Offbeat | Offbeat Offbeat en-us Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:00:00 -0800 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:00:00 -0800 Orion <![CDATA[We Talk to Puppy Bowl XI Referee Dan Schachner]]> Dan Schachner is the referee for Sunday's Puppy Bowl XI, and he knows exactly what you're thinking. Yes, they check the balls beforehand.

"We're all about quality control here at Puppy Bowl. We pride ourselves in it," said Schachner, who is in his fourth year as the Puppy Bowl ref. "I do personally check each and every set of balls. Unless, of course, they're neutered. Then, I don’t bother."

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Dan Schachner is back for his fourth year as referee in Sunday's Puppy Bowl XI. (All photos courtesy of Animal Planet)

Premiering on Animal Planet on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, the Puppy Bowl once again showcases 55 adoptable puppies playing on a football field with a hamster-piloted blimp overhead and a full-on kitty halftime show.

But it's all about the action on the field. And this 11th edition of the Puppy Bowl features teams -- Ruff vs. Fluff -- and a scoreboard for the first time.

All the more requirement for a referee beyond reproach. And Schachner is once again up to the task. Unlike with the New England Patriots in the other big game on Sunday, ball deflation is highly encouraged in this matchup. Touchdowns are scored when a puppy carries a toy –- including plush balls with protruding foamy spikes -- across the goal line.

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"Ball deflation is no big deal for us at Puppy Bowl, because unlike Tom Brady, we're not gripping our balls with our opposable thumbs," Schachner said. "We're gripping them with our razor-sharp teeth. So deflation is a normal part of our game. In fact, if toys are not deflated, the puppies aren't working hard enough."

"It sounds like a joke," he said, "but there's so much pulling on these chew toys, so much back-and-forth and growling over one or two toys; they do get destroyed by the time the game is over."

Destroyed toys are just one aspect of the Puppy Bowl that Schachner, adorned in a referee uniform (and clutching a Dustbuster), must take into account. Penalties are also part of the game, from excessive howling to pancaking. And as a veteran of four Puppy Bowls, Schachner is not afraid to throw his flag.

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"In the beginning [in 2012], I'm not going to lie, I was a little bit smitten with these guys," Schachner said. "It was hard, and I'd miss an infraction, and luckily we have producers who would say, 'Dan, look behind you, there was some pancacking or excessive use of the water bowl going on, you might want to throw a flag.' But it was hard to be tough because they were so adorable."

"But by year four, you don't even see how adorable they are. I just see them all as little mini-athletes, and everyone is on the same level, and I have no problem throwing the flag down. In fact, sometimes they have to calm me down with the flags."

When it comes to helping dogs find their forever homes, Schachner also has no restraints. Not only does the Puppy Bowl raise awareness of the need for adoption, Schachner, who is also an actor and narrator for various Animal Planet shows, fosters dogs in the East Village of New York in his personal life.

"I have foster dogs at home, one at a time, and one of the reasons I love doing it is that I can really learn about a breed, about their temperament and their nature," Schachner said. "I grew up around dogs, but once I got married and had kids, I felt like I was dealing with my own small pack in the house. And then a few years ago, I started thinking about ways to introduce dogs into the house in a way that's responsible because my kids were pretty young, and this was the best middle ground I could find.

"I teamed up with a local rescue center that's about 10 minutes from my house [Social Tees Animal Rescue], and if they have a dog that's suitable for my house, we take him or her on for six to eight weeks, and then when they find a Forever Home, off they go," Schachner said. "I just think it's a nice alternative for people who might not be ready to commit their entire lives and to the life of the pet. They may just want to test the waters. It allows you to do that. And when my kids are older and more responsible, I feel like I'll really know the lay of the land when it comes to picking the right breed because I'll have had that experience.”

While the Puppy Bowl highlights, obviously, the joy and fun of puppies, Schachner is equally committed to finding forever homes for older dogs.

"It's very easy for puppies to get adopted, but it's so much harder for these older dogs," Schachner said. "I mean like two-year-old, three-year-old dogs, they can sometimes wait a long time before finding a home. I try to say this as much as I can: Puppy Bowl pups, yeah, they're going to get adopted right away. That’s not difficult. The real challenge is, go to that shelter, and maybe the puppy you fell in love with at Puppy Bowl isn't there anymore, but you might find a two-year-old who is incredible and doesn't need to be house-trained, has a calm temperament, and would be a nice addition to your house."

Schachner said four years of reffing the big game has given him a unique insight into the temperament of dogs. While GEICO Field might look big on TV, the space where upwards of 55 puppies play and compete is in reality just 20 feet by 10 feet, so Schachner gets up close and personal.

"It smaller than you think," Schachner said. "Theoretically, it shouldn't be that hard to score a touchdown, but you'd be surprised how long it can take one of these puppy running backs to get into the end zone."

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Team Ruff: Lewis.

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Team Fluff: Aaron.

He added, "You gain insight, not just into dog behavior, but how behavior changes from breed to breed, when you put them into play situations. It's like a doggy daycare, and I'm in charge. What's really remarkable is how different breeds will react, and that's what I've learned over the years -- how the nature of dogs really comes out in those situations. Of course, a terrier is going to be a little more aggressive, and the really small breeds are going to be skittish. That comes out a lot."

Puppy Bowl XI premieres at 3 p.m. E.T. Sunday on Animal Planet. See more photos and videos of the teams at Animal Planet and Facebook/PuppyBowl. Follow Dan Schachner on Twitter and Facebook.

Read more about animals and the Super Bowl:

About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/puppy-bowl-ref-dan-schachner-super-bowl-animal-planet
<![CDATA[Dog Saves Man From Not-Drowning in Shallow Pond]]> An amazing video shows a dog saving his owner, who appeared to be drowning -- in very shallow water. He wasn't drowning. He had merely dunked his head under the water. Maybe he was playing a sort of peek-a-boo game with his dog. In any case, the dog -- and what a dog -- sensed something tragic was befalling his owner, and being a hero dog, he sprung into action. He didn't wake up this morning knowing he was going to have to be a hero, but today he was going to be a hero nonetheless. 

He jumped in. 

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Once he landed on his owner and assessed the situation, the dog determined his owner appeared to have an injured head, quite possibly because the dog had landed on on it. Beside the point, thought the dog. No use in second-guessing the rescue operation.  

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So the dog grabbed his man's hand, using his best soft bite, and gently guided him to shore. He could have been escorting a Collie down a debutante staircase, so soft and gentle was this bite.

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The dog did not rest until the man was safely to the edge of this horrid little pond, and made sure he had a firm grip on the creepy, muddy shoreline and did not slip again into the dank, possibly contaminated water. 

Can we please get out of this weird place? the dog appeared to be saying. 

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It's really cute, actually. Watch:

Read more dog news on Dogster:

Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/dog-saves-man-not-drowning-cute-dog-videos
<![CDATA[Haiku by Dog: How Could You Leave Without Us?]]> Most of us do it every day. Sometimes multiple times in one day. At the very least, we'll do it several times a week. 

We go to work, to the store, to the post office or bank. We go out to dinner or the movies. We visit friends. We walk out of our homes. Without our dogs. 

To pups who crave the companionship of their human family, this is a near tragedy. It is unfathomable -- why we would leave them again and again. Which is why some dogs, like Tucker, may resort to devious means to delay or prevent us from ditching them -- however temporarily. 

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(All photos by Susan C. Willett)

Despite my dogs' best efforts, I do go places without them -- after I've given each one a treat to put the sweet in our parting's sorrow. Then the waiting -- the interminable waiting -- begins, along with the excruciating anticipation of a return. Because no matter how long I've been gone, to my dogs, it's been forever. Just ask Jasper.

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Then, there's that moment when they hear the car -- not just any car, but The Car -- come down the street and turn into the driveway. A quick peek out the window to confirm. Yes! It's her! A herd of galloping dogs thunders to the garage door to wait in fevered expectation and joyous expectation. There's the door slam. The sound of keys. The garage door opening. Lilah and her brothers wonder what is taking so long ...

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As I wade through sea of welcoming canine happiness, I know the whole process will repeat later today, or tomorrow. And I'll get the same greeting every time.

How do your dogs greet you? Tell us about it in the comments -- or write your own haiku! 

Read more Haiku by Dog:

About the author: Susan C. Willett is a writer, photographer, and blogger whose award-winning original stories, photography, poetry, and humor can be found at Life With Dogs and Cats. She lives in New Jersey with three dogs and four cats (all rescues) and at least a couple of humans -- all of whom provide inspiration for her work. Refusing to take sides in the interweb's dogs vs. cats debate, Susan enjoys observing the interspecies interaction among the varied inhabitants of her home -- like living in a reality TV show, only furrier. In addition to Life With Dogs and Cats, you can find more Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker (and the rest of the gang) on Haiku by Dog™Haiku by Cat™, and Dogs and Cats Texting. 

Tue, 27 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/haiku-by-dog-humor-poetry-leave-without-dog
<![CDATA[We Talk to the Creator of Philpottery Dog-Themed Fridge Magnets]]> Seven years ago, British retirees Derek Philpott and Wilf Turnbull began writing letters to pop stars that asked questions about the intricacies of their lyrics. Surprisingly, they began to receive earnest replies from artists such as Rick Wakeman (Yes), Nik Kershaw, and Chris Difford (Squeeze).

While Derek hunkered away penning the letters, his wife, Jean, decided to complement the hobby by making her own pun-based, pop-star clay animals such as Lorrissey, Mick Ducknall, and Piggy Pop. As word about Jean's creations caught on and offers were made to buy them, she decided to set up Philpottery, a bespoke handicrafts company in England, which now also specializes in turning photographs of pets into fridge magnets.

Off the back of a hectic holiday season bustling with orders, I spoke to Jean about the dog-model side of her business, her pop-star pun creations, and why she decided to donate part of the proceeds from the venture to the Dogs Trust organization.

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Dogster: How do you go about translating the personality of a dog from a photograph into a sculpted magnet?

Jean Philpott: I think that a dog's personality shines through the face, just as it does with a human. I always ask the person for whom I am making the magnet to send me the picture they would like me to make the model from and also a few more. From this, I can see the dog in different lights and situations, and I can try to translate it into a 3D model.

For instance, I have just finished making a model of a lovely Ridgeback cross called Toffee -- in the main photo she looks like a very noble beast, but from some of the other pictures I could see how much she loves her family and how much they love her, so I tried to inject a little of that sweet nature into it, too. I also take great care to model the eyes. Doggy eyes are so soulful, and you can show so much through them.

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What do you think appeals to people about the idea of paying tribute to their dog via a fridge magnet?

Anyone with a dog will be able to tell you that they are so much a part of the family that it's hard to imagine life without them being there. Photos are lovely, but what I am trying to do is to make something really tangible and tactile and three dimensional. I like to think that my magnets and plaques are a talking point, and because they are all handmade there's a story behind it too.

Over Christmas, I was commissioned to make a present for a lady whose dear dog Arthur had passed away many years ago. I was given photos of him, and the gentleman who commissioned it told me a little bit about him and how he was adorable, loyal, and cheeky -- although also a little smelly and dribbly at times! He contacted me shortly after Christmas to tell me that the recipient was so touched by seeing her Arthur immortalized that she was teary and emotional. That meant so much to me.

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You also have a line based around animal puns on pop star names. Which ones are you most proud of?

Mostly my husband and I come up with the puns, and it's a lot of fun! Sometimes a fan will request something, and I will make it for them -- I'm about to start work on Tori A. Moose this week. My personal favorites are The Snoutorious P.I.G., Lady Budgeri-Ga-Ga, Michael Stipe from RRRRRR.E.M.

My absolute favorite is Nine Inch Snails, which was coincidentally the very first one we came up with when we started. It has proved to be such a hit with our Facebook friends that I have made a whole army of them for people, and they now adorn fridges and mantelpieces all over the world!

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So, which pop star dogs would you pick to make up the ultimate pop group?

Bruce Springer-stein would definitely have to be there, then Jarvis Cocker-Spaniel (Pulp), Pomeran-Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mark King Charles Spaniel (Level 42), and on drums we'd have Ginger Barker (Cream)!

Are there any famous people who own dogs who you'd love to create a magnet for?

My husband is a big fan of Mickey Rourke, so I would love to make him one or both of his beloved Chihuahuas, Loki and Jaws, whom he sadly lost. They were such beautiful little doggies, and he absolutely worshipped them.

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You donate part of the proceeds from your sales to the Dogs Trust. Why did you make that decision?

Derek and I are animal lovers, and the plasticine pop star animals got such a positive reaction from Derek's Facebook friends that we could see that a lot of them are, too. Then when Philpottery came along and I started to do pet portraits, it became obvious how big a part of what Philpottery does is based around animals.
We have friends who have adopted animals from Dogs Trust, and so my husband and I are very aware of the wonderful work it does. It's very upsetting to think of the thousands of abandoned and abused animals out there; it's horrific to think that anyone can have such a callous attitude toward a defenseless creature.

Dogs Trust is there to care and rehabilitate those poor souls who have had terrible lives and have been subjected to unbelievable cruelty. Dogs Trust never puts a healthy dog down and will do its best to rehome as many as it can, and look after the ones who cannot be placed. People can donate as little as a pound a week to sponsor dogs who have had a bad start in life. We applied to be a corporate friend of the trust, so those who order one of our pet portraits can be assured that they are giving something to animals who have not been so lucky as their own pets.

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Finally, do you and Derek have any dogs?

Not presently, because we have a tortoiseshell cat named Gladys. We took her in when her previous owner's little one became allergic and they couldn't keep her any more, and they regretfully had to find a new home for her. We are really dog people -- please don't tell Gladys, she'd be furious! -- but she was such a cute bundle of fluff that when we saw her we couldn't resist. We fell in love with her instantly, and we adore her. Unfortunately, Gladys is a bit of a diva, and I think she might not get along with a puppy if we got one.

Before Gladys, we did have a dog, named Cilla, who was a beautiful jet-black crossbreed. She had wonderful expressive brown eyes, and she was so very clever. I have so many warm, funny, beautiful memories of her -- we were inseparable. She lived a very long and contented life and passed away at the grand old age of 19. When people say that dogs become another family member, it's no lie -- they read your emotions and are wonderful friends and comfort through good times and bad.

Mosey on over to the Philpottery Facebook page to check out the full range of Jean's pun-tastic handicrafts -- and tell them Dogster sent you! 

Read more about dogs in art on Dogster:

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world's foremost expert on rappers' cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it's not quite what you think it is.

Wed, 21 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/philpottery-custom-dog-magnets-pop-stars
<![CDATA[Haiku by Dog: Three Poetry-Writing Dogs Who Stick Together]]> We've seen haiku featuring -- and written by -- each of my three dogs. Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker are unique personalities. Lilah is a combination of sweet and smart, Jasper the friendly comfort hound, and Tucker the ball-obsessed terrier.

They love each other and depend on each other -- except perhaps when someone just stole someone else's toy or the ownership of a bone is up for discussion.

But all of that is quickly put aside when there's a common purpose, like squirrels to chase or deer to bark at. Or when searching for something that's lost.

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(All photos by Susan C. Willett)

They'll also help each other out when any one of them encounters a problem. Or when all of them share a concern. Like when the humans drag the Evil Growling Vacuum Beast out of the closet and take that monster on a tour of every corner of the house -- again.

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And when the humans -- for reasons that are impossible to imagine -- leave the dogs behind for days, weeks, millennia, the three pups find comfort in each other's company.

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Do you speak Meow in addition to Woof? Check out Haiku by Cat on our sister site, Catster.

Read more Haiku by Dog:

About the author: Susan C. Willett is a writer, photographer, and blogger whose award-winning original stories, photography, poetry, and humor can be found at Life With Dogs and Cats. She lives in New Jersey with three dogs and four cats (all rescues) and at least a couple of humans -- all of whom provide inspiration for her work. Refusing to take sides in the interweb's dogs vs. cats debate, Susan enjoys observing the interspecies interaction among the varied inhabitants of her home -- like living in a reality TV show, only furrier. In addition to Life With Dogs and Cats, you can find more Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker (and the rest of the gang) on Haiku by Dog™Haiku by Cat™, and Dogs and Cats Texting.

Tue, 13 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/haiku-by-dog-poems-humor-life-with-dogs-cats
<![CDATA[What Are the Most Popular Dog Names on Dogster?]]> We all know that Dogster members are the coolest pet parents around. You're passionately dedicated to the health and happiness of your fur kids and to keeping up with the latest dog news, views, and Internet memes. So it should come as no surprise that you're also leaders of the cultural zeitgeist when it comes to naming your dogs.

Dogster has chowed down the data and dug up 2014's 10 most popular dog names within our thriving Community, where pup parents such as yourself share pictures and diaries, along with participating in groups and advice forums, where you find guidance from other owners on food and nutrition, senior dog care, behavior and training, and lots more.

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Meet Bella, one of the many pups with that name on Dogster.

There are close to 585,000 dogs with profile pages on Dogster, which makes this particular year-end dog-name list one of the most comprehensive you'll find anywhere. So without further ado, drumroll please ...

Top 10 female names on Dogster

  1. Bella
  2. Lucy
  3. Daisy
  4. Molly
  5. Maggie
  6. Chloe
  7. Sadie
  8. Sophie
  9. Lola
  10. Roxy

Top 10 male names on Dogster

  1. Buddy
  2. Max
  3. Charlie
  4. Jake
  5. Rocky
  6. Jack
  7. Toby
  8. Bailey
  9. Buster
  10. Bear

Want more? recently released its own world's top 10 most popular dog names list, derived via data not only from Dogster, but also from pet insurers in English-speaking countries such as the U.S., the UK, Canada, and Australia, along with other online pet communities and city or county records in Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Toronto, Wellesley (Massachusetts), Anchorage, Cincinnati, Lansing (Michigan), Eau Claire (Wisconsin), New York, and Los Angeles. That adds up to more than a million names. And you'll be happy to know that Dogster members are pretty on point.

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Dogster's list brings Chloe and Sophie to the top 10, instead of Coco and Princess, and adds Buster, Bear, and Jake, in lieu of Lucky, Cooper, and Duke, who appear on the world's most popular male dog name list. However, all of Dogster's monikers are in the world's top 15.

Why Bella works

Bella has been the most popular dog name around the globe for more than five years. We used to think this was linked to the Twilight series of books and movies, since it's the name of that series' popular heroine, but now it looks like it stands on its own as a cross-cultural favorite.

Bella is a lovely name that means "beautiful" in Italian, and it also follows the trainer-recommended guidelines of giving your dog a name with one or two syllables, led by a strong consonant, and ending in a long vowel sound like e, o, or a.

Above all else, your pet's name is a safety and training tool. You want her to alert to the name as soon as she hears it, immediately stop and follow your command. This prevents your dog from getting into dangerous situations such as darting out into traffic. In fact, all of the names on both the male and female lists fall under those recommendations. So yay, Dogster members!

Nostalgic names rule

Of course, the name you give your dog is a personal choice that can reflect cultural trends. And the current favorites from around the world point to a more nostalgic, retro vibe. Looking to the past provides comfort when there are so many unknowns in the future -- and there's often no more comforting presence in our lives than our dogs. So it makes sense we'd want to give them names that harken back to a simpler time. For example, the current top ten dog names for girls could've come out of a tea party RSVP list from the 1880s, when Daisy, Lucy, Sadie, Charlie, and Roxy were some of the most popular baby names, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration.

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DoggieNames co-editors sport the popular names Daisy and Buddy.

It also looks like pop culture doesn't have as much to do with dog-name popularity as once believed. If it did, we'd for sure be seeing Frozen's Elsa, Anna, and Olaf on the top of the list.

No more Rover?

The shift from monikers such as Rover and Ranger to more "human" names such as Molly and Jack might also reflect the fact that most dogs are no longer working and hunting on farms and ranches for a living. Instead, they're now the doted-upon leisure class that've been welcomed into our homes as beloved family members and waited on hand and foot. This might then explain the names Princess and Duke showing up on the world's most popular list.

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Royal names are hot. (Prince by Shutterstock)

This trend appears not just in the U.S., but across the globe as well. And the fact that so many of the same names appear on lists both here and abroad shows just how connected our cultures have become. Dogster has active members in several countries, including in the UK, Canada, and Australia, and in fact, DoggieNames's research shows that Bella also happens to be the most popular dog name in Finland.

And though the top 10 most popular dog names work as baby names, too, there's surprisingly little crossover in the human vs. pet name list. The Social Security Administration recently came out with its own top 10 baby name list, and while the monikers are somewhat similar, there was no crossover at all. For example, Sophia, Emma, and Olivia are the most common girl names, while the baby boy names are led by Jackson, Aiden, and Liam, which kinda sound like the latest boy band out of London.

How to decide on a name?

It's always nice to choose a name that means something to you and your family, whether it's from a favorite book, movie, hometown, or sports team. That's why I created, to help you shake loose some more creative ideas by browsing through our database of more than 5000 names, searchable by all kinds of categories, including Most Popular.

It used to be that it didn't really matter how popular the name was -- you were really only going to be talking to your pet around your house or yard. But now, with the rise of daycare and dog parks, it might make sense to choose a moniker that's a little more creative and different. You don't want your special girl or guy mixed up with the 12 other Maxes or Bellas at the groomer or vet. And you want to be able to call and control your dog at the park. So unless you want to be trampled by 10 different Buddys, maybe you should choose a slightly different "B" name, such as Baxter or Barney.

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Meet one of Dogster's Buddys.

One Dogster family knows they chose the best moniker for their Buddy, who "earned his name because he was the definition of man's best friend. ... Buddy was there for you when you were feeling down. He could sense it and come up to you and nuzzle you to let you know everything will be okay. ... He is not with us any more but he will always be my Buddy."

Does your dog have a popular name? How did you decide on it? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more about dog names:

About the author: Atlanta's own Toni Perling is a writer and web content provider, mostly about dogs, hence her blogger name, Doggienista. :) And hence, her two beautiful rescue dogs: Daisy Jo and Bud Earl. She tweets for them at DaisyJoBudEarl, and shares her collection of dog names and trends at Toni started asking her parents for a puppy pretty much the minute she learned to speak, but they held off until she was the ripe old age of 10, when the family welcomed a Miniature Schnauzer named Truffles. In between, she inhaled every book about dogs ever written and can pretty much identify any breed by sight. She's also a longtime supporter of spay/neuter/rescue, and adopted her first dog, a sweet lovable mutt named Sophie, from an Los Angeles County shelter.

Wed, 07 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/most-popular-dog-names-2014-dogster-doggienames-bella-buddy
<![CDATA[Take a Peek Inside Over-the-Top Dog Parties]]> Dogs can now be real party animals, literally, thanks to the booming pet event industry, in which people fete their Fidos with everything from elaborate birthday bashes to weddings, holiday soirees, and other special-occasion canine celebrations.

Some people spare no expense when it comes to putting on the dog for their pooches. In fact, it's become increasingly common for human event planners to offer dog party services as a sideline, while entire businesses devoted exclusively to catering to canines have sprung up.

I spoke with some leading pet-event planners, who provided some examples of truly awe-inspiring "paw-ties" (as they are known in the biz) as well as background about this wacky trend.

Why people put on the dog for their pooches

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Dogs can get into the "howl-iday" spirit with their very own Christmas and Hanukkah parties. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Schlegel Whitman)

Kimberly Schlegel Whitman of Dallas, Texas, is a lifestyles and event expert, editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine, pet-event planner for PetSmart, and author of the how-to guide Dog Parties: Entertaining Your Party Animals. She came up with the idea for the book, which was an extension of a chapter in her The Pleasure of Your Company: Entertaining in High Style, after hosting a fete for her Chihuahua, Lola, that was a howling success.

She is of the opinion that people not only have very deep bonds with their pets, but that pet lovers tend to form strong connections with each other. So dog parties are great ways for pets and their people to come together and enjoy themselves.

"I held a garden party for my dog and my friends with dogs," she said. "I was single and didn't have children at the time. I had a real bond with friends who loved their dogs as much as I did."

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"Howl-oween" parties for dogs are now hugely popular. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Schlegel Whitman)

People-inspired dog parties

What's interesting is that pet parties often mimic human soirees. "What I love about these dog parties is that you see the same trends in human parties, like the ugly Christmas sweater parties," Kimberly said. 

Not surprisingly, savvy pet retailers and service providers are getting on board with this by offering products and services for party animals, including gourmet dog treats and birthday cakes, pooch party attire, photos booths that pet parents can rent, and everything else dogs need for a successful Bowser bash.

"From large companies to small mom-and-pop shops, people now carry items that we can use to celebrate our dogs," Kimberly said. In fact, she has been working as a dog party consultant on a per-project basis for PetSmart for the past few years, in which she creates both tastefully elegant and humorously tacky dog soirees, such as ugly Christmas sweater fetes. For pooch party tips, check out her blog.

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Diva doggies can enjoy spa parties, where they and their furry pals are treated to such pampering services as "paw-dicures." (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Schlegel Whitman)

Another notable and totally indulgent trend is the "spaw party," a variation of the human version of the spa party. Pet groomers will come to a doggie's party to provide the furry attendees with such posh pampering services as "paw-dicures," facials, and massages. Other options are doggie pool parties; Halloween (arguably the most popular) celebrations, during which dogs get to dress up in costumes; their very own holiday parties; "bark mitzvahs" for Jewish dogs; and other fun themes.

A doggone extravagant pooch party, for a worthy cause

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The posh "puptials" for Baby Hope and Chilly Pasternak made the Guinness Book of World Records. (Photo courtesy of Animal Fair)

The most outrageously over-the-top dog party I ever heard of was a pooch wedding orchestrated by New York-based pet entrepreneur and animal welfare advocate Wendy Diamond, which took place at the Jumeirah Essex House Hotel in Central Park in July 2012, during which her Coton de Tulear, Baby Hope, tied the knot with Poodle Chilly Pasternak.

Wendy, a pet event pioneer who founded the pet lifestyles and media company Animal Fair and staged the first dog-fashion shows, came up with the idea to hold this black-tie bow-wow blowout as a charitable event to raise money for the New York Humane Society and to draw awareness to canine cancer, which claimed the life of her previous dog, Lucky. The wildly extravagant "puptials" included a $6,000 custom-made dress for the furry bride, live orchestra, and gourmet goodies for the human and doggie guests. Thanks to the whopping $250,000 price tag, the fete earned the top spot for most expensive dog party in the Guinness Book of World Records. Dogster was on hand at the event as well.

"Everything was donated," Wendy said. "We raised enough money for a new wing at the Humane Society."

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My cousin's Yorkie, Roxie, was the flower dog at his wedding. (Photo by Alissa Wolf)

Another popular trend is for people to include their dogs in their own weddings. My cousin and his wife enlisted their Yorkie, Roxie, to serve as the "flower dog" at their lavish 2006 nuptials held in Nyack, New York, for which they ordered her a custom-made crimson satin and tulle doggie gown. Meanwhile, an upscale pet store I frequent carries dog tuxedos and gowns for such occasions. And a number of wedding planners now accommodate people who want their pooches to be a part of their big day.

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Gourmet doggie treats are a pooch party menu must. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Schlegel Whitman)

Kimberly believes that the dog party trend has really caught on because many people now regard their pets as cherished family members.

"I think that there is such an indescribable connection we have with our pets," she said. "They are there with us through such trying and happy times in our lives. We want to include them in whatever celebrations we are having."

Have you been to an over-the-top dog party? Tell us about it in the comments!

Read more about dog parties and weddings:

About the author: Alissa Wolf is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about pets and the industry that serves them. Her very first pet was an irrepressible miniature poodle named Peppy, who looked great in a tuxedo. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog, Critter Corner.

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/over-the-top-fancy-dog-parties-weddings-wendy-diamond
<![CDATA[10 Holiday-Related Dog Names]]> After careful consideration and research, your family has decided to celebrate the holidays by making a lifelong commitment to a new dog. Congratulations! I hope you'll consider adopting one of the many deserving animals waiting for a loving home. Many rescue organizations will help you figure out the best time and way to welcome a new pet during the hectic holiday season.

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Santa's Little Helper is a member of the Simpsons family. Borrow his name!

And you might decide to mark this momentous occasion by giving your new dog a holiday-themed name. If you've had your tree up since Thanksgiving, exterior lights you can see from space, and It’s a Wonderful Life on an endless loop, then naming your pup after the holiday makes perfect sense. Plus, you'll get a sweet reminder of your favorite time of year every time you call him or her.

With that in mind, over at I have compiled fun, festive -- and out-of-the-gift-box -- seasonal names worth considering. Most of these monikers fall under the guidelines recommended by trainers and experts. First and foremost, your pet's name is a safety and training tool. You want her to alert to the name as soon as she hears it, immediately stop and follow your command. This prevents your dog from getting into dangerous situations such as darting out into traffic.

Share this image co-editors Bud and Daisy prefer to be called Jingle and Belle during the holidays.

That's why it's important to make the name easy for you to say and for your fur kid to understand. So try not to make the name too much of a tongue twister -- one or two syllables is best. A name starting with a hard consonant, such as "r" or "t" or "d," and ending in a vowel sound, such as a long "e" or "o," makes a great choice, as it grabs your dogs attention and signals the end of the name and beginning of the command. 

Here are a few of my favorite holiday-themed names:

1. Dickens

Of course, your pup is as "cute as the dickens," right? Plus, if you're looking for literary inspiration, you could do worse than Charles Dickens. The author's A Christmas Carol remains a worthy holiday favorite, with lots of wonderful ideas for dog names. There's Tiny Tim, Marley, Humbug, and 'Neezer for Ebenezer. Scrooge could even work for a grumpy-looking French Bulldog or Pug.

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If the name Scrooge fits... (French Bulldog by Shutterstock.)

There are a couple of minor characters in the story that have great names, too. Scrooge's nephew is named Fred, and the folks he visits on his trip to the past are his kindly first employer, Mr. Fezziwig, and his neglected fiance, Belle.

2. Tinsel

Not only is Tinsel a pretty darn adorable name for any puppy, but it fits the criteria of having just two syllables and starting with a strong consonant sound. Some other festive monikers you might consider are Jingle, Belle, Joy, Kringle, Merry, Holly, Jolly, and Noel, with the last one working for either a female or a male. And let's not forget Santa himself -- Nick, as in St. Nick, is an excellent choice.

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The name Tinsel suits this little pup. (Dog by Shutterstock.)

3. Figgy

Think about your family's favorite holiday treat and go from there. Besides figgy pudding, you've got Chestnut, Tamale, Fudge, Cinnamon, Cookie, Ginger, Cider, and maybe even Ham. As far as food goes, though, you'd probably do well to stay away from Fruitcake, Turkey, or Egg Nog as names. You don't want to be yelling those at the dog park.

4. Dasher

Out of all of Santa's trusty transports, the best for year-round use as a dog name might go to Dasher, which is great for any speedy dog, such as an Italian Greyhound or Border Collie. But while I'm on the subject of famous sleigh pullers, the beloved TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has tons of fantastic names in it. Of course, there's Rudolph -- or Rudy -- as well as Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen for a male. And don't forget Hermey (the elf) and Bumble (the Abominable Snowman.)

As far as the female names go, there’s Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen, as well as Dolly from the Land of Misfit Toys. I'm on the fence about the name of Clarice, the adorable little deer who caught Rudolph's eye. It's cute, but doesn't make for the best call name.

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Dasher, Dancer, Comet, or Cupid? (Dog by Shutterstock.)

5. Dreidel 

The holiday of Hanukkah itself might not roll off the tongue the way a good dog name should, but related names like Dreidel (a spinning top), Latke (potato pancake), and Maccabee (the warrior heroes) certainly do.

6. Griswold

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation still holds up as one of the funniest holiday movies ever made. You could name your pup after the dad, Clark, or Chevy Chase, the actor who played him. But Griswold is cooler, plus it lends itself to the great nickname "Grizz." Other ideas from that movie are the Griswold kids’ names, Audrey and Russ, or Rusty, which is perfect for an orange or rust-coated dog such as a Rhodesian Ridgeback, Vizsla, or Basenji.

7. Ralphie

Speaking of holiday classics, the great '80s movie A Christmas Story provides plenty of worthy candidates, too, such as Ralphie, friend Flick, and evil bully Scut Farkus. Or if your family prefers It's a Wonderful Life, that film favorite offers up names such as George, Bailey, Clarence, Bedford, and Zuzu. For the slightly more edgy movie fan, there's Will Ferrell's Buddy from Elf and Bad Santa's Thurman Merman. In fact, actress Rachel Bilson named her terrier mix Thurman after that sweet young character.

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Ralphie would make a great name for this dog. (Dog by Shutterstock.)

8. Jenga

Games your family likes to play together may inspire names, too. Jenga makes for a great dog name, as does Trouble, Boggle, or even Scrabble. Classic toys are an excellent source for monikers too -- Slinky, Nerf, Lego, and Tonka are awesome, and for the high-energy, bouncy pet, there's Pong.

9. Max

Not only is this one of the most popular dog names of all time, it's also the name of the put-upon pup in the Dr. Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Of course, Grinch is a pretty cute name, as is the story's heroine, Cindy Lou Who. Dr. Seuss' real name was Theodor Geisel, and if you'd like to honor the author and his work, giving your pooch the name Theo will do exactly that.

10. Snowy

Finally, if you're celebrating a White (dog) Christmas, there are some excellent wintry names to choose from, including Frosty, Snowy, Winter, Flurry, Marshmallow, Powder, and Snowball. For the very large (or very small) white pup, Yeti is an excellent name that's sure to stir up plenty of dog-park conversation.

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Snowie, one of the sweet dogs available for adoption at the Atlanta Humane Society. (Courtesy of the AHS Facebook page.)

Did I leave any out? Please add to the list in the comments section. Happy holidays!

Read more about dog names:

About the author: Atlanta's own Toni Perling is a writer and web content provider, mostly about dogs, hence her blogger name, Doggienista. :) And hence, her two beautiful rescue dogs: Daisy Jo and Bud Earl. She tweets for them at DaisyJoBudEarl, and shares her collection of dog names and trends at Toni started asking her parents for a puppy pretty much the minute she learned to speak, but they held off until she was the ripe old age of 10, when the family welcomed a Miniature Schnauzer named Truffles. In between, she inhaled every book about dogs ever written and can pretty much identify any breed by sight. She's also a longtime supporter of spay/neuter/rescue, and adopted her first dog, a sweet lovable mutt named Sophie, from an Los Angeles County shelter.

Wed, 10 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-names-holiday-christmas-hanukkah-related-dog-names
<![CDATA[I Went on a Charity Walk With My Pug -- and He Drove Me Nuts!]]> Volunteering to raise money for an animal shelter by walking four miles -- that's great, right? Getting out, enjoying the fresh air, bringing along your adorable Pug -- that sounds lovely, am I right? The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining, this is going to be so much fun, AM I RIGHT?

What could possibly go wrong with my amazing plan?

Well, let me tell you.

The starting point

Yay! We are starting! I've been looking forward to this for so long. I've got my walking shoes on, I ate a protein- and carbohydrate-balanced diet, and I've got my adorable little Pug at my side. Yay! So much fun!

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Illustration by Anneli Rufus

Quarter of a mile in

Oh, look. A vendor booth. Yay! They are handing out water bottles to the walkers. I like water bottles! Pens? Sure, I'll take a few. Why not? I like pens. Frisbee? Of course I want a Frisbee. I'm walking this walk and would very much like a free Frisbee. Yay! Free stuff!

Half-mile in

I am so smart. This was the best idea ever. I'm walking the walk, the Pug is getting some much-needed exercise, I've got a bag filled with awesome free stuff, and we are raising money! Best. Idea. Ever. I'm so smart, yay!

Three-quarters of a mile in

Pug stops to pee. Okay, no worries, we will just catch up to our group. 

Seriously, come on. They are trees. Just pick one. 

Seriously, I'm not kidding. Just pick one already. 

No, not pick five, pick one. Our entire group has left us.

Two miles in

I'm not sure where my group is, but who cares because I see another vendor table in the distance and it looks like they are handing out flashlights! Come on, little Puggie, let's run -- momma loves flashlights!

Two miles and one-tenth in

Okay, Pug, I know that it took me a minute to pick out the flashlight of my color choice, but it's time to get up now and start walking.

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Illustration by Anneli Rufus

Seriously, get up.

Like seriously, seriously, get up.

Two miles and one-tenth of a tenth of a mile in

Listen, Pug. I can't actually drag you on this leash because not only might it choke you, but people are staring at us, so like you seriously need to get up. Like now. Like right now.

Want a cookie?

Oh good, you're up.

Two and four-tenths of a mile in

Why are you lying down again? We ran like 20 steps, if even that much. You can't possibly be tired already. 

Why are you making snorting noises that sound like you are dying?

Like seriously, why are you breathing like that?

No, really, I did see a cookie over there, I promise. No, not by the tree, on the sidewalk, like a mile away. Right by that big sign that says "Finish." Let's go there. Now.

Oh, you're peeing again; on 11 different trees. Okay, well, can you even see our group anymore? Because I can't. You're the one with the 360-degree eyeballs -- can you see them?

Two and a half miles in

Seriously, where is everyone? Are we even going the right way anymore? I don't see anyone, and I don't see any street markers.

Why are you lying down again? This is no time for a nap, we are LOST, Puggie! We are lost, and everyone is getting to the vendor tables before ME! I want a free T-shirt, and they are going to be all gone! 


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Illustration by Anneli Rufus

Two miles and three-quarters in

Are you happy? Does this make you happy? I don’t care if you are 11 inches tall -- you are HEAVY. I will give in and carry you, but only until we find our group.

Two and three-quarters and three-tenths of a mile in

Whose idea was it to get this stupid water bottle anyways? It's heavy. You're heavy. Your fur is getting in my mouth, and my back hurts. 

Three miles in

I’m putting you down, and as soon as we get home you are going on a diet. This is ridiculous. Did you know you weighed so much? My back hurts, I have your hair in my eyes, and I'm pretty sure you fell asleep for a few minutes in my arms, which are now numb, thank you very much.

Three miles and one-hundredth of a tenth of a mile in

You are peeing again? You are going to the vet tomorrow. This cannot be normal. 

Are you even actually peeing or are you just pretending to pee on all those trees?

Can we puh-leez just get walking!?

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Pug defacating by Shutterstock

Three miles and one-quarter in

Why are you lying down? Seriously, this is not even cool. I am not even kidding. You and I are about to have relationship issues, buddy. Let's just remember who buys the treats in this family, mmmkay?

Still three miles and one-quarter in, but 10 minutes later

Pleeeease, please, please just get up! Please? I’ll buy you a bully stick or a rawhide or a new squeaky teddy just PUH LEEZE get up!?

Three and a half miles in and now accompanied by a bad attitude

I can't believe you. Seriously, I can't believe this. I give you a good home, a place on the couch, a yard. I put booties on your feet when it snows, and I never leave you out of the family Christmas card, and THIS is how you repay me!? Sure there was that one time with the whole neutering thing, but still!

This is a charity walk for YOUR SPECIES, and I'm CARRYING your lazy butt! 


Three and three-quarters of a mile in, still carrying the Pug, who I’m pretty sure is now sleeping

Another vendor table! Who the hell wants all this junk? No, I do not want a stress ball! DO I LOOK LIKE I NEED A FREE STRESS BALL!? In fact, HERE! I’m going to give you a free Frisbee and a free flashlight because who on earth wants to lug all this crap around with them anyways!

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Illustration by Anneli Rufus

Four miles and at the finish line

Well, there you go, Mr. Pug. I hope you are happy. We made it the entire way. We raised $30.

Oh, look, you’re awake. 

Well, aren't you in a good mood? Tail wagging, tongue hanging out?

Why are you looking at me like that?

Oh, hell no, I'm not taking you for a walk, we are going STRAIGHT to the car, buddy. So glad we had all this bonding time together. Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to go make an emergency chiropractor appointment that will cost me $150. 

Next year I'm just mailing my donation in.

Read more by Eden Strong:

About the author: Eden Strong is a quirky young woman with a love for most animals with fur. She readily admits to living her life completely devoid of most social graces, and so far she's still alive. More of her crazy antics can be read on her blog, It Is Not My Shame to Bear

Thu, 20 Nov 2014 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/charity-walk-pug-dog-humor
<![CDATA[5 Ways Dogs Are Much Easier Than Kids ]]> I am exhausted today. No, I'm beyond exhausted, actually. I'm a shell of a person moving around and pretending to be functional. For my current state of being, I blame my kids. I mean, sure, it isn't technically their fault, but they had a hand in it. They require So. Much. Work. I think back to the days when the only kids I had came with four legs attached to cute little Pug bodies. When I felt very much like a mommy, but much, much less tired.

Do you know why? Because dogs are easier than kids. There, I said it. Allow me to explain why. 

1. Dogs are easier because there is a standard of training

My six-year-old, she's a little snarky. I do what I can but that kid, does she have a mind (and mouth) of her own! Why isn't there obedience school for children? Around here, the closest thing we have is called "the juvenile detention center." Seriously, there are days where I would like to drop my daughter off at obedience school and pick her up well-behaved and with a list of easy commands for putting her back in line when she misbehaves.

Until someone invents that, I'm claiming that dogs are easier.

2. Dogs are cheaper

Kids are so expensive! All those clothes. Good grief, STOP GROWING! 

For the most part, dogs hit the one-year mark and are all, "This is my size, forever!" Sure, while they probably won't outgrow their clothes and might actually eat yours, that seems like a small trade-off in the finance department. 

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There might not be obedience school for kids, but at least you can buy child leashes. (Photo by Eden Strong)

Even more savings come in the toy department. Kids, they want so many! "That one is old. This one is boring. Those are so very last year. I'm way too advanced for that. Therefore I will not be playing with any of these 100 toys anymore," say children across America.

Dogs, on the other hand, are all "This is my most favorite toy forever! I'm going to play with this one every day for the rest of my life because I love it! Thanks for buying me those new toys. I will check them out for a minute or two, but I don't really need them because I have my one and only most favorite toy ever!"

Dogs are cheaper. If you like your wallet heavy because of things other than receipts, avoid kids.

3. Dogs need less stuff

Speaking of toys, it really doesn't take much to make a dog happy. These days, I get home after a long day of work, and my kids are there to greet me with a list of 100 things they need help with or want me to do for them. 

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My Pug was just as happy with one toy as my children will never be with 10. (Photo by Eden Strong)

Dogs? Not so much. When I had my dog, I would get home from work, and he would greet me with, "You came home! THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!!!"

Dogs are so much easier to please.

4. Dogs aren't always hungry -- well, this one is actually a tie

When I had a dog in my household, it didn't matter what the clock said; when the sun came up, it was a guarantee that not much longer after that a set of eyes (canine or human) would be locked in on my sleeping face, where they would remain until I served breakfast.

Dogs and kids, they are always hungry! They both inhale their food, and then I would have to spend the next four hours on defense. Every little movement on my part was -- and still is by the kids -- met with a flurry of activity. "Quick! Drop what you are doing everyone, there is the possibility that she is going into the KITCHEN!"

I find myself saying the exact same things to my kids that I used to say over and over again to my dogs. "No, you are not eating again; I'm cooking for me. ME! You already ate. You don't need to run into the kitchen. I am merely walking by the kitchen, not in it! Did you eat off my plate while I was gone!? I ALREADY FED YOU!"

I'm going to have to call this one a tie because, furry or not, the game seems to be the same.

5. Dogs fear your departure out of love, not because they want things

It also didn't seem to matter whether my child was covered in fur or not, there were bound to be facial prints on every reachable window surface. Was the view half an inch closer to the window pane really worth smashing your face against it? I'm pretty sure they do that because they think they will get a better view of your permanent departure. "You are leaving me! What if you NEVER come back!? Are you ever coming back!!??"

Dramatic much? 

At least dogs have a slight edge over kids on this one because, remember, dogs just want you to come back because they love you. Kids want you to come back because they need 500 things from you.

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My Pug was about as human as dogs can get. (Photo by Eden Strong)

When you think about it, dogs really are becoming more human every day. They used to be slightly more limited in the ways in which they were able to accompany you through life. Years ago, your only real option for spending quality time with your dog was inside your house or outside of your house. These days, I'll be in a restaurant, look over, and realize I'm eating dinner next to a dog. There are doggie spas, doggie daycare, doggie wardrobes, doggies weddings, and, soon I'm sure, they will be able to apply for a graduate program at the local college so that not only can they come to work with you, but they can actually work with you. 

Kids had better watch out because from where I'm sitting, dogs are closing the gap here in the "children" department. The question used to be, "How many children do you want to have?" These days, it's become, "What type of children do you want?" Would you like two legs or four? Or another number in the case of specially abled dogs. Which are better suited to complete your family? Dogs or kids?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

 Read more about dogs and kids:

About the author: Eden Strong is a quirky young woman with a love for most animals with fur. She readily admits to living her life completely devoid of most social graces, and so far she's still alive. More of her crazy antics can be read on her blog, It Is Not My Shame to Bear

Tue, 04 Nov 2014 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dogs-kids-parenting-humor
<![CDATA[Until Cameras Go Into the Supreme Court, John Oliver Wants Us to Use These Dogs]]> Thanks to comedian John Oliver, we may just have a new dog meme on our hands. It wasn't as though the Internet was lacking in cute dog pictures and videos before, but Oliver and his crew at Last Week Tonight have pushed it to the next level.

As Oliver points out in the video below, even though Supreme Court decisions are vitally important to everyone in the United States (and often outside as well), the workings of the Court itself make for very bad television. This isn't just because the cases and arguments presented to the justices are obscure and arcane to the layperson. They are, but the main reason is that video cameras are not allowed in the Court during oral arguments. The court does make audio recordings, so television coverage usually combines the audio with courtroom illustrations, like so:

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Certainly in the 21st century, we can do better than this, right? Of course we can. The solution, as in all dilemmas like this, is to add cute dogs. "This week," Oliver says, "we spent an incredible amount of time and an almost immoral amount of resources to produce an entire Supreme Court featuring real animals with fake paws."

The effort was well spent. They really did get some cute dogs, and even more amazingly, most of them actually look like the justices that they're standing in for. Check out the Chihuahua who's taking the bench in place of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka The Notorious RBG):

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The canine version of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Already, this technique has gotten the thumbs up from one serious journalist. On MSNBC last night, Rachel Maddow told her audience, "I am not allowed to speak for the news division here. Part of the reason why is because if I were in charge of the news division here, I would totally do this. I would totally use dogs with fake paws to reenact Supreme Court oral arguments."

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And really, who wouldn't? The good news is that we now have the opportunity to do so. The Last Week Tonight staff didn't just put together a bunch of Supreme Court dogs for a quick skit; they've put 10 minutes of raw footage online with the command to all Internet video geeks: Go, and make your own versions. The footage includes not only dog justices, but dog lawyers, a chicken taking notation, and a duck legal assistant.

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What happens when Justice Kennedy goes to the dogs.

Oliver seems pretty serious about people making use of their hard work. "If there are not full reenactments of every major court case from the last four years online by next Sunday, you will never see us here again."

That sounds serious, so we should all get to work. Audio recordings of the Supreme Court arguments can be found here. In the short time that Oliver's show has been on, it's turned out to be not just funny, but more informative than a lot of straight news shows. It would be a shame if he turned his back on us because there weren't enough dogs judging the law.

If you're one of the video geeks who's dying to sink your teeth into this kind of project, be sure to post your video in the comments below. We're dying to see what people do with this.

Via YouTube

Check out more cuteness on Dogster:

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:40:00 -0700 /the-scoop/supreme-court-john-oliver-dogs-spoof
<![CDATA[World's First "Pet-Nup" Protects the Dogs of Warring Ex-Partners]]> A UK-based animal charity has just launched the world's first "pet-nup" to protect the animals of couples who split up. 

It's true: Saddened by homeless post-breakup dogs, Blue Cross for Pets asked divorce lawyers to create a groundbreaking legal document patterned after pre-nuptial contracts. 

By signing the 18-page pet-nup -- which can be viewed in full here -- couples agree under penalty of law to follow a vast spectrum of of post-breakup obligations, including these. (Text is verbatim from the contract.)

"Both parties shall use their best endeavors not to act in a hostile manner towards each other in front of the pet."

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Smile, sleazebag. Muffin is watching.

"All holidays are to be shared equally as X or Y’s work permits, at times and dates to be agreed between the parties." 

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(Yes yes yes, by "holidays" the pet-nup's British authors probably meant what Americans would call "vacations." But isn't it jolly to imagine ... ?)  

"The pet will not be allowed to breed unless both parties consent." 

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Yeah, that's the ticket. Hold Bongo's libido hostage to punish your ex.

"No pet or animal will be given as a prize to unaccompanied children under the age of sixteen." 

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Because we all know where that leads.

Illustrations by Anneli Rufus

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/pre-pet-nup-prenuptial-agreement-dogs-breakup-divorce-lawyers
<![CDATA[This Samoyed Has an Insatiable Appetite for Dirty Underwear]]> Kaye Banks didn't witness her Samoyed, Brian, devouring the pair of silk thong underpants that she'd taken off and set out to wash last week in Brampton, northern England. It's certainly not very pleasant pondering why a dog would choose to swallow dirty panties and not some other item from the laundry pile, such as a linen napkin. But that's exactly what you and I have just pondered.

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Soon after his panty picnic, four-year-old Brian fell ill.

"I got really worried when he wasn’t eating properly and he regurgitated his food undigested," 47-year-old Banks told the Telegraph

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Brian was rushed to Abbey Vets in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, whose staff "could see a big bulge on the X-ray," Banks explained, "but they weren’t sure what it was."

Brian was wheeled into emergency surgery, where vets worked on him for two hours.

“When they pulled out a black lacy thong," Banks remembered, "everyone had a bit of a shock."


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Four days later, Brian was declared well enough to return home.

But within hours of his homecoming, Banks' daughter Charlotte noticed that a certain item of her clothing had mysteriously vanished.

"I put a pink lace thong in the washing basket," Charlotte told her mother, "and now it’s gone."

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A quick trip back to Abbey Vets revealed Brian as the thong-munching culprit once again. Apparently major surgery and his previous pukefest had taught him nothing. 

“He’s a bit cheeky, and he often roots through handbags or bags of shopping and he’s occasionally chewed on the odd sock, but nothing like this," Banks told the Telegraph. "I couldn’t believe it when we’d just got him home and it happened again."

Henceforth, "it’s underwear straight into the washing machine where he can’t get at them," Banks said.

That's good advice for all of us. You never know who's walking around the house wanting a snack.

Illlustrations by Anneli Rufus.

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/samoyed-dog-england-ate-dirty-panties-underwear-silk-thong
<![CDATA[Dogs Tell Us How they Really Feel About Scottish Independence]]> This Thursday, the people of Scotland will be taking part in a referendum to answer the question, "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The outcome of a positive vote could see Scotland leaving the United Kingdom to become a self-ruling territory. Naturally, then, we scoured the Internet to find out what the dogs of Scotland are predicting for this historical occasion.

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies via Shutterstock

In a truly independent Scotland, all puppies will have the inalienable right to a luxurious tartan suitcase.

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Photo via Facebook

When hitting the social media campaign trail, it is always prudent to show your wacky side. Everyone loves a Scottish dog with a sense of humor, right?

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Photo via Zazzle

This plucky chap is channeling the iconography of Rosie the Riveter to support his cause. (The cause might also be hawking T-shirts.)

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Photo via Facebook

With his stately eyes and raffish stubble, this pro-Scotland pooch is a dead ringer for the independence warrior Sean Connery.

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Photo via Tumblr

This staunchly Scottish Corgi will likely not be receiving any invites for afternoon tea and biscuits with Queen Elizabeth's fabled Corgi clan.

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Photo via Facebook

The voting slip might say, "Yes," but the sad eyes on his hound suggest he has many valid fears about the sustainability of an independent Scotland.

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Wed, 17 Sep 2014 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dogs-scottish-independence
<![CDATA[Should You Bring Your Dog to Burning Man? ]]> Every year in the weeks before Burning Man, people constantly call the office and stop us on the street and interrupt us at lunch and ask, "Can I bring my dog to Burning Man?" 

You're crazy, we say. Leave us alone. 

But they persist, telling us all the reasons their dog wants to go to the desert for a week. Here's a handy FAQ to determine if you should bring your dog to Burning Man. It should cover everything. 

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Are we doing this right? Three fashionable dogs by Shutterstock.

Can I bring my dog to Burning Man? 


But he wants to call himself a Burner. 


But he wants to experience a utopia of self-expression and overthrow capitalism for the week.


But he wants to wear ski goggles and wander around the desert. 


But he wants to wear leggings and dance at 3 a.m.


But he wants to lick strangers.


But he wants to wiggle on his back before the Angel of the Apocalypse Feathers.


But he wants to huddle under a tarp during a sandstorm.


But he wants to ask someone for water and Luna bars.


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I could use a Pup-Peroni right about now. Dog lying in desert

But he wants to nap in the MerKHANa Uncertainty Reduction Salon. 


But he wants to drive an art car in the Deep Playa.


But he wants to wander off and find God in the blazing heat and then have some trouble finding his way back. 


But he wants to do something creative, like pretend he's a tree all day or talk to people using his foot. 


But he wants to express himself.


But he wants to wear a scarf.


But he wants to fetch shooting fireballs.


But he wants to catch flaming devil discs.


But he wants to run naked through people's tents.


But he wants to see tech billionaires in jorts.

Is your dog a reporter?


Then no.

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I wish I had red goggles. Cute dog in hoodie by Shutterstock.

But he wants to bark in the Temple of Grace. 


But he wants to reach inside himself to "figure out that part of you that can be shared with others around you," according to the literature.


But he wants to meet a soulmate who's great at hitchhiking and juggling fire sticks and finding places to crash in Denver.


But he wants to forget he works in a cubicle all day. 

No -- wait, are you talking about yourself now? 

No. Maybe.

You may go to Burning Man. 

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Next time we go skiing. Funny dog by Shutterstock.

But he wants to take advantage of the Monday Foot Washing Service at 2 p.m.


But he wants to meditate under the Tree of (Im)Permanence and remember his sex drive.


But he wants to ride the Wheels of Zoroaster at dawn.


But he wants to mingle in the 7 Sins Lounge camp. 

No -- and he has no business being there.

But all his friends are going. 

They are not. Who are his friends?

Some people on Facebook. The mailman.


But he wants to get hugged by a greeter and roll in the dust. 


But he wants to ride a bike with neon lights into the infinite night. 


But he wants to howl with a woman from Iceland.


But he wants to hang out with Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Ballmer and see their stomachs. 


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There better be some ground beef at the end of the desert. Dog traces by Shutterstock.

But he wants someone to give him a sno-cone.


But he wants to smell people who haven't showered.


But he wants to smell butts.


But he really wants to overthrow capitalism.

We covered that already. No. 

But he wants to watch a giant man burn. 

I'm not surprised, but again: No.  

If you still want to bring your dog to Burning Man, consult the "Pet Unfriendly Playa" page on the Burning Man official site, which says, basically, no.  

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Mon, 01 Sep 2014 04:00:00 -0700 /bolz/dog-humor-behavior-shuld-bring-burning-man
<![CDATA[That Time an English Dog Walker Almost Played Fetch With a Hand Grenade...]]> Everyone loves playing with their pups, but there are some things that just make very bad toys for dogs. It's usually best for all concerned if you keep family heirlooms, beloved stuffed animals, and cell phones discreetly out of the reach of the dog.

Also in that category: Unexploded hand grenades from World War II.

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Soldier training with grenades during WWII. (Alfred T. Palmer, Wikimedia Commons)

Granted, most of us don't have to deal with that final issue too much, but it did come up this weekend on a beach in Essex, England. Clair Watson was walking her dog, Bonnie, on Harwich Beach and tossing pebbles for her to chase. She reached down for what she thought was another rock lying on the sand, and found herself holding a 70-year-old hand grenade, crusted with barnacles and sediment.

"It didn't look like a hand grenade at all at first, but then I looked at it," she told the Essex County Standard. "I said to my husband: 'What the hell is that?' He said it looked like a hand grenade."

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Photo by Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Creative Commons, Flickr)

A nearby walker called his son, who happened to be an army explosives expert. He arrived with a team, put a cordon around the grenade, and blew it up with no harm to human or dogs.

Probably the strangest thing -- at least to those of us here in America -- is that this isn't a unique occurrence. At least five grenades have washed up on that particular stretch of beach in as many weeks, and authorities fear that locals may see more. Inspector Paul Butcher told the press that "It would appear that the grenades might have been in a crate that ended up in the sea during the Second World War. That crate might be breaking up or has been disturbed by dredging in the port and has resulted in these five devices being washed ashore along the same stretch of beach."

As you can imagine, the story of the dog walker who found a grenade has been picked up by international media, and there have been conflicting reports about what actually happened. Due to an early police report that was released to the press, several websites and news outlets have reported that a man found the grenade and actually threw the grenade for the dog to fetch. That makes a great story (as long as the grenade didn't explode), but it's not true, according to Claire Watson. "I joked to the policeman I had been about to throw it for the dog," she said, "but I would never have thrown it."

Few people come across explosive devices while walking the dog, but sometimes there are odd things lying around the parks and streets. What's the strangest thing you've found while going on a walk with the dog?

Via Essex County Standard

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Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dog-walker-world-war-2-hand-grenade-essex
<![CDATA[From the TSA Instagram Account: Terrifying Weapons and Adorable Dogs]]> God bless Bob Burns. He's the 12-year TSA agent who, last year, decided to create an Instagram account for the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA, as you know, is responsible for keeping all the guns, knives, bombs, rocket launchers, grenades, snakes, Samurai swords, cocaine, and so on and so forth from getting on planes. It does this through myriad security procedures, of cutest of which involve detection dogs. 

Hmm, what to put on the Instagram page .... 

And that, in short, is the Instagram's MO: Incredibly insane weapons and other illegal whatnot, and dogs. It's a thing of beauty:

Burns updates the page himself, the TSA's one-man social media powerhouse, according to Wired. He gets reports from around 450 airports each week, and when he hears about something interesting, like a nine-blade circular knife, he asks for a photograph. 

“I’ll ask for a photograph and a lot of times I’ll be surprised by what I see,” Bob tells Wired. “A lot of times I’m not even sure what the photo’s going to look like -- the report might just say ‘a four-inch knife,’ but for all I know it could be a steak knife or it could be one of these fantasy Klingon knives.”

Here are more of our favorite posts:

The account also serves to educate people what is not allowed on planes -- some seem to think novelty items (like that watch above) and inert explosives are OK, but they're not. Of course they're not. What are they thinking? 

But before you can descend into a puddle of fear looking at the site, shaking your head over what goes on in airports, bam! Another adorable dog, who just happens to be saving lives. Good work, Bob. 

Via Wired

Read about dogs in the news on Dogster:

Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/tsa-instagram-weapons-dogs
<![CDATA[Is There a Lion Wandering the Streets of Los Angeles? Wait, No, That's Buddy the Pit Bull]]> The town of Norwalk was on high alert. A lion had been sighted. Norwalk is in Los Angeles. The lion was walking down a residential street, right in front of a home on the 11000 block of Tina Street. Lions don't usually make their way to Tina Street, so everybody -- even the mayor, even Department of Fish and Wildlife -- was freaking out, according to CBS Los Angeles.  

(Although, to be fair, the Department of Fish and Wildlife doesn't really "freak out.") 

What kind of lion, you wonder? A regular lion-type lion, not a mountain lion; a Siegfried and Roy-type lion. In the CBS story from Aug. 1: "The animal appeared to have a mane and looked more like the type of lion seen at a circus or zoo and appeared to be non-aggressive."

Norwalk Public Information Officer Jeff Hobbs said he received "confirmation" that the animal “was not a mountain lion.” 

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Do you think that's a lion? Really? You know what a lion looks like, right?

What's more, a professor at t'/-[he University of Minnesota Lion Research Center, Craig Packer, watched the video and told the Los Angeles Times that “it certainly does look like an African lion. It’s not a cougar." 

The beast was captured on surveillance video, which was sent to Department of Fish and Wildlife, presumably with a note attached that read, WTF? Since then, nobody has been able to figure out why a lion was walking around Tina Street. The mayor increased patrols and the Fish and Wildlife has been working up a plan to trap the animal, whatever it is. 

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Roar! Hah.

Now, let's turn our attention to Buddy. He's a Pit Bull. He lives near Tina Street. He got out the night the lion was spotted. When Buddy's owner saw the video of the lion, he looked at his dog, looked at the video, looked at his dog, looked at the video, sighed, and called city officials.  

That's not a lion, he told them: That's my dog.

City officials came out to look at the Pit Bull, inspecting him for signs of lion-ness. The found none. This was a dog, they concluded. The lion in the video is a lion. 

So, two security surveillance companies conducted a simulation to settle the matter. They re-created the scene in which the lion walked around, and had Buddy walk around. He was game. They filmed it with the same sort of security cameras and watched the video. 

“My verdict is the dog in the backyard is similar in size, the tail is the same, and the same mannerisms as what was seen on the video from prior,” said Matthew Adling of Hudson Investigations. “Buddy is the one.”

“I could tell it was Buddy,” says Adrian Nunez, Buddy’s owner, according to CBS Los Angeles.

So, case closed, sort of. A lot of people still think Buddy is a lion.

What do we think? That's a dog. Watch the surveillance video and tell us that isn't a dog. 

L.A. is a weird place. 

Via CBS Los Angeles.

Read about dogs in the news on Dogster:

Fri, 15 Aug 2014 10:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/lion-los-angeles-pit-bull
<![CDATA[What Happens When a Magician Floats Wieners in Front of Dogs]]> When I was a kid, I tried to learn how to do magic from a couple of my dad's books. Most of it is now gone from my brain, but there's one thing that always stuck with me: One of the books made the following point very strongly: It's better to know one way to force a card and a dozen ways to reveal it, rather than the other way around. After all, magic is all about putting on a show. Everyone knows that behind all the flash and patter, it's trickery and sleight of hand, and that's why they love it.

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Finnish magician and mentalist Jose Ahonen.

That's kind of the key to the video by magician Jose Ahonen below. Making something appear to float in midair is kind of a basic magic technique. If that's all you do, your audience is going to yawn and go home. Or, in the case of the Internet, they're going to click on the next link to the current Meme of the Day. The whole point is that it's fun to watch the dogs watching the floating wiener, torn between bewilderment and the natural dog instinct of "I want to eat that!"

The Finnish magician has done several variations on magic for dogs. He told told ABC News: "I first did magic for dogs with vanishing tricks, and after that I was thinking what else I could do with dogs. There are a few limits: You can't do card tricks with dogs because there's not a reaction. I thought of levitating something so that the dogs could react."

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Noah, a bulky Great Dane, wants to keep a safe distance from that weird floating sausage.

That's one of the cool things about watching dogs be the audience. Dogs and children are just about the only honest audiences a performing artist is going to get. Dogs and kids don't bother with flattery, and neither do they make a show of being unimpressed because they're just too cool for that. They show you exactly what they think, for better or worse.

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Unlike Noah, Ilona is going to get that sausage at all costs.

My favorite of the dogs is Keijo, who at first seems to ignore the sausage itself, and goes straight for nuzzling and licking Ahonen's palms. "At first I tried with Noah, the huge Great Dane," Ahonen told ABC. "He was scared, which was funny because he's like 40 kilos [about 88 pounds]. He was interested to eat the hot dog but at the same time he was very aware and worried about why it was levitating."

If the video seems to be teasing the dogs unnecessarily, know that all the dogs got to eat the hot dogs in the end.

Via YouTube and ABC

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Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/funny-dog-videos-magician-floats-wieners-in-front-of-hot-dogs
<![CDATA[And a Dog Shall Lead Them: Minnesota Town Elects a Great Pyrenees to Mayor's Office]]> The village of Cormorant, Minnesota, might be on to something. The citizens of Cormorant elected a dog as mayor of their small town.

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It's true that Duke, the seven-year-old Great Pyrenees who was swept into office, doesn't really hold a lot of power. For that matter, he doesn't even collect a salary. The office is a strictly honorary one, part of the annual Cormorant Daze festival, and it costs $1 per vote. However, the residents of Cormorant say that Duke does his part to make the town safer. David Rick told television station WDAY that just by wandering around, he helps traffic in the town: "What he does is when the cars are coming through town, they're hitting town at 50 miles per hour, and he slows them down."

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Duke showed a distinct lack of interest in his first interview as Mayor. (Screenshot: WDAY)

His media skills do seem to need some work. When a reporter from WDAY knelt down and asked him for a statement, he just panted into the microphone. Hardly an auspicious beginning to his relationship with the news media. On the other hand, he's a lot more photogenic than the average pol, so that might net him some forgiveness.

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Duke gets dressed to take office. (Screenshot: WDAY)

Following the election, Duke was treated to a five-hour grooming to celebrate, and Tuffy's Pet Food, from nearby Perham, offered the new mayor a year of free kibble. Given that Duke isn't collecting a salary, and that Perham is about 40 miles away from Cormorant, I'm inclined to think of that as charity, rather than a glaring example of graft on Duke's first day in office.

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Screenshot: WDAY

It's kind of hip to hate on "politicians" as if they were a single, indistinguishable class, but I've never believed in trashing the occupation. In a democracy, we should all think of ourselves as politicians on some level. To consider the occupation beneath decent people is to disdain democracy itself. That being said, I am a little bit of a misanthrope at heart; I've known dogs and I've known people, and I think that politics would benefit from a few more dogs in the field.


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Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/cormorant-minnesota-town-elects-dog-mayor-duke-great-pyrenees-pictures-photos