Wednesday 28 November 2007

A softie, after all.

Grenier in his book The Difficulty of Being a Dog writes how Napoleon was once surveying a battlefield from which the dead had not yet been removed. He saw a dog beside the body of its master, howling, licking the dead man’s face. Napoleon wrote about this in his memoirs. “No incident, on any of my battlefields (note the use of my battlefields!), ever produced so deep an impression on me.” declares Napoleon who was insistent that the death of millions meant nothing to him.
“ I had, without emotion, ordered battles which were to decide the fate of the army; I beheld, with a dry eye, the execution of those operations, by which numbers of my countrymen were sacrificed; and here I was upset, my feelings roused, by the mournful howling of a dog.”

Saturday 24 November 2007

Sans Collier

Cathy, a charming girl who is on my team as an instructor at the dog club also works as a volunteer in a shelter called Sans Collier about 50 kms outside Brussels. On 15th and 16th December, the shelter is organising a fund raising event and a Christmas party. Everybody is welcome. I know most of my readers do not live in Belgium but I promised I would mention it on my blog to make their plight known.
They do a fantastic job. Old and sick animals are looked after and not systematically put down. Over a period of 10 months 385 dogs and 328 cats were adopted; 152 dogs and 7 cats were reunited with their owners.

“Au fond du vieux refuge, dans une niche en bois,
Depuis deux ans je purge, d’avoir trop cru en toi,
Tous les jours je t’attends, certain que tu viendras,
Tous les soirs je m’endors, sans que tu sois là.

Ton absence me pèse et les jours sont si longs.
Mon corps s’épuise et mon cœur se morfond.
Je n’ai plus goût à rien et je deviens si laid,
Que personne, jamais, ne voudra m’adopté »

Friday 23 November 2007

Clever dog.

In the early 1940's, Swiss engineer and inventor George de Mestral went on a walk with his dog. After arriving home, he saw that his clothes and his dog's coat were covered with cockleburrs. When he looked at the burrs under a microscope, he discovered they have a natural hook-like shape, which became the basis for his invention of a unique, two-sided fastener; one side with stiff "hooks" like the burrs and the other side with the soft "loops" like the fabric of his trousers. De Mestral named his invention VELCRO after the French words "velours" and "crochet." Paradoxically in French the word “scratch” is used for the same product and not “Velcro”. The French prefer to use an onomatopoeic word. He submitted his idea for patent which was granted in 1951. Velcro today is the name of a group of companies and its trademark which make genuine VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners. It is a multi-million dollar industry.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Here comes the bride

Last week the Hindustan Times reported that an Indian man married a female dog in a traditional Hindu ceremony. The man said he chose to do this in an attempt to rid himself of a curse which he believes was inflicted on him after he had stoned two dogs to death. P. Selvakumar's family chose a stray named Selvi as his bride. According to Hindu tradition, she was bathed and clothed for the ceremony which was held at a Hindu temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The 33-year-old Indian talked to reporters and said that fifteen years ago he stoned two dogs to death and hung their bodies from a tree. He had been paralysed ever since and he believes that he was cursed for his deed. "After that my legs and hands got paralysed and I lost hearing in one ear," he told the Indian newspaper. According to the paper, Selvakumar was told by an astrologer that the only way he could be cured was by marrying a dog. The newspaper failed to say whether the man’s condition changed after the ceremony. This case is not unusual in rural India where people are very superstitious. Weddings between humans and other animals have been organised before as locals believe such ceremonies can ward off certain curses.The picture in the paper showed Selvakumar sitting next to the female dog. The bride was wearing an orange sari and a flower garland. After the ceremony, Selvakumar and his relatives had a feast, while the dog received a bun.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Don't leave me - part 2

Dogs with separation anxiety exhibit behaviour problems when they are left alone. The most common of these behaviours are: digging, scratching at doors or furniture, howling, barking, urination and defecation. These behaviours are not an attempt by the dog to punish or seek revenge on his owner for leaving him alone. Nor is it boredom. It is part of a panic response.
His anxiety is the result of the separation from his master not merely the result from being left alone. If your dog is a sufferer, these are some simple tips:

What NOT to do?
-Punish the dog as soon as you come into the house. Punishing will actually increase his separation anxiety.
-Getting another pet as a companion. The dog wants his master as a companion not another animal.
-Putting the dog in a crate. This will not calm him but increase his panic responses.
-Training the dog. This is a paradox. Formal training is, of course, a good idea but in this case the dog is not being disobedient nor does he show lack of training. It is a severe panic response.

What to do then?
-Keep arrivals and departures low-key. Ignore the dog – and this is difficult – for a few minutes when you get home before patting him.
-Leave the dog with an item of that smells of you. An old t-shirt you’ve slept in, for instance.
-Leave the radio or television on when you leave the house.
-Train your dog to stay by himself in the house and not to follow your every step. Leave him in another room whilst you do the ironing, for instance.
-Pretend to go out. Put on your coat and take your car keys and go out of the door. Return within the minute. Repeat this frequently during the day. Once the dog has accepted this, increase the time you have gone. Associate this with reassuring words such as “I’ll be back”.

I am often asked about this problem. Invariably this occurs in puppies or young dogs or adopted dogs and which are left alone whilst there owners are at work or out all day.
I do not take very kindly to this. What is the point of having a dog in such a case?
A dog needs companionship, needs to interact with humans, needs to be walked, needs to be stimulated and needs to be safe in the knowledge his master will return.

Friday 16 November 2007

Don't leave me

I received this picture with the caption : "Please adopt me". Dogs like young children suffer from separation anxiety. Destructive behaviour is a sympton of this.

More later.

Monday 12 November 2007

Unsung hero

In this time of remembrance, let us have a thought for all those brave animals which in their way contributed to the war effort. Here is the story of Stubby who was adopted by the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division, at Yale Field, New Haven, CT, in the spring of 1917. It is not known where he came from or what his pedigree was, but he appeared to be several weeks old at the time of his arrival. Throughout his service, his caretaker was J. Robert Conroy. In July 1917, he was smuggled aboard the S.S. Minnesota at Newport News, VA, and sailed to France with his unit. Following winter training of his unit, Stubby went to the front and by February 1918, he was in the trenches. Fitted with his own gas mask, Stubby underwent several gas attacks and was adept at warning the troops when gas was approaching their positions. On April 20, 1918, he was wounded in the left foreleg by a shell fragment during the Battle of Seicheprey. He earned one wound stripe and three service stripes. He participated in 17 engagements in four World War I offensives. After the Armistice, Stubby met President Woodrow Wilson when the President visited the 102nd Infantry regiment in France on Christmas Day 1918. When Stubby's unit returned to the United States in 1919, the dog was again smuggled aboard ship for the return trip. Upon his return home, he was made a life member of the American Legion, the American Red Cross and the YMCA. Stubby died in 1926, and his remains were preserved with technical assistance from the Smithsonian Institution. A plaster cast was made of his body, his skin was mounted on the cast, and his cremated remains were interred within the cast. For many years, he was on display at the National Red Cross Museum. On May 22, 1956, his master, J. Robert Conroy, presented Stubby to the Smithsonian. Included with the gift were a brass-studded collar, a leather harness, a scrapbook containing the history of Stubby, and a chamois blanket embroidered by women from the village of Chateau Thierry ( Marne region ) with the flags of the Allies and decorated with various badges and medals.
Stubby is one of many heroes.

Friday 9 November 2007

Festival of light

Nepal is celebrating the festival of Tihar, its equivalent of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. It is a five day festival and on the second day of the feast, special honour is bestowed on dogs. Today is the second day and it is called Kukur Puja (Dog Worship). Dogs are traditionally seen as the guardian of people’s house as well as that of Yamaraj's ( the Lord of Death ) underworld. On this day, dogs are worshipped and blessed with red Tika on their forehead and a flower garland around their neck. And they receive a special meal.

Tuesday 6 November 2007


Guillermo Habacuc Vargas, an "artist" from Costa Rica took a dog from the street and used it as an art exhibit and caused it to suffer and starve to death in the name of Art. I shall not post more pictures as they are disturbing and too horrific.

To sign the petition to stop this madman exhibiting, click here:

This is the letter I, as others in the blogworld, shall be writing to the organisers of Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 where Habacuc Vargas is to represent Costa Rica.

Centro Nacional de la Cultura
Antigua Fábrica Nacional de Licores.
Avenida 3, calle 15/17.
San José,
Costa Rica.
Fax: (506) 257 8702

Dear Sirs,
I am writing regarding the horrifying actions of Guillermo Habacuc Vargas, who paid local children to catch a dog on the street and then confined, starved and publicly displayed the dog as an "art" exhibit until the innocent animal died of starvation.
I, along with many people worldwide, am outraged that Guillermo Habacuc Vargas has been selected to represent Costa Rica in "Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008.” This man is by no definition of the word an artist. He is a criminally insane sadist and enjoys inflicting prolonged suffering upon his innocent victims. He is a danger to all of society, as it is well-documented that those with the capacity to intentionally cause harm to an animal have the same capacity to harm humans. To state that this animal would have died eventually of natural causes is unjustifiable and defies logical, rational thought.
To allow Guillermo Habacuc Vargas to represent Costa Rica in Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 will in no way benefit Costa Rica. The world is watching, and the actions of this so-called artist have brought many negative assumptions as to the humanity of the people of Costa Rica. The fact that many witnesses of this animal’s suffering did nothing, and that the organizers of this event allowed this to happen, rather than taking action to see that Guillermo Vargas be criminally charged with animal abuse, is sending the world a message that Costa Rica is a cruel, uncivilized society that has no regard for life, but enjoys viewing and contributing to the loss of life.
Each and every person who knew of and witnessed the suffering of this innocent dog is guilty of causing its unnecessary death. To let this crime go unpunished, and instead to reward Guillermo Vargas by choosing him to represent Costa Rica in Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 is unacceptable and shameful, not only to Costa Rica but to all participants in this event.
I urge you, do not condone the heinous actions of Guillermo Vargas by allowing him to participate in Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008. He should be jailed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for this animal’s death, and should not be allowed to represent Costa Rica as an artist, for to refer to him as such is an insult to all true artists.
Yours faithfully,


Friday 2 November 2007

Can't buy me love

If you live in Tokyo and you don’t have the time, money or space for a pet of your own, you can rent one by the hour. Puppy the World, the rental pet shop in Odaiba, a trendy shopping and entertainment district, has more than 50 breeds of dog, mostly small dogs like toy poodles, Chihuahuas, dachshunds or French bulldogs. Medium size dogs like border collies and Labradors have recently been added to the list. A complete list of dogs is available on the shop’s website and dogs can be booked in advance (see link below). Dogs can be chosen to match your personality.
The hourly charge is 20 € and includes the dog, of course, a lead, some tissue paper and a plastic bag in case the dog soils the squeaky clean pavements. Each person who rents a dog is under strict instructions not to let it off the lead, to keep it in the shade in case of hot weather and to refrain from giving it sweets. Oh yes, and to return it alive! At the end of the rental period, the dog can also be groomed and be taken to the canine café, Puppy’s Dining. For 100 €, the dogs can be rented overnight. Food, drinking bowl and a cage are provided.
To the Japanese with a fondness for animals but who are unable to raise pets because of their cramped living conditions, overcrowded streets and strict housing rules, shops like these are seen as a godsend. The concept started 3 years ago with 17 shops and apparently now Tokyo alone has 115 such shops. Whilst puppy love is booming, vets and animal welfare organisations are very concerned about the dogs well being. It is very traumatic and stressful for dogs to be constantly manipulated like cuddly toys. It is a source of anxiety for them to be walked and pampered by different people. Some react badly to being endlessly kissed and cuddled. Many dogs show severe physical symptoms like stomach upsets. Also dogs can become aggressive which can lead to the dog bearing its teeth and to biting. And then what?