Monday, November 29, 2010

Wolves in Michigan

I finally made good on a promise from an earlier post about updating folks on the status of wolves in Michigan, particularly here in the Lower Peninsula.
Rather than just a blog post, I dedicated an entire (and lengthy) article to the subject. It published this weekend and I encourage you all to check it out by clicking here.
Wolves are here in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, there's about six of them living in a pack in the three northernmost counties of the Lower Peninsula.
The photo here is of one of that pack's pups, captured earlier this summer while MDNRE officials were trying to get the adult wolves to put radio collars on them.
Unfortunately, the adult wolves got away and this pup was too young to be radio collared. But they did snap this photo before letting him on his way.
Look at those eyes on this guy. He looks mad.
Think about what a puppy would do in a situation like this. A domestic dog pup, even if raised wild and caught in the same fashion, would be terrified — his eyes flickering away from the human faces, perhaps a little squirming here and there before complete submission and surrender.
This is not the impression I get from this wolf pup. It looks to me as those he's staring down his captors defiantly, challenging them by locking eye contact.
It's exemplifies why we must remind ourselves that wolves are wild and domestic dogs are not. Wolves are meant to be in the wild, not in our homes.
As much as the species may be an icon for us, and as admired as wolves may be by us dog lovers, we cannot liken wolves to dogs.
Going by research I think is most appropriate, dogs have been domesticated (or co-evolved, the term I prefer) over a period of 140,000 years. Let me repeat that — ONE HUNDRED FORTY THOUSAND YEARS.
It's hard to even fathom how much time that is; how many generations of dogs came after the genetic changes brought on via domestication (or co-evolution, I say).
If anyone needs a reminder of the differences between wolves and dogs, check out a recent post that will lead you to an eye-opening television program by PBS.
As a side note here, I want to add that ONE HUNDRED FORTY THOUSAND YEARS of dogs being different from wolves makes me particularly suspicious of the popular push for raw food diets right now. If genetic changes caused a dog's physical features and behavior to change, why should we assume dogs are still working with an digestive system identical to a wolves? I just think it's an illogical conclusion to draw.
But I don't want to get you raw food proponents all riled up, so I'll leave it at that.

What's the lesson in all of this, folks? Dog lovers need to stick to owning dogs. Leave wolves where they belong — in the wild.

Wolves in Oakland County?
I have gotten some feedback from the article — the most interesting of which was a message from a Davisburg resident who said he saw a wolf on his 20 acre property.
I haven't called the MDNRE to follow up on this, but my instincts are telling me they won't confirm it — probably that there's no evidence they can use to be sure and that most likely, it was a large coyote.
To the guy's credit, he was rather adamant in saying he knows what a coyote looks like and this wasn't a coyote.
Perhaps I'll give the MDNRE a call and see what they have to say.
As for the article, I was told wolves won't take up shop in Oakland County simply because there's too many roads.
On the other hand, I was also told that the distance between Michigan and Minnesota is only a couple days' walk for a wolf, so is it possible that some lone wolf went a walkin' and passed on through Davisburg? I'd say anything is possible.

Either way, please give my article a read. I worked really hard on it! One more time, here's the link:
Michigan wolf pack surpasses requirement for endangered species, yet they remain on list

Making good on other promises
I promised a video of trimming dog nails and by golly, it's coming.
On Thanksgiving, I spent about an hour trimming my sister's dog's nails with a Dremel tool. Give me a little time to edit the video and that post will be up — my goal is later this week. I'll let you know when it's ready.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Update on Lady, the badly burned pit bull

The good news is, Lady is doing well.
I'm posting some pictures from the Michigan Humane Society — it's an update to what they'd previously sent when she first reached their offices.
You can follow her progress online at the Michigan Humane Society's website, and don't forget, there's a $10,000 reward being offered for information leading to her arrest.

What is too graphic?
I'd love to have a discussion in this space about what is too graphic to post (a big thanks to Lynn to answering my question in my previous post!).
Here's my position — I have a hard time determining what is graphic anymore. I watch too much Animal Cops, I've seen too many horrible things, both in the animal world and beyond. Nothing seems to surprise me anymore.
Part of me thinks that it takes some graphic images to really stir people. That same part of me wonders if I could've accurately conveyed how horrible Lady's burning was without using the photos.
From the newspaper's standpoint, it's a little different. Our print newspaper can be lying on the counter top, kitchen table or a coffee table in anyone's household, totally accessible to anyone of any age in that household. That means that when our editors discuss what should and shouldn't be used in the paper, they're thinking about the children running around in the households of our readers and trying to prevent an innocent child from picking up the paper and seeing an offensive image.
But what about this blog?
Sure, the reading material may not geared toward little kids. Thinking back to when I was 10- or 11-years-old, though, I might've been a bit mature for my age, but I certainly could've seen myself reading a blog similar to the one I'm writing now.
On the other hand, there's much more offensive stuff out there online.

So, what is too graphic for this space? When it comes right down to it, I want to know what you, my readers, think.

Were the photos I posted of Lady in my original post about her too graphic? Should I take them down? Is it a moot point to take them down now?

And, is there some sort of rule of thumb I can make for myself going forward?

I'm not just asking for your input, I'm begging for it.
Thank you!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

QUICK HITS: News briefs from the dog world

Hi everyone, I've got a bunch of stuff to catch you up on today, so I'm doing a quick-and-dirty (OK, maybe not dirty, per se) type of post.

Bad news first
Did you hear about that poor old dog in Wixom shot six times in the head with a pellet gun and then dumped, still alive, in a Dumpster behind an apartment complex? The dog had tumors around its neck, leading some to think that perhaps whoever was responsible for the cruel act was actually trying to euthanize the dog.
Euthanize, however, is a term that refers to killing an animal humanely. This dog was not killed, and even it had been, it certainly would NOT have been humane.
The saddest part of it all? If someone was trying to put the dog out of its misery, they were wrong about the misery part. The tumors were not life threatening.
Such a shame.
The dog was later euthanized by a veterinarian after its pellet gun injuries proved to severe to fix.
We have a photo of the dead dog. Because it depicts a dead animal, we thought it was too graphic to use in the paper.
On the other hand, using it could have helped someone identify who owned the dog.
What do you think? Should I post the photo here, or leave it be?

Some good news
The same day I wrote about the Wixom dog, I also learned that the Humane Society of the United States upped the reward for Lady's assailant — the friendly pit mix who someone poured gasoline on and lit on fire — to $10,000.
It's a pretty penny and I hope it encourages someone to come forward and start pointing fingers.
Lady, by the way, continues to improve.
Though not a dog, the Humane Society of the United States is also posting a reward for the cat found with an arrow shot through it in Brandon Township earlier this month. That reward is now $2,500 and unfortunately, the cat had to be euthanized due to the severity of its injuries.

OK, this is definitely good news
Whew, finally on to something that's not about animal cruelty.
This weekend, Victoria Stilwell — the dog trainer who stars in Animal Planet's show It's Me or The Dog — will be in Novi for a pet expo.
Read all it about and learn more by clicking here.

Wolf article coming soon
Those who remember a post earlier this summer about wolves in Michigan may recall a promise I made to follow-up to the process of delisting wolves from the endangered species list in Michigan, and the confirmed presence of wolves in the lower peninsula. Well, it's been a long time coming, but I'm finally putting together a big article on this. It should be published in the next two weeks and I'll be sure to let you all know!

Also coming: series on trimming a dog's nails
I also promised to give tips and tricks on trimming a dog's nails, following a story about a pit bull who died after a groomer muzzled and sat on the dog.
I've begun writing about it and surprised myself with how much information there is to share!
I'll post the first in a series later this week. Your patience is appreciated while I work on putting some videos together with my own dog too!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Precious, precious pound puppies

I was at the Oakland County Pet Adoption center yesterday and took some more videos of the dogs there.
The two tall hound mixes were still there, much to my chagrin. I’d predicted that with their good looks, they’d have been adopted out right away.
I didn’t see the large, old black dog that tugged on my heart strings, though. I hope he found a happy home.
This time, the two dogs that stuck out to me were Boxer mixes — they’re the ones in the photos here (and in the video too!). The photo of the one brown Boxer mix doesn’t do him justice — the dog is a giant! He looks like a Boxer and Bullmastiff mix to me. His energy was very calm. As he stretched out in his cage, I could just see how badly he wanted a nice comfy sofa to stretch out and nap on. He was a calm boy and I hope he finds a home quickly.
The other Boxer mix I found in a line of cages containing pit bulls. You might be surprised to know that of all the dogs in there yesterday, the pit bulls were the only ones who kept their room quiet and laid nicely in their cages.
I can’t promise that all the dogs you’ll see in this video are ready for adoption — I kind of lost track of which room I went into and what the sign on the door said. But, I think it’s safe to say that most of the dogs are ready for adoption or will be ready soon. So if you see a doggie that interests you, please do inquire.
Inquiries about adoptable dogs can be made by calling 248-391-4102. You can also check out adoptable dogs online by clicking here, and download adoption forms by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Worth a watch: PBS’ Dogs Decoded

Did you know that 99.8 percent of a dog’s genetic make-up is identical to that of a gray wolf?
Or that scientists have mapped the Boxer’s genome, found the marker that makes Boxer’s prone to cardiomyopathy and expect the research will help cure human diseases?
Perhaps most interesting of all, do you know there are studies going on proving that dogs read our facial expressions to help them communicate emotionally with us, and that humans are rather adept at figuring out what different dog barks mean?
Considering wolves rarely bark, except as a warning, the fact that our dogs have such variety in their vocal cords really speaks to the changes that have occurred during our co-evolution (most refer to this as ‘domestication.’ I take issue with that term. Read why here and here.)
All this information and lots more was presented in last night’s airing of Nova: Dogs Decoded on PBS.
I encourage all dog owners to check out the program. The DVD costs about $25 (order here) or you can check out the program posted on the website (click here).
It takes a look at where dogs came from, when their partnership with us formed, how the process of evolution changed wolves into dogs and had a heavy emphasis on showcasing all sorts of really cool research being done around the world.
For instance, there’s a study going on in Russia that’s been taking place for about 50 years now. The study is whether silver foxes can be ‘domesticated.’ What the researchers have found is that the answer is yes, but it’s purely a genetic thing — nature, not nurture.
By selecting the foxes with the most tame temperaments and only letting those foxes breed, they noticed in three generations a difference in the behavior of the foxes — they began showing affection toward humans, giving more eye contact, etc.
And those same foxes also began showing some very unexpected physical changes — as the generations of foxes became tamer, they also began having different colorings, curled tails and even floppy ears.
So if you’re wondering how we got from a Gray Wolf to a Chihuahua, there’s a big hint. Breed for behavior and physical changes shall follow.
I don’t know what was more interesting to me — the ‘domestication’ piece, or the piece on research being done that proves humans and dogs can communicate with eachother.
Don’t think you know what your dog’s bark means? Well, don’t sell yourself short. Most people can read a dog’s emotions in its bark — anxiety, playfulness, fear, etc. You can test yourself by clicking here.
The show also features a border collie who is incredibly smart. The dog can actually look at the picture of a toy and understand she is supposed to go get the actual toy and bring it to the person holding the picture. How amazing is that?
It warms my heart to see shows like this being produced because it presents our dogs as wonderful, interesting, smart creatures in their own right, as dogs. Our society needs more shows like this and less shows that present the dog as little humans in furry suits.
The more we can respect and enjoy our dogs for being dogs, and the more we understand what makes them a dog, the more we’ll be able to truly enjoy one anothers' companionship.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Badly burned dog deserves a safe, loving home

“My father is outraged about the burned dog,” said one of my coworkers upon entering the newsroom this morning.
I think we all are. Only a very sick individual wouldn’t be.
You can read the full story I wrote by clicking here, but the basics are this:
Some awful, sick person poured gasoline on the head of a friendly pit bull in Detroit during Halloween weekend and set it on fire.
The owners of the dog thought at first that the burns weren’t so bad and could be dealt with at home. They kept the dog for a week, trying home remedies.
This is something I find disturbing as well, but I think it’s indicative of a difference in approaches to dog ownership. While most of us think of our dogs as family members, there are folks out there who don’t see it that way — folks who are stuck in the old attitude of, “A dog is a dog — keep it outside, feed it scraps and let it be a dog.”
But as the days passed, the dog's burns worsened and worsened. The owners finally called the Michigan Humane Society and gave the dog — her name is Lady, by the way — to them. Whew.
Lady is now in good hands and incredibly, she’s described as a happy-go-lucky girl who loves being scratched under her chin.
While she appears to be doing well, such horrific burns can be complicated to heal. Infections are a huge threat to recovery, as there’s no skin barrier keeping all that bacteria out.
But if she does make a complete recovery, she’ll go up for temperament testing. If does well there, she’ll probably be adopted.
I’ve got my fingers crossed.
All dogs deserve a second chance, but when you hear a story like this, it’s hard to imagine anything else happening.
Who knows what Lady’s life was like at her Detroit home. And then, to have someone pour gasoline on you and light you on fire — it’s hard to imagine the terror she must’ve felt.
Despite it all, she’s giving people a second chance — loving on the MHS staff, enjoying under-the-chin scratches and proving herself to be a friendly, bright dog.
I would be absolutely dismayed to hear she failed some part of a temperament test and was euthanized. That would be a horrible ending to this story.
I want to hear that regardless of her temperament test, she lands herself in a loving home where she spends her days lounging on a sofa and chewing on rawhides. I want to hear that her caring new family members are investing the time to teach her all sorts of stuff about being a good ambassador for pit bulls; to show that resilient and forgiving spirit pit bulls are known for.
Please join me in hoping for a good outcome for a great dog who has endured the worst of humankind’s cruelty. Let’s show her that people can be a lot better than that.
Video from WXYZ

Similar story ends with happiness for another dog
This isn’t the first time The Oakland Press has written about a badly burned dog from Detroit.
In 2007, a barely 4-pound pit bull puppy was set on fire with the rest of her littermates in an abandoned home in Detroit. The lone survivor, she was brought to Oakland Veterinary Referral Services in Bloomfield Hills.
Now named Madison, the little girl is deformed but able to enjoy a good quality of life — running, swimming and living a life full with love from her humans. And she’s in incredibly capable human hands.
Madison was adopted by one of the surgeons at OVRS and, as of my last report, was still a constant fixture in the clinic that saved her life.
I hope that Lady’s outcome is as good as Madison’s.
Read the full story about Madison by clicking here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Help shape Oakland County dog parks with your opinion

OK, we all know that Oakland County’s dog parks rock.
But is there something you’d change? Add? How do you feel about paying for dog park access?
Well, now is the time to make your voice heard.
Oakland County is seeking feedback on their dog parks with the “Bring in the Bark” online survey available now by clicking here.
I just took the survey — it takes just a couple minutes, gathers some information about dog park users and most importantly, offers space for you give advice and make recommendations.
Those of you who follow this blog know that Sensi is far from being dog park quality — he’s fearful, reactive and doesn’t do well around strangers and some other dogs (big dogs, male dogs, any dog that might possibly be capable of posing a threat to him).
Even though I can’t take him to the dog park, I’ve been to the beautiful Orion Oaks on several occasions and thoroughly enjoyed each visit.
But I love the idea of having small, private yards available for rent. We don’t have a fence at our house, so we use a cable to keep Sensi in the yard. This means he doesn’t get much off-leash time.
If I could rent a yard for perhaps $5 for a half hour or $10 to $15 for an hour, I’d be there every weekend. Maybe twice a week. I’d round up Sensi’s doggie friends, pile them all in the Jeep, grab some fetch toys and head out for some fun.
Oh, how I wish something like that existed!
And the yard doesn’t have to be dog-park-sized-large. All he needs is a little space to run around and do some zoomies in. Please Oakland County, hear my pleas! See the revenue opportunity that exists for something like that and make it happen!
After all, think about all the people out there with less than perfectly tempered dogs. Think about all the folks who live in apartments with no yards, or condos, or like me — people who have a yard that’s not fenced in and can’t afford to make that happen, but desperately want a space for their dog to just run around off-leash and chase freely after a ball.
Needless to say, I’m just thrilled that they’ve posted this survey and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for my wish to come true.
Do you have a wish? Make it known. Take the survey!

Check out some dancin’ dogs
Speaking of Oakland County, they’re hosting the “Awesome Pawsome Freestyle Dog Dance Competition” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this weekend, Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, at Springfield Oaks County Park Activity Center, 12451 Andersonville Road in Davisburg.
The event is free and open to the public, but spectators can’t bring their own dogs.
Even so, the dog dancing competitions are pretty cool to watch. You’ve got to have some respect for any dog/owner combination that invests so much time in training!

Way to go Waterhouse!
Waterhouse Photography in downtown Auburn Hills has been busy this year collecting food for the Michigan Animal Rescue League. The most recent fundraisers were in the last couple of weeks of October, where pet owners received a photo session for their pets for a donation of $20 and a bag of dry dog or cat food.
More than 65 pets participated and more than 1,600 pounds of food was collected.
“We were so happy about the enormous response we received from pet parents traveling from as far as Port Huron to participate and more than touched by the stories (of) under what conditions some of the pets we photographed were rescued,” said Karla Waterhouse, owner of the studio. “All of the pets were so loveable, from the cute cats to the six-pound Miniature Poodle and the 100 pound Newfoundlander.”
Kudos to Karla and the Waterhouse staff for all they’ve done to help homeless animals!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween: Gone to the dogs

Is it a surprise at all that Halloween costumes for dogs seem to be as abundant these days as Halloween costumes for people? I think not.

The only thing cuter than a dog in costume is, perhaps, a really cute kid in a really cute costume.

Enjoy these photos of decked-out dogs hitting the town over the weekend to celebrate Halloween.

Most of the photos are from Howl-O-Ween, which may become an annual event in downtown Clarkston.

Jamie Gootee, (left) of Clarkston and her dog Cleo, dressed as a Clarkston cheerleader, receives a dog treat from Joan Donnay, owner of Essence On Main store, during Howl-O-Ween activities in downtown Clarkston. (Oakland Press Photo/Vaughn Gurganian)

Peanut, a dashund, is dressed as a hot dog while walking through downtown Clarkston during Howl-O-Ween activities. (Oakland Press Photo/Vaughn Gurganian)

Keri Mitchell, of Clarkston, dressed as Little Bo Peep and her dog Samson walk through downtown Clarkston during Howl-O-Ween activities. (Oakland Press Photo/Vaughn Gurganian)

Nurse Nina walks through downtown Clarkston during Howl-O-Ween activities. (Oakland Press Photo/Vaughn Gurganian)

Sadie (left), Newfoundland Sunnie (middle) and Golden Retriever Riley won "most humorous" for their Three Musketeers costume during Clarkston's Howl-O-Ween event on Saturday. The dogs are owned by Cory and Robyn Johnston, who coined their pack, "The Royal Guard of the Kingdom of the City of the Village of Clarkston."

Jackie Bowen, public relations director for the Greyheart Greyhound Rescue and Adoption, sent these photos of Eddie, Barney and Katie dressed for Halloween. Adorable!