Comet’s Tale – book review

Comet's TaleThis book will make you want to go out and adopt a Greyhound!  Mr Wolf tells the story of Comet, a Greyhound who comes into his life as his health and well-being are seriously under threat.

The author never had any experience with Greyhounds until he is drawn to a charitable group promoting Greyhound adoption at his local supermarket.

A Greyhound who suffered abuse at the track, Comet is withdrawn around most people but decides that Mr Wolf (affectionately called “Wolfie” by his wife) is for her.  She literally sits down next to him and lets him know – take me home.

As Steven’s health deteriorates, he lives on pain killers and can barely walk or do simple household tasks.  This is when he decides that Comet has all of the qualities of a service dog and only needs training.  He looks for trainers to assist him and all scoff at the suggestion that a Greyhound could be a service dog.  So, he trains her himself.

I particularly liked the stories of Comet as she learns to pull Steven’s wheelchair through the airport.  Aided by the photo on the cover of the book (the only photo in this book, which perhaps is its only shortcoming), you can understand when Steven describes Comet’s doe eyes and the looks she would give him to communicate her very articulate thoughts!

I recommend this book for summer reading (if you are currently in the Northern Hemisphere) or curl up with it in front of the fire for winter entertainment (if you are in the Southern Hemisphere).

Happy reading!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

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Wordless Wednesday, part 42

Daisy's PillowBlog Hop

Domestication Syndrome

More than 140 years ago, Charles Darwin noticed something peculiar about domesticated mammals. Compared to their wild ancestors, domestic species are more tame, and they also tend to display a suite of other characteristic features, including floppier ears, patches of white fur, and more juvenile faces with smaller jaws. Since Darwin’s observations, the explanation for this pattern has proved elusive, but now, in a Perspectives article published in the journal GENETICS, a new hypothesis has been proposed that could explain why breeding for tameness causes changes in such diverse traits.

Photo courtesy of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Helios, an approximately 3-year-old cattle dog/greyhound mix with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. Photo courtesy Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

The underlying link between these features could be the group of embryonic stem cells called the neural crest, suggests the research team.

“Because Darwin made his observations just as the science of genetics was beginning, the domestication syndrome is one of the oldest problems in the field. So it was tremendously exciting when we realized that the neural crest hypothesis neatly ties together this hodge-podge of traits,” says Adam Wilkins, from the Humboldt University of Berlin – one of the study’s authors.

Neural crest cells are formed near the developing spinal cord of early vertebrate embryos. As the embryo matures, the cells migrate to different parts of the body and give rise to many tissue types. These tissues include pigment cells and parts of the skull, jaws, teeth, and ears—as well as the adrenal glands, which are the center of the “fight-or-flight” response. Neural crest cells also indirectly affect brain development.

In the hypothesis proposed by Wilkins and co-authors Richard Wrangham of Harvard University and Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna, domesticated mammals may show impaired development or migration of neural crest cells compared to their wild ancestors.

“When humans bred these animals for tameness, they may have inadvertently selected those with mild neural crest deficits, resulting in smaller or slow-maturing adrenal glands,” Wilkins says. “So, these animals were less fearful.”

The authors also suggest that the reduced forebrain size of most domestic mammals could be an indirect effect of neural crest changes, because a chemical signal sent by these cells is critical for proper brain development.

The hypothesis will require testing, which will be able to be done once genetic mapping of domesticated species like the dog, fox and rat are completed.

Full journal article details:  The “Domestication Syndrome” in Mammals: A Unified Explanation Based on Neural Crest Cell Behavior and Genetics
Adam S. Wilkins, Richard W. Wrangham, and W. Tecumseh Fitch. GENETICS July 2014, 197:795-808, doi: 10.1534/genetics.114.165423
http://www.genetics.org/content/197/3/795.full

Source:  Genetics Society of America media release

 

Rescue a human…the Human Walking Project

When this came across my desk, I had to share it.

The Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne (Australia) came up with an adoption drive with a ‘twist’ this year.  They started the Human Walking Project in downtown Melbourne.

Dogs needing adoption were brought into the central city to encourage office workers to escape their offices and walk with the dogs during their lunch breaks.  And enough of them fell in love to adopt their new canine friends!

I particularly like the ad for the Project:

What initiatives for dog adoption do you think are innovative and fun?  And wouldn’t you like to escape your office at lunch with a friend who shows unconditional love?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Dog rescued from tree by cherry picker

Archie the Jack Russell got himself stuck up a 30 meter pine tree at his home in Huapai, West Auckland.  Thankfully the cavalry, Prolift Access Hire, came with a cherry-picker to get him down.  (photo by Fairfax/Stuff.co.nz)

Archie the Jack Russell got himself stuck up a 30 meter pine tree at his home in Huapai, West Auckland.
Thankfully the cavalry, Prolift Access Hire, came with a cherry-picker to get him down. (photo by Fairfax/Stuff.co.nz)

Read the full story here:

Dog rescued from tree by cherry picker | Stuff.co.nz.

Immunotherapy hope

There is a form of cancer treatment called immunotherapy, where antibodies inhibit tumor growth.  Until now, such therapy wasn’t available for dogs.  A research team at Messerli Research Institute of the Vetmeduni Vienna, the Medical University of Vienna and the University of Vienna have now developed antibodies to treat cancer in dogs.

The newly developed antibody brings hope for dogs. (Photo by:  Michael Bernkopf / Vetmeduni Vienna)

The newly developed antibody brings hope for dogs. (Photo by: Michael Bernkopf / Vetmeduni Vienna)

Since cancer cells bear very specific antigens on the surface, the corresponding antibodies bind to these molecules and inhibit tumor growth.  A destructive signal sent by the antibody to the inside of the cancer cell initiates its death. In a second mechanism, the immune system of the patient also destroys the “marked” tumor in a more efficient way.

Josef Singer and Judith Fazekas, both lead authors of the study, discovered that a receptor frequently found on human tumor cells (epidermal growth factor receptor or EGFR) is nearly 100 percent identical with the EGF receptor in dogs. In human medicine EGFR is frequently used as the target of cancer immunotherapy because many cancer cells bear this receptor on their surface. The so-called anti-EGFR antibody binds to cancer cells and thus triggers the destruction of the cells. “Due to the high similarity of the receptor in humans and dogs, this type of therapy should work well in dogs too,” the scientists say. The binding site of the antibody to EGFR in man and dogs differs only in respect of four amino acids.

The head of the study, Professor Erika Jensen-Jarolim, explains as follows: “We expect dogs to tolerate these anti-cancer antibodies well. This will be investigated in clinical studies in the future and is expected to greatly improve the treatment as well as the diagnosis of cancer in dogs.”

The newly developed antibody provides an additional benefit for dogs. As in human medicine, antibodies can be coupled with signal molecules. When the antibody binds to a cancer cell in the organism, the coupled antibody – in this case a radioactive isotope – can be rendered visible and is thus able to show where tumors and even metastases are located. When the selected isotope also contributes to the decay of cancer cells, the approach is known as “theranostics” (therapy and diagnostics).

In veterinary medicine, immunotherapy will be employed for the treatment of mammary ridge cancer (milk line cancer) in dogs. It may also be used as part of a combination therapy.

The team have published their study results in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

Source: Vetmeduni Vienna media release

Wordless Wednesday, part 41

Photo courtesy of Linda Chu, customer of Canine Catering

Photo courtesy of Linda Chu, customer of Canine Catering

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