the far end of the living room. But his tail wagged just as fast as he barked. He started to approach, then retreated.
Approach, retreat, over and over, barking and wagging. Clearly, he wants to be friends but trust is difficult when you’ve learned the hard way that not all people can be trusted. After a bit, Audie settled down. But as soon as Bill pulled out his camera, the barking began again. Bill took a few photos between barks, then put the camera away, and we sat down to chat with Linda. As soon as we focused on conversation instead of on him, Audie jumped onto the couch, snuggled up against my leg, and fell asleep. I guess he’d decided I could be trusted.
Once Audie was used to us, we followed him and Linda through a typical day. Linda, who had Audie for about 9 months, was working hard to develop his trust in people. We visited the ferry dock. Linda had given several people there a stash of treats, and over time Audie started taking their treats and allowing them to pet him, but it was a slow process.
July, 2015: I’m back in California and take my daughter-in-law Colette and granddaughter Francesca, both fellow dog lovers, to meet Audie. We knock on the door and Linda and Audie show up together to greet us. Audie sniffs each of us and wags his tail in greeting. Maybe he remembers me, but he also greets my family confidently.
What a difference! The skittish insecure youngster is now a self-assured adult, eager to meet and greet unconditionally. Over the past five years, Audie has become transformed from an insecure victim into not only an emotionally healthy canine but he’s also an agility dog champion with an overflowing stash of blue and purple ribbons.
Francesca is delighted to meet her hero, and we go outside, where Audie shows off his pole-weaving prowess and some special tricks. Audie’s success was possible thanks to many determined people, especially Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer of the Bay Area group BAD RAP (Bay Area Dog Owners Responsible About Pitbulls) , who championed the right of the Vick dogs and others like them to have a chance at a normal loving doggy life. Along with other groups like the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, they got the system changed so that confiscated fight dogs can be tested for safety with people and other dogs instead of facing mandatory euthanasia.