Monday, January 16, 2017


The screen adaptation of W. Bruce Cameron's hugely successful novel, A Dog's Purpose, will hit theaters on January 27. Starring Dennis Quaid, it reframes the basic existential question in canine terms. Even if you haven't read the book, it's not hard to guess the simple answer: love. As any self-respecting canine can attest, we dogs live to give and get it. That said, there's a second issue to consider: What is a dog's worth? For some pet guardians like my mom and dad, there's no amount of cash that would cause them to sever our amazing bond. While the emotional value of loving a dog is hard if not impossible to calculate, the financial costs of sharing your home with 4-legged friends can come as a jolt to first-time dog guardians. According to a recent story by Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy in the Chicago Tribune, the annual tab can run from $695 (ASPCA)  to $1,640 (American Pet Products Association), a figure that includes food, shelter and basic medical expenses. If your dog suffers an accident, a severe illness, or develops a chronic condition, that amount could be higher. Much, much higher. Add to that the time and energy a pet requires and you soon realize that having a dog is a serious responsibility. So, if you are thinking about getting a dog, consider everything that comes with it. If you're still sold, take the plunge but choose wisely, opting for one that fits your budget, energy, and lifestyle.
Mishaps Can Prove Costly, Just Ask Porter
Whether you choose a four-figure pedigree pooch or a $50 shelter adoptee, you'll have to do you part to keep your new baby safe. That includes keeping your dog properly secured at all times. For house dwellers, that means installing tall, dog-proof fencing or a dog run with appropriate shelter from the heat and cold, and keeping your dog leashed when out in public. Failing to do so can have tragic results. In late December, The Los Angeles Times reported an incident in Riverside County in which a pit bull running loose attacked an killed a neighbor's small dog. The owner of the slain dog then stabbed and killed the pit bull, prompting criminal charges. The article noted that both dogs had previously been cited for running loose. While the Times is to be praised for urging dog owners to secure their pets, quotes from Riverside County Animal Services Public Relations Director Thomas Welsh gave a misleading impression about pit bulls. In the article  Welsh claimed that pit bulls have a strong predator instinct. “They’re going to go after smaller dogs. That’s what they do."  
While some pit bulls might display a strong prey drive, to tar the entire breed with that simplistic brush is patently unfair and untrue. It smacks of the canard, advanced by advocates of Breed Specific Legislation, that some breeds are "inherently dangerous", a position with no scientific basis repudiated by veterinarians, animals behaviorists, and President Obama. As for pit bulls chasing small dogs on sight, in the 9 years since I left the Agoura Shelter, I've been attacked numerous times by small dogs wandering off-leash. Whenever it happens, I'm always taken aback. My first reaction is to wonder what I did to get them so upset with me. It's scary and the nips are painful but never once have I tried to retaliate. While dog moms and dads have a responsibility to keep us under control, regardless of size, newspapers like the Times have a duty to filter fact from pit bull fiction.
Hoping 'Taco' Doesn't Turn On Me
Since we're on the subject of pit bulls, bad raps, and the LA Times, they recently ran another story analyzing just how pit bulls went from being beloved nanny dogs (a claim the story questions) to feared killers. The article cites Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior clinic at Tuft's University school of veterinary medicine and the author of "Dogs Behaving Badly", who admits that pit bulls are no more likely to bite people than other breeds. But when they do, their power and biting style make injuries more likely. While pit bulls are the most recent breed to be demonized (following bloodhounds, German shepherds and Rottweilers) pit bull advocate Troy Smith suggests that the Belgian Malinois, favored in police and military service, may supplant the pit bull as the next 'most dangerous' breed. 
Belgian Malinois - The Next 'Bad Dog'?

Thursday, November 10, 2016


While we might sometimes question the causes they fight for, we owe our gratitude and respect to the men and women who put their lives on the line in service to our country. Among my personal circle of heroes, here’s a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for dear friends Joe Simone, Dan Cohen, and John Dellasala, and  a prayer that our leaders will think long and hard before putting any our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters in harm’s way. While not nearly as numerous as two-legged servicemen and women, war dogs continue to play a key role in our nation’s defense. As Josh Weiss-Roessler noted in a Cesar Millan's recent newsletter, after months and sometimes years of rigorous training meant to hone their already keen senses, canine soldiers are tasked with guarding installations, capturing the enemy and detecting explosives and other contraband. But what happens to these warriors when their hitch is up? In the past, they were ‘retired’ – euthanized – when they became too old or unable to perform their duties. Thankfully, a law passed in 2000 allows for the adoption of phased out war dogs. Prospective adoptees and their would be owners must both be evaluated to insure a smooth transition to civilian life, which means creating an environment that provides lots of structure and discipline. Interested in taking on the challenge? Contact the Warrior Dog Foundation
Thank you all!
On a related note, two paws up to canine recent police academy grad Kiah, who will now team with Officer Justin Bruzgul working to detect drugs and locate missing persons for the Poughkeepsie, NY Police Department.  While the vast majority of law enforcement dogs are either German shepherds or Belgian Malinois, pit bulls are a rarity. As the recent NY Post story rightly points out, the breed’s reputation for violence is “undeserved” and the result of human ignorance and neglect.  Recent studies have found no correlation between dog breeds and dog attacks, and they have shown that specific breed bans (BSL), like the one being considered in Montreal, fail to reduce dog attacks. 
Kia and partner Officer Justin Bruzgul
Sadly, many military and law enforcement personnel can suffer from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that sometimes affects their canine partners as well. But even pampered pets, whose closest brush with danger is a feisty squirrel or a TV shootout, can fall victim to the disorder. Writing for Cesar's Way, Nicole Pajer says, “Dogs can be thrown into a state of extreme stress over a variety of different experiences. Common causes may include weather - natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, car accidents, Household accidents, and physical or emotional trauma during interactions with people or other animals.” Indeed. For nearly a year after he joined our home, Tanner couldn’t stomach (literally, as the gallons vomit flowed) riding in the car. Why? Our best guess is that he’d been abused – perhaps as a bait dog for a fight ring – and associated the abuse with the motor travel. Even now, after years of patient rehabilitation, the July 4 fireworks evoke a yearly nightmare, along with popping champagne corks and gusty Santa Ana winds. They were blowing the other evening and Eugenie woke the next morning to find him missing from his normal spot on the bed in my office. Instead, he was precariously perched on the desk, his facing the corner. Scratching her head, she helped back him down. He spent the rest of the day looking tired and out of sorts, wrung out by his encounter with the 'devil winds'.
Tanner in a calmer moment