Category Archives: special dogs and awards

Buffy the Three-Legged Pit Bull

Picture by Gracia Lam

Picture by Gracia Lam

Read Buffy’s Story Here (courtesy of The Boston Globe Magazine)

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

Thunder Dog – book review

Thunder Dog

Thunder Dog tells the story of Michael Hingson and Roselle, his guide dog.  Michael was working in the World Trade Center’s North Tower on the 78th floor on the morning of September 11, 2001.  The book gets its title from the fact that Roselle was very afraid of thunder and, during the wee hours of September 11th, there had been a thunder storm which woke both dog and handler – with handler providing emotional support.

The book starts with a chapter ‘Goodbye to a Hero’ in which Hingson tells us that Roselle died on June 26, 2011.  This is not entirely surprising – virtually all of the dogs who had involvement in 9/11 have since passed away.  It is, sadly, to be expected.

This book is written in a conversational style, as if Hingson was giving an interview (he did, many in fact, after the 9/11 attacks – television presenter Larry King writes the Foreward to the book).  It makes for very easy reading.

Interspersed with chapters detailing the long walk down from the 78th floor as dog and handler evacuated, Hingson tells us more about his life.  He wasn’t born blind, for example.  He was a premature baby and back when he was born, babies were put into incubators with a very high oxygen environment (it wasn’t until later when many babies ended up surviving, but blind, that doctors became aware of the cause).  Roselle was not Hingson’s first guide dog, either.  And Hingson’s parents encouraged him to explore his world; he even rode a bicycle around his neighborhood without assistance – learning to navigate by echolocation.

But the horrors of that day, and the strong bond between man and dog are what this book is really about.  How Hingson had to rely on Roselle more than ever, whilst remaining calm for her so she could do her job.  And how Roselle offered terrified people emotional support on a day like no other.  Hingson’s recollections of short conversations with firefighters who were climbing up the tower to fight the fire and assist in rescue are most poignant.

Roselle’s legacy lives on in the Roselle’s Dream Foundation which has since been established by Mr Hingson to honor her memory.  Throughout the book, Hingson emphasizes that being blind did not stop him from having a normal life and so the Foundation does its best to support scholarships to enable blind people to live their lives to the fullest.  The Foundation also exists to educate the sighted about blindness.

A book well worth reading.  It spent time on the New York Times Bestseller list.

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

How scrap metal could help a dog in need

Tucker and Rejeanne Asselin, who is appealing for donations of scrap metal to help fund Tucker's surgery (photo by Fort Erie Times)

Tucker and Rejeanne Asselin, who is appealing for donations of scrap metal to help fund Tucker’s surgery (photo by Fort Erie Times)

Seven-year-old Tucker is a Blue Heeler-Boxer mix who needs surgery to remove a piece of plastic that has embedded itself in his tongue.  His owner, Rejeanne Asselin, said she needs to come up with at least $800 to pay for his medical bills.

Since Asselin lives on a disability pension, her fixed income leaves little room for spending on Tucker’s medical care.  So, she is appealing to her local community of Fort Erie, Ontario, to donate any scrap metal, copper, aluminum, pop cans and beer bottles that can be recycled and exchanged for money that will help pay the vet bills.

“It might not be much but it all adds up in the long run,” Asselin said.

“Everyone has scrap metal, or these kinds of things lying around the house. Every little bit helps.”

Asselin first noticed something was wrong with her “good companion” in January when he wasn’t eating or drinking very much.  It took her until February when she had saved enough money to take him to the vet for an exam.

At first, the veterinarian thought Tucker might have cancer. After he was given some antibiotics and pain medication, Tucker was sent home. The swelling in Tucker’s mouth eventually went down and upon further examination from the veterinarian, it became clear something was embedded in Tucker’s tongue.  It’s likely some type of plastic.

The foreign object can’t be removed until Asselin comes up with enough money to pay for Tucker’s treatment.  He is still on pain medication but is having difficulty eating and is restricted to soft food.

“He is my protector, my guardian and my family.  You can tell he’s in pain.  But, Tucker is a very sweet dog.”

Anyone with scrap metal or other items in the Fort Erie area is being urged to  call Asselin at 905-871-6005 .

Source:  Fort Erie Times

New products to help train dogs for explosive detection

The Department of Homeland Security (USA) has been conducting independent assessments and developing products to assist canine explosive teams.

An explosive detection dog in action. Photo courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

An explosive detection dog in action. Photo courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

One of the biggest challenges in the training and testing of canine teams results from the explosives materials themselves – especially new homemade explosives. Due to the potential safety risks of explosives, only specially trained federal explosive technicians can provide the material for training and testing. This not only limits training times and opportunities, but also increases the costs since the technicians must travel to a central location for multi-day training events.

Researchers have been developing a new training aid that matches the scent of explosive materials but poses no danger to the trainers, the canines or the environment. It is currently undergoing field testing within federal, state and local canine detection teams. A key objective was to for the canines to react to the non-hazardous, non-explosive training aid the same way they would actual explosive material.

“It doesn’t go boom if you drop it, hit it or light it on fire,” said Canine Program Manager, Don Roberts. “That allows teams to take the training from the very controlled environment we currently have to train in for safety reasons and put it in a real-world scenario – for example putting the odor in a cinderblock and seeing if the dog can find it. We can put this new training aid in car wheel wells, airports etc., without fear that they’ll explode.”

S&T’s partner, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, developed the new training aid, Roberts said. After a number of trials, they’re ready to transfer the technology to the Transportation Security Administration, the primary customer for the aid. The bigger news, according to Roberts, is that the product was also designed to fit first responders’ needs as well.

“The design price point and usability factor has been geared to the first responder community – state and local explosive detection dogs who don’t have the regular training support TSA has. They are the ones who really need these products,” said Roberts.

The training aids are made to be thrown away after being used. These aids can last for over eight hours and can be stored up to two years. The scent can be dissolved in water, as opposed to the previous explosive training materials, which required special handling, transport and had to be stored in a bunker.

Next steps for this program include developing a second scent for training the dogs, and licensing so that the products can be produced outside of the federal government.

Source:  Department of Homeland Security media release

Read my other blog posts about explosives detector dogs:

Better paws for Brutus

When Brutus was just a puppy, his breeder left the young Rottweiler outside in freezing temperatures.

The pup suffered frostbite in all four paws, and the breeder tried to salvage the puppy’s paws with an at-home amputation. But Brutus was maimed and couldn’t walk without pain.

Brutus

Brutus

Now 2 years old, Brutus is living with a new and dedicated owner in Loveland, Colorado, and has become the second dog ever known to receive four prosthetic limbs. He is learning to walk again with help from OrthoPets, an animal prosthetics developer in Denver, and pet orthopedics experts at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“I believe prosthetics will play a big role in the future of veterinary orthopedics,” said Dr. Felix Duerr, an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences who practices small animal orthopedics and sports medicine at the university’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“Brutus shows how we can explore new technologies to find solutions, and how our partnerships with companies like OrthoPets really help.”

Brutus' paw

Brutus’ paw

Laura Aquilina, the dog’s owner, has provided a caring home for Brutus for seven months in an attempt to find “better paws” for the young rottie. She began fostering Brutus, and more recently adopted him, after he had trouble navigating hardwood floors and stairs in his first foster home, and the family couldn’t meet the disabled dog’s needs.

Aquilina and a pet rescuer in Canon City joined forces to raise nearly $12,500 for Brutus’ prosthetics and physical therapy through Go Fund Me, an online fundraising site. The crowdfunding project was aptly named “Better Paws for Brutus.”

Brutus with his prosthetics

Brutus with his prosthetics

In preparation for prosthetics, Brutus underwent corrective paw surgery with Dr. Trent Gall, a CSU veterinary alumnus working in Longmont. The procedure removed bone fragments, dew claws, and two toes left from the botched amputation.

After recovery from surgery, Brutus and Aquilina worked with Denver-based OrthoPets, the world’s largest veterinary orthotic and prosthetic company, to undergo the process of prosthetics fitting. OrthoPets adapts the same technologies used in the field of human orthotics to care for animal patients.

Martin Kaufmann, company founder, partnered with Colorado State’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital for its research and rehabilitation services.

“I don’t want to be part of a world that settles for ‘fine,’ and neither does CSU,” Kaufmann said. “There’s a common mission between CSU and OrthoPets to return animals’ lives to ‘great.’”

Since the collaboration began, CSU and OrthoPets have successfully developed techniques to treat Achilles tendon injuries in dogs and are investigating how specific injuries correlate with successful orthotic techniques and long-term prosthetic use.

Kaufmann compared the Rottweiler’s story to that of Nakio, the other dog known to live with four prosthetics. “We learned a lot from Nakio’s story and were able to apply that knowledge to Brutus’ case,” he said.

OrthoPets veterinarians learned that both of Brutus’ wrist joints had collapsed. “It’s similar to a human rolling his ankle completely to the side, left grossly unstable,” Kaufmann said, noting that the dog also has a troublesome callus that makes movement difficult.

The unique prosthetics have three purposes: to protect and make Brutus’ limbs more comfortable, to support his front collapsed legs, and to realign each leg to an equal length.

As his devices are refined, Brutus has entered a new phase of rehabilitation with physical therapy guided by Sasha Foster, CSU’s certified canine rehabilitation therapist.

“We’re working with Brutus to help him adjust to wearing his new prosthetics,” Foster said. “He’s learning how to move with them on. Once he’s mastered that, we will help him achieve higher-level functioning activities, like hiking and playing with other dogs.”

In upcoming months, Foster will use underwater treadmill therapy, balance activities, exercise balls and other neuro re-education therapies to help Brutus adjust to his new limbs.

Foster said her work is motivated by helping her patient – and the animal’s family. “When you improve the quality of life for a dog, you improve the quality life for the entire family,” Foster said.

It’s likely Brutus will need physical therapy intermittently for the rest of his life. But Aquilina is hopeful.

“You need a good team behind you, and we found that at CSU,” she said.

Follow Brutus’s recovery on Facebook and Instagram at @BetterPawsForBrutus

Source:  CSU media release

Lola the therapy dog

Lola, as photographed by Nancy Rubin Stuart

Lola, as photographed by Nancy Rubin Stuart

Meet Lola, a nine-year old Golden Retriever, who accompanies her owner, Dr Bodrie of Bourne, Cape Cod, to his office and on Wednesday rounds to one of six nursing facilities.    She’s a certified therapy dog!

In this article from Cape Cod.com, you can read about the Therapy Dogs International certification process that she and Dr Bodrie underwent to make her a certified therapy dog.

Lola and Dr Bodrie

Lola and Dr Bodrie

Lola's official therapy dog badge

Lola’s official therapy dog badge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ike the dog gets a new set of wheels

Ike in his new wagon (photo courtesy of ABC News)

Ike in his new wagon (photo courtesy of ABC News)

Ike is a 15-year old dog living in California.  He’s been diagnosed with bone cancer and so only has a few months to live.  His owner, Risa Feldman, wanted to give Ike as much quality of life as possible and the traditional hind end harnesses for helping him around weren’t cutting it.

So she went into Home Depot to ask for help and two employees there did even better.  They built Ike (free of charge) a new wagon complete with a little ramp so he can get in and out easily (the back end of the wagon lifts down to form the ramp).

Ike and Risa (photo courtesy of Risa Feldman)

Ike and Risa (photo courtesy of Risa Feldman)

Risa says the wagon will help Ike enjoy their walks along Manhattan Beach for a while yet.  Whilst Risa sits down at a local cafe for a coffee, Ike usually has an order of bacon…

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

Source:  ABC News