Culture | Culture Culture en-us Thu, 05 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0800 Thu, 05 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0800 Orion <![CDATA[How Well Can Dogs Smell? 5 Weird Things Dogs Can Sniff Out]]> In December 2007, I took my dog Tina hiking in the woods. When we got home, I was dismayed to find that my camera had fallen out of my pocket. Because we'd strayed from the trails that day to explore, I gave up the camera for lost. The very next day, I decided to stick to the trails, but Tina started pulling me into the forest. After a few minutes, she stopped and sniffed the ground. I looked down and there was my lost camera! I was awestruck.

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In the dead of winter, Tina finds a lost camera in the forest. (All photos by Melvin Peña)

Frequently, our dogs will sniff at us and then give us a good lick. This is one way in which we see a dog's piercing senses of scent and taste working in tandem. Rather than the camera itself, it is much more likely that Tina recognized some trace of a scent or taste she associated with me among the leaves, leading her to the lost camera. Even without scent-discrimination training, our dogs' noses are absolutely remarkable organs.

Why do dogs smell everything?

Along with her tongue and ears, a dog's nose is her most consistent and powerful tool for experiencing the world. Because dogs rely so heavily on their noses, their brains have adapted accordingly. The length of a dog's muzzle makes a significant difference to the precision with which they can smell. Thus, a Beagle or a Basset Hound is a superhero of scent compared to, say, a Pug or a Pekingese, but any given dog's brain has scent-processing equipment on a scale that dwarfs that of their human owners.

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Tina's long muzzle meant that she always followed her nose.

Dogs and scent-discrimination training

There are few limits to what dogs can find with their noses. Whether it's called "nose work," "tracking," or "scent discrimination," there are as many approaches as names for teaching a dog to sniff out a particular item. If something has a scent, a dog can be trained to alert us to its presence -- or its absence. Even more astounding, it needn't even be a physical item; it need only have a particular odor or olfactory emanation associated with it.

All over the world, working dogs are being trained to use their noses to locate unusual items for science, manufacture, farming, and even human health. No matter what you're looking for, chances are a dog's nose can find it. Through practice, a key word, or repeated exposure, with or without a direct command, here are just a few of the ways that dogs are helping people simply by following their noses:

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Tina's nose could always find anything, including new friends.

1. Environmental changes

Dogs have been trained to detect any number of environmental factors. They can seek out fecal matter and other human waste products found in raw sewage. They do this to trace the routes that sewage travels and to discover potential leaks and hazards to drinking water reservoirs. This skill helps to preserve the quality of watershed areas and the purity of the water we use every day.

Dogs also help track changes in creatures that humans interact with, both wild and domesticated. Beekeepers utilize dogs to detect bacterial diseases that can negatively affect an entire hive of bees. Wildlife conservationists and scientists who study migratory patterns in a variety of animals -- from birds to whales -- have used dogs to locate the dung of these animals and collect it in order to research their dietary habits.

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Tina inspects a piece of driftwood.

2. Invasive insect species

Certain insect species can wreak havoc on property and agriculture. In housing and real estate, dogs have been employed to sniff out termites living in the walls of buildings. They are also used to locate bedbugs returning to infest homes, hotels, and other living spaces from around the world. In the realm of farming, a well-trained dog can prevent crop loss by detecting invasive insect species that are known to infest and eat growing crops, as well as diseases that can kill plants.

3. Illicit technology

In their capacity as police dogs, canine sniffers around the world have assisted law enforcement officials to find contraband in prisons and black market technology elsewhere. Because there are unique metals and chemicals in cellular devices, dogs have rooted out phones hidden in prisons and jail cells. Similar compounds used in DVD and Blu-ray manufacture have prepared dogs to find pirated movies.

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There is a fungus among us.

4. Rare and precious food items

Truffles are a sort of rare and precious delicacy. Found growing near tree roots in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia, truffles are used in any number of recipes, as well as prepared and eaten on their own. While pigs are most famous as truffle hunters, they have also been known to eat them upon discovery. Dogs trained to find truffles are more likely to take pride in finding these fungi than to devour them.

5. Human health issues

Dogs' noses are sensitive enough to detect hormonal and chemical changes, not only in their owners, but in complete strangers as well. Ranchers utilize dogs to know when their cattle are in heat, so yes, dogs can also smell when humans become pregnant. Your dog may not understand what exactly is going on, but can detect the scent of new hormone production associated with pregnancy.

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Tina was always very good at finding turtles.

Likewise, dogs have been proven to recognize a wide range of scents linked with human diseases. Dogs are trained to sense when diabetics are most in need of an insulin injection. They can also smell chemical byproducts in sweat, breath, urine, and feces to detect skin, lung, bladder, ovarian, and colorectal cancers.

What odd things have your dogs sniffed out?

Humans have been exploiting their dogs' extraordinary sense of smell since time out of mind. Over the last 150 years or so, however, scent-discrimination training has become increasingly exacting and dedicated. We've all heard of and seen -- at airports, checkpoints, and other sites -- police dogs whose job it is to locate fugitives, missing people (dead and alive), explosive devices, and a wide variety of narcotics. What is the strangest thing your dog has ever found with her nose?

Learn more about a dog's sense of smell with Dogster:

About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. He has a one-year-old female Bluetick Coonhound mix named Idris, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.

Thu, 05 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/can-dogs-smell-scent-discrimination-training-dog-nose-tracking-sniffer
<![CDATA[Brie the Boston Terrier Dresses Up as "Mad Men" Characters]]> Editor's note: We're sharing this cute article from our friends at the Bark Post with permission from Brie, the world's cutest Boston Terrier, and her daddy and papa. 

Woof (hi to all the humans)! Every Sunday my daddy, papa, and I sit down to watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta and then turn off the television, but this past Sunday was different: Mad Men returned!

So I put on my pearls, poured us all a glass of whiskey on ice, and lit up a cigar. Oh, yeah, and I also dressed up as some of the main characters. It was quite the affair.

Take a look below at my Mad Men looks and find more of my fun images on my Instagram account, @bonjourbrie.

1. Don Draper

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"What you call love was invented by pups like me to sell Nylabones."

2. Roger Sterling

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"When Daddy closes the treat jar, Papa opens it back up." 

3. Joan Harris

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"You want to be taken seriously? Stop acting like a puppy!" 

4. Betty Francis

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"As far as I'm concerned, as long as dogs bark at me, I'm earning my keep." 

5. Peggy Olson

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"Are you gonna give me a treat or just stare at me while I do tricks?" 

6. Megan Draper

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"I just feel like I ate a bag of corn-filled kibble." 

7. Sally Draper

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"You say you're going to give me treats and then you don't. And you just can't do that!" 

Want more cuteness? Keep up with Brie's adventures on Instagram

Read more about dogs and TV:

Laugh with us on Dogster:

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 08:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/brie-boston-terrier-dog-dresses-as-mad-men-characters-funny-pictures-photos
<![CDATA[San Francisco Artist Seeks to Save His Doggie Diner Heads Through a Kickstarter Campaign]]> San Francisco has a markedly different geography depending on whether you're a resident or a visitor. To the rest of the country, the landmarks that say "San Francisco" are things like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid, Coit Tower, or the Haight-Ashbury street sign. After you've lived here a few years, those things become not only invisible most of the time, but practically irrelevant to thinking about the city.

To residents, the landmarks that stand out as ours are the quirkier, more eccentric aspects of San Francisco. Sometimes they're people, such as Frank Chu; since the late 1990s, Chu has paraded through the downtown area with a sign declaring that various presidents are going to be impeached by a coalition of 12 galaxies. There are more stationary landmarks, such as the windmills in Golden Gate Park, or the hauntingly strange ruins of the Sutro Baths at the Pacific shore.

And then, there's the Doggie Diner Heads.

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A Doggie Diner Head circa 1980. Image from Wikipedia.

The Doggie Diner Heads are San Francisco culture through and through. Remnants of a long-defunct fast food chain, they are, in their way, as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge. They're recognizable enough that in 2005, one of the heads was placed on a pole on a street median and declared a landmark.

In part, their popularity is because of the fact that, even in commercial art, you just don't see that many images of a grinning Daschund wearing a chef's toque and a polka-dot bow tie. The slightly manic grin and bulging eyes are somewhere between adorable and nightmarish, and that ambivalent response means that once you've seen a Doggie Diner Head, it cannot be unseen. Famous underground cartoonist Bill Griffith used that ambivalent response to good effect in his strip Zippy the Pinhead, in which the title character would often go to a diner and receive wisdom from one of the heads. In Griffith's strip, the Doggie Heads went from being slightly odd pieces of commercial art to Dadaist Buddhas.

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John Law's truck with the Doggie Diner Head Trinity in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The Heads watch a skateboarder zip past in San Francisco.

When the diners went out of business in the late 1980s, the heads started to get trashed. Three of them were rescued by artist John Law and his fellow members of the San Francisco Cacophony Society. Law and his fellow devotees have shown off the heads at parades, art shows, and charity events across the country, and in 2008, they released Head Trip, a documentary about taking the heads on the road to New York. Last year we wrote about a yarn artist outfitting the heads with colorful covers.

But the heads have been in circulation for a long time, and like everything else, they're starting to show their age. So as of today, Law has launched a Kickstarter project to restore them to their former glory. The fiberglass surfaces have started to crack, and the internal structures, Law says, "Are completely rusted out." Law is looking for $48,000 through Kickstarter. With that, he wants to reinforce the fiberglass's weak spots, replace the steel frames, and give them new paint jobs. In addition, the trailer that Law uses to take them around to events has also seen better days. Law describes it as "beyond repair," and says that it's time to get a new one. Some of the money raised will also go to making repairs on the truck itself.

If $48,000 seems like a lot of money to spend on three disembodied dog heads, Law points out that the city and county of San Francisco spent $55,000 to restore one Doggie Head.

Already, the Doggie Diner Heads have survived far longer than anyone ever thought they would. They were made as disposable commercial art, but they've persevered through wind, rain, sunshine, salt air, and bad economies to become something more. We think it would be nice to see them make it through another 50 years, and we wish John Law luck on his Kickstarter.

Via Kickstarter

Check out these adorable stories on Dogster:

Wed, 08 Jan 2014 12:45:00 -0800 /the-scoop/doggie-diner-heads-san-francisco-kickstarter-john-law
<![CDATA[Killing the "Family Guy" Dog: Boneheaded or Brilliant?]]> We comics geeks have -- or rather had -- this informal rule about superhero death called "The Bucky Clause." In comics, no one stays dead except Captain America's WWII sidekick Bucky, Spider-Man's beloved Uncle Ben, and Jason Todd, the second incarnation of Robin. I say had because although it held true for quite a while, all three of those characters have returned to life one way or another. In the four-color world of comics, death is like a really bad pimple: It might screw up your one hot date, but in the long term, it's little more than a temporary inconvenience.

So, for those of us who grew up with the Bucky Clause and watched its inevitable demise, the news that Brian the Dog is coming back to Family Guy is about as surprising as hearing that December comes after November.

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From left: Bucky Barnes, Ben Parker, Jason Todd, and Brian Griffin; a long tradition of coming back from the dead.

Of course, most cartoon and comics characters wait at least a year, if not a decade or more, before emerging from the grave. Brian was killed off on the Nov. 24 episode and is slated to return Dec. 15, giving him a total of 21 days on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. Even Superman stayed dead for a few months before coming back.

Officially, the network hasn't made any statement confirming Brian's return, but the Dec. 15 episode includes him in the cast of characters, and several plot summaries list him in the coming season. In a fall 2014 episode, he's supposed to fall in love with a character played by Maya Rudolph.

At this point, there's no question that the Family Guy creators are bringing Brian back; the question is whether his death was an incredibly stupid move on their part or a genius marketing ploy.

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The Griffin family at Brian's bedside.

When Brian's death was announced, producer Steve Callaghan said that the decision to off one of the show's most popular characters came about because, "We thought it could be a fun way to shake things up." And it did that. The Griffin family replaced their old dog with a new, streetwise hound named Vinny, voiced by former Sopranos cast member Tony Sirico.

And so far, the fans have hated every single moment of it.

Almost immediately, there was an outburst of Twitter rage at the killing of Brian, followed by an online petition to bring him back. As of this writing, the petition has 128,305 "signatures," calling for Brian's return.

At first glance, killing Brian looks like the most boneheaded thing that the producers of Family Guy could have made. Brian was the linchpin of the show, perhaps the only thing that kept it in balance. I've never been a fan of the show myself. Unlike The Simpsons, whose characters were flawed but basically decent people, Family Guy has always felt ugly and mean-spirited to me. Its humor is often dripping in misogyny and racism, dressed up as irreverent "political incorrectness." And even I mostly liked Brian, who usually seemed to be the show's single point of moderation and humanity. Having him killed in a hit-and-run would have clearly thrown the whole dynamic out of whack.

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Stewie, the evil genius of the Griffin family, will have something to do with Brian's return.

And yet, all this fuss could be the fans dancing to exactly the tune that Seth MacFarlane and friends were hoping to set. In recent years, Family Guy's ratings have been steadily declining. It's still one of Fox's top shows, and there hasn't been any solid threat of cancellation. But still, a show can decline for only so many years before the higher-ups start casting an eye on the ax sitting in the corner. With the death and resurrection of Brian, people are talking about Family Guy more than they have for years. It might have been a massive screw-up, but maybe not. Time will tell. In the meantime, the mutt with the martini is back.

What do you think? Is this the most boneheaded play in the show's history, or cunning media maneuvering? Tell us in the comments below.

Via Entertainment Weekly

Fri, 06 Dec 2013 13:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/family-guy-dog-brian-comeback-killing-boneheaded-brilliant
<![CDATA[Aww: Internet Sensation Riff Raff Gets a Puppy]]> A new canine star in the making strutted onto the Internet earlier this month when the musician Riff Raff took to his Instagram account to announce he had added a puppy to his entourage. Named Jody Husky, the Siberian Husky looks to be in fine form and seems a natural fit for the high-profile life in the spotlight his owner keeps.

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Jody Husky and Riff Raff via the artist's Instagram account.

Not quite sure who the braided-hair and heavily-tattooed figure of Riff Raff is and why his new pup is such a big deal? Well, a brief formal primer would note Raffy's role as rapper signed to producer's Diplo's Mad Decent record label (which will release his upcoming Neon Icon album) and, more recently, as the inspiration for James Franco's character, Alien, in the movie Spring Breakers.

But Riff Raff is better characterized as the world's first and foremost Internet performance artist: His Twitter and Vine accounts are riotous experiences (although at times they can be a little not safe for the stuffy office place).

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But back to the pup! He's named Jody Husky in honor of Riff Raff's own Jody Highroller alias. His first online appearance came with Riff Raff formally announcing, "Jody Highroller and Jody Husky aka the Neon Puppy up early working on a Grammy." (Neon Icon is the title of Riff Raff's soon-coming debut album.) His black and white markings are a sobering contrast to Riff Raff's propensity to favor day-glow fabrics. Riff Raff has also become fond of posting up Vine videos of his new pal, including this one showing him zipping around on a skateboard after an "eight hour nap in the Netherlands."

Giving fans a glimpse into his daily life, Riff Raff then posted up a solo portrait of his pup and commented how, "Jody Husky wakes me up at sunrise everyday like a Versace alarm clock." Looks like true puppy love to me.

Read more about dogs in music: 

Fri, 20 Sep 2013 12:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/riffraff-puppy-husky-photos
<![CDATA[We're Giving Away a Copy of the Dog Humor Book, "I Could Chew on This"]]> When it comes to animals,  I have no problem expressing my adoration through song and poetry. I can’t exactly say when this began. I just know that when I’m in a room with a cat or dog, it will take me five seconds to begin expressing my love for them as if I’m some kind of modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac.

Take any time I attend a party. You’ll find me in a corner with the household pet -- the poor cat or dog -- who is trapped and forced to listen to me profess my love for his perfectly fluffy fur. 

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“I love your paws, and everything attached to them,” is a regular phrase I find myself cooing in a sing-song voice to a multitude of pets. From there I’ll usually go off to more specifics about the cuteness of their noses or how adorable their ears are.

However, this isn’t a one sided dialogue -- I bet that if animals could talk they would have a thing or two to say back. Let's face it, our pets are probably just as poetic as we are.  

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Excerpt from "I Could Chew On This." Photo provided by Chronicle Books

That’s why when Chronicle Books announced the publication of Francesco Marciuliano's I Could Pee on This, I found myself absolutely delighted. Finally! A poetry book written from the perspective of cats! I always knew cats were actually tiny, furry Allen Ginsbergs. 

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Spread from "I Could Chew On This." Photo provided by Chronicle Books

But what about the dogs? I’m certain our canine companions are just as poetic about artistically expressing themselves through verse, too.

That’s why we’re delighted that Chronicle Books is publishing the canine companion to I Could Pee on This, titled I Could Chew on This.

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Spread provided by Chronicle Books

I Could Chew on This is the poetic portal to the inside workings of a dog’s mind. It takes all that we have ever wondered about the deepest, most darkest thoughts of our canine buddies and places them in funny and relatable verses.

In order to fully celebrate this achievement, we’re having a giveaway of a signed copy of I Could Chew on This. All that we need from you, thoughtful readers, is to share a short poem you think your dog would write. Nothing too crazy, either. Just something short and fun that you can imagine your dog poetically saying. 

If you need inspiration, take a look at this hilarious trailer that features two poems that appear in I Could Chew on This.

How to win I Could Chew on This for your pup

To enter, leave us a comment below with your own short haiku dedicated to the canine in your life. We'll pick our favorite answer next Wednesday, August 28, at noon PST, and we’ll contact the winner via email. You'll have two days to respond or we’ll choose another winner. (Sorry, that's just how it goes!)

Creating a Disqus profile and avatar just takes a minute and is a great way to participate in Dogster's community of people who are passionate about dogs. 

Please note that if your Disqus account doesn't contain a valid email address, you can't win because we won't be able to contact you. That's not fun! So, pretty please, check your account.

Best of luck! 

Wed, 21 Aug 2013 12:30:00 -0700 /lifestyle/i-could-chew-on-this-chronicle-dog-books-humor-contest
<![CDATA[Despite Tragedy, Vermont's Dog Mountain Lives On]]> Three years ago, when my friend Barbara and I visited Dog Mountain, where pet artist Stephen Huneck and his wife, Gwen, pay loving artistic tribute to pets, we expected to see a lot of dogs frolicking and happily making fools of themselves on the lush hills of Vermont. We also hoped we’d see a confused cat or two with a ferret thrown in for diversity.

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I took this photo of the Dog Chapel on my visit. Notice the sign outside.

The main draw of Dog Mountain for us was the Dog Chapel, a quaint New England church whose motto is “All creeds, all breeds welcome. No dogmas allowed.” I brought pictures of my pets who had passed on to add to people's memorials of their furry loved ones on the chapel’s Remembrance Wall. There was also the draw of seeing so much of Stephen Huneck’s art in one place, his whimsical prints and woodcuts and furniture and rugs and sculptures of winged dogs and haloed cats.

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One of Stephen's many creations.

Sadly, the impetus of the trip had been Stephen’s suicide a few months before on Jan. 8, 2010. That got us out of “we should go someday” to “we must go and say goodbye to Stephen.” I’m sure many of his patrons and fans felt that way, though most of us had not known him personally. The extremely close bond that was created between Stephen’s loving and spiritual art and the pet lovers who enjoyed it was (and is) very strong.

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Stephen and Gwen Huneck. Photo by Karen Pike, courtesy of the Stephen Huneck Gallery Facebook page

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The view from Dog Mountain: Peaceful, lush and beautiful.

As we drove into the grounds of Dog Mountain, Barbara stopped the car and we took in the beauty and tranquillity of the place. It seemed impossible that such tragedy had struck the creator of this pet haven. But complete sorrow was impossible as we drove on watching dogs running through the vibrantly green grass, their owners strolling casually and peacefully near them. There was even a cat on a leash.

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Flags for the recent Summer Dog Party. Photo by Denise Scavitto.

I met Gwen Huneck as we stepped into the Dog Mountain store. I was struck by her calm and sweet demeanor and her ability to carry on. She told us about the Dog Chapel, which Stephen had built and had described as his favorite piece of work. The atmosphere was subdued but welcoming, and we made our trek to the chapel. We left hours later, happy and filled with a sense of serenity, certain that Stephen was at peace with his pets who had also passed over.

But Dog Mountain wasn’t to really know peace. On June 2, Gwen Huneck also took her own life. I had to confirm this again and again because I could not reconcile the image I had of her with this tragic act. Had she died of a broken heart, I wondered, no longer able to go on without her partner? Why now? Why at all?

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Barbara's dog, Toby, enjoying the freedom of Dog Mountain.

If Stephen was the soul of Dog Mountain, Gwen was the heart. She put herself completely into the organizing of the spiritually and communally oriented activities that the Hunecks were known for, flying prayer flags and holding picnics for pet lovers and their pets. I experienced Gwen’s kindness and openness firsthand.

There is no way to know why the Hunecks both committed suicide. While there was no indication that I could find that Gwen suffered from mental illness, Stephen openly struggled with depression and killed himself in his psychiatrist’s parking lot. Being manic depressive myself, I could understand Stephen’s actions, though understanding Gwen’s was tougher.

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Many dogs are remembered at the Dog Chapel. Photo courtesy The Stephen Huneck Gallery's Facebook page.

Dog Mountain lives on. I imagine there are few business owners who had the amount of love and devotion of their workers that the Hunecks did. Stephen’s artwork is still available, and there are still events for pet lovers and their pets on the mountain.

Stephen and Gwen left a legacy that will be appreciated for a long, long time, but they also left family, friends, and employees without answers. For me, the tragedies of Dog Mountain act as a reminder that we all must be on guard not to let sadness become overwhelming.

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My dearly departed Hudson with my prized Stephen Huneck rug, titled "Friendship."

I find it best to remember that moment when I sat in Barbara’s car and was filled with the beauty and serenity of Dog Mountain, a place for living freely and remembering our loved ones who have gone on to the Elysian Fields.

Read related stories on Dogster:

Fri, 16 Aug 2013 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-mountain-tragedy-art-chapel-stephen-gwen-huneck
<![CDATA[The American Kennel Club Protests Russian Homophobia]]> The American Kennel Club has made an incredible step forward to defend human diversity in the dog world. The World Dog Show, which is the dog world's equivalent of the Olympics (a comparison that will matter in a moment), is scheduled to take place in Russia in 2016. For those who haven't been following the news, Russia has recently passed and begun enforcing some scary anti-gay laws. The legislation outlaws the discussion of LGBT rights or relationships anywhere that minors might overhear them -- which covers a lot of places. The result has been the arrest and beating of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

In response, the AKC has released a strong public statement written by chairman of the board Alan T. Kalter Chairman as well as President and CEO Dennis B. Sprung. It condemns Russia's homophobic law and also demands that Fédération Cynologique Internationale move the dog show to a county where all guardians, regardless of sexual orientation, will be safe to participate.

The 2014 Winter Olympics are also scheduled to be held in Russia, and many people are calling for those to also be moved for the safety of LGBT athletes and spectators. Although the AKC is not known for its progressive politics, this is a tremendous statement that carries a lot of weight in the international dog world.

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Here I am at an agility trial with my dog Snickers, about six months before I would come out as gay and be kicked out of my home.

You can read the whole AKC statement here. And here is my favorite part:

"Dogs do not discriminate. Gender, race, sexual orientation, and other status do not enter the equation of responsible pet ownership. That is why the American Kennel Club and our constituency are puzzled and disappointed by the decision to allow Russia to host the 2016 World Dog Show. The proliferation of anti-gay and lesbian laws in Russia today is both disturbing and shocking to our community. The choice of this country as a venue for such a prestigious dog show flies in the face of the ideals of the human-canine bond."

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Charlotte and Mercury getting their pride on!

Even though I'm the guardian of two mixed breed dogs, I care about what the AKC has to say. They wield an undeniable amount of power in the world of dogs, and when they make this kind of statement it carries huge cultural meaning, not only to the International Dog Show, which hopefully will not take place in Russia, but also to the dog world here in the States. For me this isn't just a story in the news, it hits very close to home. It was a homophobic dog show world that left me 17 years old, homeless and faced with no choice but to rehome my dogs who were not only my best friends, but also my teammates in canine sports, and the only reason I survived high school and my abusive childhood home.

It sounds silly, but when I read the AKC's statement about Russia, LGBT people, and the world dog I started crying. A lot has changed for me in the years since I became homeless and had my dogs ripped away from me -- I've built my own home and been able to recapture stolen dreams of working with dogs -- but there are still moments when the past haunts me. I think about how much has changed in the past 12 years. I think about being a scared homeless gay teenager holding empty leashes. I never would have believed that I would see the AKC would issue this kind of powerful statement. It says in no uncertain terms that dogs do not discriminate, which is the beauty of the human dog bond, and that as a gay person I am not only welcome in the dog world, but the most powerful dog organization in the country will fight to protect us.

About the author: Sassafras Lowrey is a dog-obsessed author based in Brooklyn. She is the winner of the 2013 Berzon Emerging Writer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation, and the editor of two anthologies and one novel. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, and she assists with dog agility classes. She lives with her partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, and two bossy cats. She is always on the lookout for adventures with her canine pack. Learn more at her website.

Read more by Sassafras Lowrey:

Thu, 15 Aug 2013 08:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/american-kennel-club-russia-anti-gay-law-homophobia-world-dog-show
<![CDATA[Paint a Portrait of Your Dog at Painting with a Twist]]> Pet lovers never skimp when it comes to spending on our beloved pets. From doggy hotels and posh wardrobes to grooming and showering them with toys, there is never a shortage on new ways to care for and honor our furry friends.

At Painting with a Twist, we knew immediately that one of the unique ways we could get pet owners to connect is by offering them the option to paint a one-of-a-kind picture of their dogs in our art studios across the country. Our business provides our guests a unique getaway through art. Led by local art instructors, guests paint on bare 16-by-20-inch canvases using paint and brushes provided by the studio -- and they can bring their own drinks! The Paint Your Pet class is extremely popular. Since we launched it, we have held 874 events with a total of 11,457 pet pictures painted.  

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Sign up for a class and paint your own pup.

The Paint Your Pet class has been an instant hit. While the majority of pets being painted are dogs, some participants paint their cats, hamsters, birds and even fish.

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The class attracts all types of people, mostly amateurs, but some experienced painters as well. Unlike our regular classes, which attract big groups of people, the Paint Your Pet class brings in small groups of friends, some who are looking to give the painting as a gift, some who are celebrating their pets birthdays, and others who are looking to honor a pet that recently passed.

Our instructors love teaching the class because they get to be one-on-one with each painter and teach them techniques not typical to the regular classes. Each Paint Your Pet class has at least two instructors, which allows ample support for each painter. 

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This class is so much fun to watch. Since a majority of the painters who attend share a personal connection with the pets they are painting, they try extra hard to find the perfect colors and re-create their pets the way they see them every day. We love seeing how invested each painter gets. More often than not, they are truly proud of their creations when they leave the studio.

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A few of our locations have made Paint Your Pet part of their Painting with a Purpose classes, in which 50 percent of the nights proceeds are donated to local organizations. Painting with a Twist McKinney, Texas most recently held a class benefiting The Puppy Rescue Mission. Oftentimes when U.S. troops are overseas they form deep bonds with a puppy or cat in the war zone, which become their battle buddies. Puppy Rescue Mission helps the troops to rescue and bring home these animals.

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A soldier from Fort Hood painted his beloved dog at one of our classes.

For this particular class, soldiers from Fort Hood showed up with their families to paint their pups rescued through the organization. We were was able to donate $370 to The Puppy Rescue Mission (another class is scheduled for the organization in October). Puppy Rescue Mission is just one example of the many organizations our Painting with a Purpose class benefits; others include Relay for Life, St. Francis Animal Sanctuary, and Susan G. Komen.

For more information about Painting with a Twist and to find your local Paint Your Pet class, visit   

All images courtesy of Painting with a Twist. 

Read related stories on Dogster:

Mon, 12 Aug 2013 08:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/painting-with-a-twist-paint-portrait-dog-pet
<![CDATA[MTV's "Teen Mom 2" Dog Killed in Mauling Incident]]> “Large dog attacks small dog, and fatality results.”

Reading those words is hard. Writing them is even harder. But witnessing it is perhaps one of the most brutal visual nightmares one can experience. Thankfully, I did not witness the  act, but I was privy to part of it, and so were millions of other unsuspecting television viewers of Teen Mom 2 on MTV.

The backstory

Having grown up in the days of hair bands and glam rockers showcasing their latest videos on this channel, it has been quite a culture shock for me to see “reality” shows such as Teen Mom 2 being broadcast on a music channel.

Though I do not watch a lot of television, I have select shows I cannot miss. One of my guilty pleasures has become Teen Mom 2. The series focuses on four young girls who became pregnant during their teen years and the struggles that ensue during pregnancy and while raising a baby. I find the show to be very realistic, raw, and ripe with emotional turmoil that (I hope) affects the psyche of young girls tuning in. Use birth control or this will happen to you, seems to be the undercurrents of the show.

The incident

One of the four featured cast members is a South Dakota native, Chelsea Houska. Since giving birth to adorable daughter Aubree, Houska’s life has been fraught with emotional challenges. She quit high school when she was pregnant, her on again/off again relationship with the baby’s father has been played out, and she struggles with what is best for her daughter (and herself) as the cameras roll.

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Chelsea Houska seen her with her daughter, Aubree

On the day Houska is scheduled to take her final GED practice test, she is running late. Her small dogs, Frankie and Pixie, need to pee, so she lets the dogs outside, both off leash, to do their business. As she does, Houska walks around chatting on her cell phone, baby Aubree on her hip. Her frustration level climbs, as she is in a hurry, trying to gather her dogs back into the house, but they refuse to come back. She manages to get Pixie into her truck and shuts the door behind him.

Frankie is not so lucky. The little French Bulldog is seen traipsing around different yards, Houska following, chatting on the phone, and upset that she cannot get Frankie back into the house. She’s in a hurry, after all!

The dog disappears and within a matter of seconds, the worst happens. Houska gasps and the camera cuts away. After the commercial break, we learn the dog was being attacked by a neighbor’s larger dog. Houska is visibly upset and calls police, who tell her there is not much they can do. A distraught Houska breaks down and calls her supportive father.

“Every time I go to my test, something happens,” Chelsea weeps to her father.” Her dad, in turn, agrees with the bigger dog’s owner that if his daughter had Frankie on a leash, none of this would have happened. He also points out that Aubree could have been the one who was murdered.

My Reaction

I am livid.

Beyond the anger I feel for this girl’s lack of thought at not leashing her dogs to take them outside as she rushed to take her GED, I am livid for other reasons.

Why did the camera people not intervene? I always wonder these things when cameras roll and totally disturbing things happen. Who was filming it? And was it set up? I wonder to myself. This was no setup: A dog was mauled.

I wanted reality, and I got it, and now I have no idea what to do with it. We all make mistakes, right? We all do something we wished we did not do, right? This is so disturbing.

Why is a girl who is struggling to make ends meet while attempting to get her GED (she later passed) and raise an infant daughter even wanting to have dogs in the first place?

In December, Houska tweeted, “I'm gonna be single for life. That moment when you listen to 'love songs' and nobody pops into your mind."

Tweet what you want, ramble about the misgivings and unfortunate life of emptiness you feel, but watch your dog, for crying out loud. I want to curse, I want to scream, I want to be the person behind the camera who stops rolling and picks up the helpless dog.

I am livid, and a little dog is dead because of a hurried teen mom. She made one mistake, and I give her credit for owning it and attempting to better her life.

I am chided now and again to stop referring to my dog as my kid. Maybe if more folks viewed their dogs as they do their kids, horrific incidents like this would not happen. And camera crews would drop the equipment and help a frantic young girl find her lost dog. If that were Aubree running loose toward the big dog, would they have stopped rolling then? I shake my head and wonder.

What do you think? At this point, I am livid and at a loss for further words. Lights, camera, ... now someone take action. Please.

Thu, 17 Jan 2013 08:03:00 -0800 /the-scoop/mtv-teen-2-mom-dog-killed
<![CDATA[Neil Gaiman's Rescued Dog, Cabal, Has Died]]> If you're familiar with the work of writer Neil Gaiman, then you already know about the author's accolades for his books and graphic novels. His works of fantasy, horror, and science fiction entertain and engage us. But there's another thing about Gaiman that we like so much and that we think merits honor: He rescued a lost dog from the side of the road.

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Gaiman found Cabal by the side of the road. What started out as a human rescuing a dog quickly became reversed when Gaiman ended up adopting the white German Shepherd.

As the author recounts on his blog, Cabal, a white German Shepherd, was running around, scared and likely to run into traffic. That's when Gaiman came to the dog's rescue, and after getting the dog into his car, he brought him to a local shelter to be reunited with his owner. That person, a nearby farmer, collected the dog but also mentioned that he thought the dog was a "nuisance," and that if anyone wanted him, he was more than willing to part with the wolfish canine. Gaiman seized the opportunity.

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The author helped nurse the dog back to health and the two quickly became best friends.

The dog's white fur had been stained by the chain he wore while tethered in the farmer's yard. Also, he was underweight, and he suffered the effects of negligence. Gaiman nursed the dog to health, and he changed his name from Buck to Cabal -- after a canine character from the King Arthur legends. The mythical name suited Cabal, who offered Gaiman companionship during some difficult times in the writer's life.

You know what they say: Sometimes we don't rescue dogs, they rescue us. Gaiman eventually adopted a second dog, Lola, to keep Cabal company, and he posted so many photos of his little pack that fans created a Tumblr of pictures of the dogs. There is even a Cabal shirt available for purchase here.

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Super Cabal! Photo via Neil Gaiman's Never Wear

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Cabal and Gaiman became fast friends.

At age 9, Cabal died recently and suddenly of a blood clot in his lungs. Gaimain wrote a moving tribute to the big white dog that you can read here (tissue warning). Closing with a poem from Rudyard Kipling called "The Power of Dog," Gaiman wrote that Cabal was the "best dog in the universe" who will be painfully missed.

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Rest in peace, Cabal.

Via Neil Gaiman's blog, photos by Neil Gaiman via Tumblr 

Tue, 15 Jan 2013 08:03:00 -0800 /the-scoop/neil-gaiman-dog-german-shepherd-died-cabal
<![CDATA[Is Charlie the AmStaff a Victim of One Agency's War on Dogs? ]]> Dogs and the outdoors: They go together naturally. But dogs in public parks -- even huge ones with lots of space to run free -- not always. And to us, that's a shame, if not an outright injustice. At least, it can be. We recognize that everyone should be able to enjoy public lands, and some regulation is needed -- for animals as well as things like motorized vehicles, performances, and so on -- in order for that to happen.

But what if a public agency has it out for dogs and their owners? What if its actions look like it's aiming to make dogs less equal than other park users?

That sure seems to be the case with the U.S. Park Service in the Bay Area in recent years.

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Charlie the American Staffordshire Terrier

The service has, for years, attempted to restrict access for dogs on the region's parklands, and since the 1970s tensions between dog owners and park officials have been characterized by raucous public hearings, court cases, and, most recently, harsh treatment of dogs and their owners. 

In the past year, a U.S. park ranger Tasered a 51-year-old man for walking his Rat Terrier off leash in San Mateo County, and since August, U.S. park officials in San Francisco have aggressively sought the euthanasia of the young dog Charlie, an American Staffordshire Terrier who bit a mounted police horse despite the fact Charlie has no previous record of aggressive behavior. His owner is now appealing Charlie's death sentence.

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Charlie on the beach

In the late 1970s, after years of public wrangling, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area established a pet policy that allows dogs on approximately one percent of Bay Area parklands. The 1979 Pet Policy also established off-leash rules and designated off-leash areas, one of which is a portion of Crissy Field in the San Francisco Presidio. 

But the GGNRA was never happy with the policy, and in the 1990s, illegally closed some dog walking areas designated in the 1979 Pet Policy, most notably at Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, and West Beach at Crissy Field. However, the closures did not withstand citizen-based legal challenges, and most of those areas have been reopened. 

Currently the GGNRA is attempting to roll back the 1979 Pet Policy through a new dog-management plan that would completely prohibit dogs from areas they are allowed in and require dogs be on-leash at Crissy Field. The public outcry to the draft plan was so great -- 4,713 people commented on the plan and 80 percent of the comments favored current dog policies -– that the GGNRA is revising the draft plan, which will be released again for public comment in February, 2013. 

But the public’s wishes have not stopped the GGNRA from aggressively intimidating dog owners for minor infractions and taking harsh actions against dogs who act aggressively.

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Charlie as a younger dog

In the past year, there have been at least two controversial incidents involving dogs that have caught the public’s attention. In January, Park Ranger Sarah Cavallaro stopped 51-year-old Gary Hesterberg for walking his Rat Terrier off-leash at the Rancho Corral de Tierra property, which was recently acquired by the GGNRA. In fact, the property was so newly acquired there were no “dogs on leash” signs posted in the area, according to Hesterberg’s attorney. Hesterberg, a local who had been walking his dogs in the area for years, complied with Cavallaro’s demand to leash the small dog. But Cavallaro would not allow Hesterberg to leave the scene and she would not explain why she was detaining him. 

Hesterberg tried to walk away twice, according to witnesses, and on his second attempt, Cavallaro unholstered her Taser and shot him in the back. The high-voltage charge knocked Hesterberg to the ground, and he was arrested after being examined by paramedics. In the days following the violent attack, there was a rising chorus of complaints about Cavallaro’s actions. The U.S. Park Service defended her actions and after a disciplinary investigation, which found that Cavallaro actions were within park policy. 

However, the 200-page investigation report was not released to the public, which brought the ire of U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, who demanded an independent investigation and publicly criticized the park service’s actions, findings, and refusal to release the report. 

Given the circumstances, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office refused to prosecute Hesterberg for the misdemeanors of walking his dog off-leash, failing to follow an officer’s orders, and giving false information about his identity. “In light of all the circumstances, we decided that a criminal case was not the appropriate path to take,” District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said. “We’re confident that a jury wouldn’t convict him and this case would be better by not entering the criminal justice system.”

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Charlie and his owner, David Gizzarelli

In July, Hesterberg filed a claim with the U.S. Park Service seeking $500,000. The park service has until January to respond to the claim. 

Hesterberg’s attorney, Michael Haddad, said the park service should release the report on Cavallaro, who had previous complaints about her interactions with dog owners, to the public. “This is the only way to shed some real light on what happened,” Haddad said. “If the park service contends the ranger honestly thought it was within their policies to Tase this guy in the back, then clearly their policies need to be clarified or strengthened.” 

The most recent incident involves Charlie a Staffordshire Terrier who attacked a U.S. Park Service mounted police horse at Crissy Field on Aug. 6. Charlie, who was 18 months at the time, had never seen a horse before and he became excited. He charged the horse, Stoney, who was being ridden by Officer Eric Evans, from approximately 200 yards away. According to Evans, he put Stoney into evasive action by pivoting the horse, which further excited Charlie and he bit Stoney, causing the horse to fall and Evans to be thrown. Charlie chased Stoney for a little more than half a mile and bit the horse several more times. 

Charlie’s owner, David Gizzarelli, was arrested and Charlie was taken to San Francisco Animal Care and Control, and released to Gizzarelli the next day. But after a vicious dog hearing on Aug. 23, hearing officer John Denny ordered that Charlie could be euthanized in the new year, despite the fact that Officer Evans misrepresented and exaggerated the facts of the case and provided next to no hard evidence of his claims. 

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Officer Eric Evans and Stoney the horse

GGNRA spokesman Howard Levitt has said on more than one occasion that the park service has nothing to do with the legal proceedings against Charlie, and that Charlie’s punishment is entirely up to the city and county of San Francisco. But according to court records, the GGNRA not only requested the vicious dog hearing, but also requested Charlie be euthanized. We've found that the official case against Charlie is weak.

Gizzarelli has been fighting to save Charlie, but reportedly Denny will only agree to lift the death sentence if Gizzarelli relinquishes ownership of the dog. The requirement is odd because Denny refuses to say exactly why Gizzarelli is an unfit owner. Neither the U.S. Park Service nor Denny have responded to requests for comment on the case. 

In the meantime, Charlie has been kept in a small cell surrounded by truly vicious dogs, and he is not allowed human contact. “Charlie continues to be in an 8x4 cell with no walks and no visits,” Gizzarelli posted his Help Save Charlie Facebook page. “And who knows what else because NO ONE is allowed to visit him. We are filing a new stay and continuing to fight, sue, and protect Charlie and dogs like him.” 

Fri, 11 Jan 2013 09:03:00 -0800 /the-scoop/charlie-amstaff-golden-gate-national-recreation-area-war-on-dogs
<![CDATA[Rose Parade Float Honors Military Working Dogs]]> We always look forward to the Natural Balance Pet Foods float in the Rose Parade, and 2013 will mark a particularly special floral commemoration.

This year, Natural Balance's entry in the world-famous parade is a replica of the U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, the first such monument dedicated to military dogs scheduled to be dedicated next fall. Before now there has been no national monument honoring the dogs who have served in the U.S. armed forces. While smaller memorials exist in cemeteries and on military bases, the U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument will be the first canine commemoration on par with monuments like the Statue of Liberty.

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Concept art of the monument. Via JBMF, Inc.

The monument, which will feature a human handler and four dog breeds famous for their service work, is yet to be unveiled. We'll get a look at the real statue at the Rose Parade.

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The float in progress, as overseen by Sgt. First Class Chuck Shuck and Gabe. Photo via Fleishman Hillard

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Photo via Fleishman Hillard

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Concept art of the completed float. Image courtesy of Natural Balance

During the parade, the float -- dubbed "Canines with Courage" -- will be flanked by Lucca, a recently retired military hero dog who lost one of her legs to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan while saving a platoon of U.S. Marines. You can learn more about her story in the video below.

Will you be watching the Rose Parade on New Year's Day? If so, watch for this remarkable float.

Thu, 27 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/military-dogs-rose-parade-float-natural-balance-national-monument
<![CDATA[Food Trucks for Dogs Are Headed Your Way]]> Phydough, kibble kabobs, bowser biscuits: Do any of these items sound appetizing to you? No? Well, your dog might drool, as all of these goodies are made with canines in mind. Beyond the barking-good meal appeal, these delectables come delivered -- well, sort of.

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Donna Santucci loves serving her canine customers.

You know the food trucks that park outside businesses and offices so the lunch crowd has easy access to cuisine? This concept has expanded to dogs; perhaps you and your pooch have dined on the delicacies offered by local eateries, bakers on wheels, or even the bigger brand names serving doggie style treats and meals throughout the nation.

Meals on wheels has taken on a whole new meaning.

Fido to Go is Donna Santucci’s mobile food truck for pets featuring Fi-Yo doggie frozen yogurts and Midwest-sourced natural treats and chews for both cats and dogs.

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Dogs and their paw-rents line up for a tasty treat from Fido to Go.

Fido to Go made its debut at the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago's "Bark In the Park" in 2011, and has been rolling along strong ever since. Santucci makes cookies, frozen yogurts, dog candy, and donuts. The ingredients are organic, natural, gluten- and sugar-free, and don't have preservatives and additives. They're made right in Chicago.

Our focus is on healthy, allergen-free treats and creating the truck experience fun for the pet and their parents,” Santucci says. “Our dried products are all from Midwest farm and locally dried in Illinois.” She boasts Fido to Go as the first original treat truck in the nation; they are looking forward to having many of their Fido to Go trucks in many cities.

Angela Meyers established Frosty Pooch Ice Cream truck for dogs in May of 2011. The idea came to Meyers when she and her husband stopped for ice cream while at the beach. As their German Shepherds, Nikita and Cabo, started longingly for some of their ice cream, a lightbulb moment occurred; why not an ice cream truck for dogs? In addition to ice cream, the Frosty Pooch truck serves bones, cookies, Frisbees, balls, along with free water and waste bags.

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Frosty Pooch keeps dogs cool in the summer.

“We go to all kinds of events," Meyers shares. "But when we are not at an event, we drive around Hoboken, New Jersey, to all the different dog parks.” Meyers is also thinking about franchising her business across the country, beginning in New York. Fans can follow the truck and their pooch pit stops via the website.

Bigger brands have hopped aboard the food trucks as well. Over the summer of 2012, the Pet Cafe, a food truck sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, toured the country to help promote a new brand offered by the company.

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Chef Michael’s, a brand of Nestle’ Purina PetCare, launched a national sweepstakes in 2012 to support building a dog-friendly food-truck community. In a survey conducted by the company, 48 percent of respondents revealed they would likely take their dog to lunch or dinner at a food truck that provided food for their dogs if they had access to one in their neighborhood. 

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My dog Dexter digs a delectable cool treat.

Would you visit a food or treat truck if you had access to one? Bark at me below! 

Thu, 27 Dec 2012 03:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-food-trucks-for-dogs
<![CDATA[7 Ways to Make Your Dog a Social Media Superstar]]> Boo: One name says it all, especially for the more than 6 million fans who follow the pompadoured Pomeranian superstar of cuteness on Facebook. That could be your dog, too, right?

With more than 1 billion people on Facebook and nearly 78 million dogs calling the United States home, there are indeed masses of mutts and parades of pedigrees gracing social media pages. If you have a dog and a social media account, why not create a social media following to rival the likes of, well, Boo? Here are some tips to make it happen. 

1. Time to walk the dog blog

People start dog blogs for a variety of reasons, including giving their pooch a voice, showcasing her latest travel adventures, or even to share pet-friendly restaurants. With pet bloggers representing a big part of cyberspace, you’ll hardly be alone if you start a blog.

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"Okay yeah sit stay, blah blah. Can we have a treat now?"

First consider why you want to blog, whether it will be written in canine or human voice, and how much time you want to commit. Disney even has a show devoted to the concept, Dog With a Blog -- pet blogging has indeed become a force to be reckoned with. BlogPaws, a social media company founded in 2009, brings the online pet community together with yearly conferences that are pet friendly -- dogs are even welcome in the classrooms.

2. Take an interest in Pinterest

We're a visual and socially connected society, and dogs are very social beings. Dog moms and dads fill their smartphones with photos of their canine family members. Pinterest encourages, fosters, and helps grow your furry obsession into something connected to other dog lovers.

Pinning is a form of micro-blogging, very much like Twitter and Facebook, but without the heavy verbal commitment. If getting your dog recognized is your goal, give Pinterest a try. And check out Instagram for more photo-capture fabulousness.

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Some photos are destined for Pinterest fun.

3. Facebook -- with a catch

Yes, your dog can have a Facebook page, but there is a catch. Thanks to more than 83 million fake Facebook accounts, Mark Zuckerberg & Co. are cleaning house, including pages occupied by dogs. Accounts that will be removed include personal pages set up improperly. Be sure to use the Facebook “Pages” option to set up a canine account.

Facebook, like much of the social media landscape, is very image based. If you like taking pictures and want to give your dog a voice, Facebook has a place for your pooch. Friend fellow tail-waggers, and remember that Facebook is very much like the dog park: Follow the rules, have fun, respect others, and be social yet not intrusive.

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"Hey, can I friend you on Facebook?"

4. Twitter jitters

Twitter is more lax when it comes to animals having their own accounts. Have you been to a “pawty” or participated in an online animal chat? Businesses and brands host Twitter parties where the atmosphere is pet friendly -- because oftentimes the pets do the talking. Millions of dollars are being made in the name of dog. Brands have become savvy to what dog parents want, and as a PR and social media guru in the pet industry, I can attest firsthand (and paw) that tweets by pets are being watched.

How can you get your dog noticed? Above all, follow other pet people. It might seem time consuming and daunting, but if your plan is to create a doggie diva, Twitter needs to be a part of it.

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Too cute not to tweet about.

5. I sniff you, you sniff me

Growing an online presence takes time. Think like your dog: He meets a new dog, and in most cases, an exchange of sniffs occurs. The same philosophy should be applied online. You know that person who talks nonstop at a party, rambling about me-me-me? It works the same way. If you want a following, be a good follower. Reciprocity rules; I sniff you, you sniff me.

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"Come here often?"

6. Walk away from the blinky box

Experience life. Go for walks, engage in face-to-face banter, and then infuse those experiences into your dog’s social media presence. I have a “rules of writing” poster here in my office, and one of the basic principles is to stop writing and go do something. I find humor in things my dog does when on play dates, traveling, going for walks, and meeting new people. I am able to write about those experiences. Probably 80 percent of my inspiration happens within a 10-mile radius of my home, but thousands of followers know about it. It's amazing how dogs can bring us together, isn’t it? We're one big happy dog park, in a sense.

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Get together IRL (in real life) to make online magic happen.

7. Say cheese

Finally, take your camera wherever you go. If you have a smartphone with a camera, use it. Snap pictures at the pet supply store, the dog park, the vet’s waiting room, and wherever your dog goes. No need to go pup-arazzi style, but the funniest and most engaging visual moments I’ve shared have been when my dog is doing sweet and innocent nothings -- which can turn into big somethings online.

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Dexter, my raspberry blowing king.

There you have it. It might not happen overnight, but social-media stardom can be done. Be sure to never put a dog in harm's way or make her do anything uncomfortable or upsetting in order to get a good photo or post. Most of all, avoid pitfalls by having fun and bonding with your dog. It worked for Timmy and Lassie in the well, and it works for Boo and his mom on Facebook.

Does your dog have a social-media presence? Bark at me below and share your links. I love making new friends as much as my dog does. You can follow my Dexter on Facebook

Tue, 18 Dec 2012 09:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/make-your-dog-social-media-superstar-7-tips
<![CDATA["Antiques Roadshow" Is Dominated by Dog (and Cat!) Regalia Tonight]]> Tonight, Nov. 12, Antiques Roadshow premieres a special episode, and we'll be all eyes and ears. It's called Cats & Dogs.

In case you're one of the few who hasn't fallen under the spell of this endlessly entertaining -- and surprisingly scholarly -- dusting-off of buried treasure and miscellaneous junque that folks find in nooks and grannies' attics, know that it's PBS's most-watched primetime series.

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A Buster Brown advertisement.

The influential show has left many marks in the decorative-arts milieu -- like the time, earlier this year,one of its appraisers greeted the daughter of an ex-Royal Observer Corps member.

She came bearing 15 original copies of the iconic "Keep Calm and Carry On," the morale-boosting WWII British propaganda poster. It was believed there were only two known surviving examples outside government archives. By now, that poster is hot stuff on our shores -- one can hardly pass a purveyor of wall art without seeing a reproduction of its stiff-upper-lip slogan. Its dog-friendly reincarnation, "Keep Calm and Walk the Dog," is even emblazoned on retractable leashes! 

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A dog-themed illustration by Arthur Rackham.

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Appraiser Nan Chisholm (right) and a guest with her 1963 Fred Machetanz oil painting. Photo by Jeffrey Dunn. 

So it stands to reason that it was just a matter of time before Roadshow went to the dogs. And so it has, quite glamorously.

Of tonight's special, Roadshow executive producer Marsha Bemko promises, "You'll see fine and furry friends taking all shapes and sizes ... You won't want to miss [it]."

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Guest with a Roseville ivory dog figurine.

The episode will include appraisals featuring canines (and felines, too, for connoisseurs of cat collectibles), sculpted, painted on canvas, and immortalized in pop-culture fossils.

In the latter category, the paws-down most droolworthy item is, in my humble opinion, the one that portrays Pit Bull pride: a vintage Buster Brown Shoes advertisement featuring Buster's adorable brindle pittie, Tige.

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Appraiser Alan Fausel with a guest and his 19th-century oil painting by John Emms. Photo by Jeffrey Dunn.

Also wonderful are the mouthwatering robin's-egg-blue Minton plates depicting dogs painted by the renowned canine artist Sir Edwin Landseer, which the design hound in me is hungry to set the table with at a dinner party. Delicious!

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Sir Edwin Landseer dog plate.

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Francis Calcraft Turner oil painting, 1835.

I also wouldn't mind giving pride of place at my pad to the painted collector's cabinet, circa 1900, whose every front drawer panel sports a sweet dog scene.

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A collector's cabinet, c. 1900.

(Actually, this object could give decoratively DIY-inclined Dogster readers some neat ideas for spiffing up a tired old chest of drawers.) 

Watch Cats & Dogs - Preview on PBS. See more from Antiques Roadshow.

Meanwhile, methinks writer's block would simply never be an obstacle if only the fabulous Fabergé desk-set straight edge were sitting pretty in my dog writer's office. And for a pawsome paperweight, check out the sleeping ceramic dog by Roseville.

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Fabergé desk-set straight-edge.

Check your local PBS listings for show schedules.

Do you have a dog-themed collectible lying around and gathering dust? What are you planning to do with it? Please tell us in the comments!

Mon, 12 Nov 2012 10:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/antiques-roadshow-cats-and-dogs
<![CDATA[Forget Cats and Dogs -- the Weather Puppy iPhone App Rains Cuteness]]> As I recently checked the weather I noticed, to my dismay, that rain was forecast. Bummer. I'm from Southern California. In Los Angeles, when it rains, we hide inside and wonder if the world is about to end. In San Francisco, folks just put on their raincoats and trudge to work, no matter what kind of slippery mess the bus has turned into. This is going to be my first winter in San Francisco, so now's the real test, right?

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This is the face I make when it rains. Photo: Big dog wearing big red rubber boots by

Maybe I should download Weather Puppy, an iPhone app that brightens dreary weather forecasts with ... a puppy! Even the rainiest day can't scare me back into bed when I've got an adorable puppy delivering the wet news. Gosh, maybe one day I'll even see snow (I've never seen snow in person), as long as Weather Puppy leads the way.

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Pretty glad I'm not in Portland.

It's a simple yet brilliant concept. Weather Puppy delivers the weather for your region, accompanied by a photo of a puppy. The puppies alternate as the weather changes, so at first you're like, "Bummer! Rain!" and then you're like, "Oh sweet, a PUPPY!" It sure turns my raincloud frown upside down.

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We can't control the weather -- or much else, for that matter -- but we can control how we confront obstacles, and Weather Puppy is just the thing to help make things easier.

Via Tech Crunch

Thu, 25 Oct 2012 05:30:00 -0700 /bolz/iphone-app-weather-puppy
<![CDATA[Howard Stern Blasts Michael Vick]]> Howard Stern (bear with us) recently went on a rant against Michael Vick and Vick's recent decision to secretly own a dog. It's a long rant -- seven minutes -- so we thought we give you the best quotes. 

Before we do, however, you should be aware of Howard and wife Beth's bona fides when it comes to dogs. They're not shabby.

The pair have rescued multiple dogs and cats. In 2010, Beth published Oh My Dog: How to Choose, Train, Groom, Nurture, Feed, and Care for Your New Best Friend. Beth is also heavily into animal advocacy, and she is a spokesperson for the North Shore Animal League, the world's largest no-kill animal adoption and rescue group. She was also named one of Petside’s 25 Pet People of 2011.

In July, the couple's bulldog Bianca, which they adopted 10 years ago from a rescue, passed away. Stern has railed against Vick in the past. He and Beth have Bianca's name tattooed on their arms.  

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Stern and Bianca. Photo via Twitter.

Okay? Good. Take it away, Howard: 

"Well, when I saw the news I was dumbfounded. It baffles the mind really."

"Everything has calmed down for this guy, he's gotten his career back on track ... things are quiet. But instead of keeping things quiet, the way he should, he decides he's going to get a dog. 

"What the ?$&!* is that all about?"

(Oh, if you didn't know, Stern works blue. Satellite radio and all.)

"Michael Vick should never own a pet."

"This is no different than Rihanna getting back together with Chris Brown." 

"Get the dog away from him. There should have been something written where he could never own a dog." 

Robin: "It would be like Jerry Sandusky getting hold of a children's group again." 

Howard: "It would be like if Casey Anthony filled out adoption papers for a baby and got one." 

"Isn't there someone in his life that says, 'Listen, Michael, You're a dopey guy, you're a big, dumb ?$&!* jock. You're a football player. Let me think for you. You can't have a dog. You can't have a cat. You can't have a HAMSTER YOU ?$&!* ?$&!*  You blew it! If you really want a pet, it's not in this lifetime. And your kids when they get older can get one.'"

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Bianca. Photo via Twitter.

"This ?$&!* guy should not be around dogs. He's got a hostility to dogs. I don't know what happened in his life, but he shouldn't be allowed to be near a ... it's CRAZY."

"Why would he stir this up? He's insane. This guy's insane. Of course he's insane. Who could look at a little dog and kill it?"

If you'd like to listen to it yourself, click here.

Dogster Poll: Is Howard Stern right about Michael Vick?

Fri, 19 Oct 2012 12:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/howard-stern-blasts-michael-vick-dog
<![CDATA[The Biggest Changes in the Dog World of the Past 20 Years]]> Dogs today are not the dogs of yesterday, this much I know is true. Thinking back to 1992, which seems a lifetime ago, dogs were not privy to so many of the things affecting their lives in 2012. Heck, the same can be said for humans: The times they are a-changin.

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Dogs have rolled their way into all facets of our lives.

From the annals of “then versus now,” here are eight of the prominent changes in the dog world over the past 20 years.

1. Diet

As a kid, I distinctly recall my mother buying canned dog food from the grocery store and mixing it with whatever leftovers remained from supper: This was the dog’s diet, and Candy lived to a ripe old age. We never walked the aisles of a pet-supply superstore because, of course, they did not exist.

How we feed and what we feed (and greater attention paid to the ingredients found in Fido’s food) is one of the major changes to hit the canine scene since 1992. In the 19th century, meat started being fed to dogs, and in the 1860s, dog food found a niche. It was after World War I that horse meat made its way into commercial dog foods.

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Dogs love a good snack just like their human counterparts.

The variety and types of foods we feed Fido have evolved -- dry food, canned food, soft-moist food, rehydrated/raw diets, home cooked, natural/organic, the list goes on. Where we purchase the food is evolving as well, with pet supply stores, veterinary prescribed, mail order, and online. There's also custom diets, canine cookbooks, and rotation diets. 

Having had a dog with irritable bowel disease (who heard of that 20 years ago?), I am more cognizant of what my dog eats and the ingredients the food contains. No doubt, throngs of Dogster readers read a dog food label with the scrutiny of a Sherlock Holmes.

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Dietary advancements mean dogs are living healthier and longer.

2. Health care

One of the major changes in canine world over the past 20 years resides in the health care domain, from specialists to over-vaccination awareness and everything in between. In 1990, not many dogs were getting MRIs, lining up for canine acupuncture, or taking a nutraceutical, such as glucosamine for improved joint mobility.

Dogs are living longer, thanks in large part to owner-veterinary communication and advances in veterinary medicine. Laser surgery and laparoscopic procedures enable vets to more seamlessly heal Fido’s ailments with quicker recovery times. 

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They share our lives, steal our hearts, and dogs are part of the family.

My previous Cocker Spaniel was affected by a mast cell tumor, a potentially aggressive form of canine skin cancer. Because our vet was able to use laser equipment, cleaner margins were obtained, a quicker recovery time resulted, and she lived to be one week shy of 15 years young.

My present dog, Dexter, was neutered via laser surgery and was able to come home the very same day. In fact, I waited at the vet while the surgery occurred and had Dexter in tow, driving home with me a few hours later. Talk about nip, tuck, and go.

3. Verbiage

Yesterday’s Rex is today’s Romeo, as everything from what we name our dogs to the lingo applied to dog food has evolved and changed. Here are few terms with a fast-forward update.

Then -- Now
Dry food -- Kibble
Dog coop -- Dog bed
Mutt -- Designer dog
No Dogs Allowed -- Pet Welcoming
Owner -- Dog Parent
Animal -- Furkid
Kennel -- Doggie daycare

4. Dog-friendly everything

Pet-friendly vacations are becoming a staple in many families, and hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts are rolling out the red carpet to this rising trend. Websites and books devoted to the topic are now commonplace. Growing up, however, the family dog stayed behind when we hit the open road.

Traveling with Your Pet: The AAA PetBook, released the 14th edition this year. As someone who has not taken a vacation without a dog in close to 20 years, I can attest to the joys of finding destinations that welcome dogs.

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Life's a beach, says Dexter, with me on a recent pet-friendly trip.

5. Products

For those of us who grew up with dogs, do you recall the family dog having toys that talked, treats in a bevy of flavors, placemats, leashes to match the season, clothes, and his own bed? Me either.

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Dog toys have changed and the pet industry is cashing in.

Of the nearly $52 billion the American Pet Products Association expects people to spend on their pets in 2012, supplies (including over-the-counter medicine) account for almost $12 billion of that. 

Having walked the show floor of industry shows like the Global Pet Expo and Superzoo, I’ve seen the products that will soon hit store shelves. In the early 1990s, who ever would have imagined a GPS tracking collar, programmable water and feeding systems, or earth friendly eco toys would be offered to dogs?

6. Resources

The Internet has changed the face of how we obtain products and services for Fido, but also how we obtain dogs in general, for better or for worse (i.e., puppy mills). Betsy Banks Saul changed the face of pet adoption when she co-founded Petfinder, the largest online database of adoptable pets.

When I interviewed Saul last year, she revealed she never could have imagined the impact the idea formed in 1996 would have on pet adoption overall. With its 15-year celebration in 2011, the pet-adoption giant marked close to 18 million adoptions, a number they have since surpassed.

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Dogs are pack and family members.

The resources available about dogs are immeasurable. I never thought I would be walking through the doors of a pet bloggers’ conference, but there I was in 2009 at BlogPaws pet bloggers’ conference meeting hundreds of others with a similar purpose in mind: Affect the care and well-being of our non-human family members.

7. Role changes

How to best utilize the many facets of a dog’s personality has come into its own, with dogs used for pet therapy, search and rescue, seizure alert, arson, emotional support, service, the list goes on.

As a teenager, I recall the fascination I felt when I saw a woman with a German Shepherd (her seeing eye dog) walking into the town’s True Value store. Dogster’s own Maria Goodavage writes of military dogs and their handlers in the bestseller Soldier Dogs.

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We celebrate together, with our dogs, at birthday parties and more.

And in his Hero Dogs of 9/11 television special, Kenn Bell shared the stories of the 300 dogs who came to the site of the World Trade Center tragedy to scour for survivors and comfort those who needed a friend.

8. Humanization of dogs

Perhaps one of the biggest non-tangible ways dogs have evolved in our lives is in the way we treat them. For many, dogs are the new kids. No longer are we the “crazy dog people” when planning a birthday party for Chico, attending a pet wedding for Romeo, or setting up play dates with a local group of friends (or is that fur-ends?).

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Canine couture is all the rage and totally the norm.

Our furbabies enter costume contests, walk the fashion runways, and eat in restaurants with us. The definition of "family" has evolved. We have the white picket fences, but dogs are behind them. We go to work, but pet-friendly jobs are a part of our culture. It is said that every dog will have its day, and luckily for the more than 72 million of us who embrace this philosophy, it seems as though our time has arrived.

Dogster readers, what do you think is a big change in the dog world over these past 20 years? Bark back at us in the comments!

Thu, 18 Oct 2012 03:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-world-biggest-changes-past-20-years
<![CDATA[Uggie the Movie-Star Dog Is Now a Celebrity Author]]> Did you see last year's hit-movie The Artist?

If you did, you doubtless fell in love with its four-footed star, a rapscallion of a romantic leading man, er, dog, named Uggie. This Russell Terrier's expressions are so priceless, they recall the immortal words of Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard's sepulchral silent-screen siren: "We didn't need voices -- we had faces."

Many decades had elapsed between the silent film era and The Artist, which updated the silent movie genre for the 21st century and not only made a matinee idol out of Uggie, but rocketed him into the celebrity stratosphere. On Oct. 16, his tail-all memoir, Uggie: My Story, will be released by Gallery Books. We have a copy of it that we'll give to one lucky reader. Read on for details.

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Uggie with Jean Dujardin.

The book's cover sports a suitably swanky still of the sexy beast; around his neck is a black silk bow tie anchored by a $60,000 bone-shaped charm, designed by famed French jeweler Chopard and engraved with the dog's name. (After Uggie wore it, the bauble was auctioned for charity.)

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Uggie is "delighted" with the book's cover design, he informs Dogster through his ghost writer, Wendy Holden. "Although," he adds, "it was a tough decision to choose from the hundreds of photos of moi taken over the years. The truth is I rarely look anything but adorable in pictures, although some would say that I sit on my best side!"

But don't just judge this book by its cover. It's also a rollicking romp of a read -- and it's dedicated "to Reese," as in Witherspoon, Uggie's co-star in his previous film Water for Elephants.

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A kiss for Reese Witherspoon.

Of all the perks that came with canine celebrity, what's been Uggie's favorite thus far? "That's a hard one. Cookies fashioned in my image? Five-star hotels? Sending p-mails on the red carpet? No, it would have to be meeting and falling for the great love of my life, Reese Witherspooon -- oh, and French-kissing Betty White!"

In the silent spotlight, a powerful performance by a talented canine actor can really knock a picture out of the park. To quote Norma Desmond again (from the musical version of Sunset), "With one look, I can break your heart." 

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Katy Perry loves Uggie.

There are no Oscars for dog performers, alas, so Uggie didn't experience the honor of being nominated by the Academy. That's OK -- the "Consider Uggie" campaign garnered 20,000-plus "Likes" on Facebook and, Uggie dishes, "there are already moves a-paw to try to get me considered for a special award next year. I try to stay humble in the face of all this public adoration, but the truth is, I worked as hard as any human actor on The Artist, and taught them a thing or two about the craft of silent movie-making. I have a Palm Dog [the canine equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival's coveted top prize, the Palme d'Or] but an Oscar would sure look good on my grand piano!"

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Uggie lookin' sharp with Kevin Spacey.

Of all the actors in the cinema pantheon, of any species, whose work does Uggie most admire? That he answers without a second's hesitation: Moose, the Russell who played Eddie on TV's Frasier. "He is a personal hero of mine, not least because he suggested using sardine oil for licking scenes -- yum! But his ability to out-stare a human is legendary and he was the first to give Jack Russell 'Terrorists' a good name."

Speaking of terrorists, er, Terriers, being born an earthdog is a lucky accident indeed, which doubtless gave Uggie an unfair dose of canine charisma. "I was blessed with fine Terrier lines, innate good looks, natural charisma, and charm aplenty, and, yes, it gives me an unfair advantage over many," he says. "But this is a dog-eat-dog business. Even George Clooney recognizes my superior qualities, but he is man enough to know when he's beat and agreed to pose with me at the Oscar roundtable."

What advice would Uggie give to young pups who hope to follow in his paw-prints? "Work out your sausage quota early on and stick to it. Remember, an agent is the guy who resents the 80 percent of his income that you take; 20 percent of sausages is a lot to give up after a hard day on the set!" 

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Uggie is an Aquarian and proud of it. Where did this dog star develop his keen interest in the zodiac? "Watching an astrology channel on daytime TV with my frat brother Gordo on the new plasma I bought the family," he says. "I am an Aquarian by birth and nature, and so is my agent and acting coach Omar Von Muller. Together, we rock!"

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Uggie dresses up with Omar Von Muller.

Of late, Uggie experienced some health challenges due to a neurological condition, but he overcame them. How has this affected his daily routine? "I am still so busy I don't have a routine, but there's now a rider in my contracts that I must have more rest periods between engagements, for which I am truly grateful. My snoring is well-documented, however, so they have to park my air-conditioned trailer way away from the rest!"

His handlers have, wisely, adjusted Uggie's diet to be more health-conscious -- and Uggie has adjusted to the new spa cuisine with characteristic aplomb. "My personal preference for pizza and sausages has got me into some trouble in the past," he confesses, "and Omar now mostly feeds me a raw food diet of meat and vegetables, all ground up into a delicious pink and green mush. But I still get to have my treats, and when traveling first class, I am offered everything from Kobe beef to champagne!"

As for Uggie's off-set activities? "I do a lot of doga, usually lying full stretch in front of the plasma."

Win a copy of Uggie's book

To win a copy of Uggie: My story, leave a comment below answering the following question: If your dog wrote a book, what would it say? The story we like best will be the winner.

To be eligible, you must use your Disqus account to comment below. Creating a profile and avatar takes just a minute, and is a great way to participate in Catster's community of people who are passionate about cats. (And note that if your Disqus account doesn't contain a valid e-mail address, you can't win because we can't contact you. So please check your account.)

We'll notify the winner by e-mail, and you have two days to respond before we choose someone else.

The deadline is 12 noon PST on Monday, Oct. 22. Good luck!

Mon, 15 Oct 2012 10:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/uggie-my-story-dog-book-the-artist