Category Archives: Dogs

Darling Companion

I stumbled across this movie today, Darling Companion, directed by Lawrence Kasdan (The Accidental Tourist, The Big Chill, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Grand Canyon and many other movies).  It was released in 2012 but I don’t think it ever made it to theaters or, if it did, it was one of those that disappeared quite quickly.

There’s a dog in it, of course.  His name is Freeway and he is saved by Beth and Grace (Diane Keaton and Elisabeth Moss) on a cold January day when Beth spots him as they are driving down the freeway.  Beth needs something in her life because husband, Joseph (Kevin Kline) is absorbed in his work as a spinal surgeon.darling-companion

And then, after Freeway is part of Grace’s wedding a year after coming into their lives, Joseph takes Freeway for a walk and the dog chases a deer and is lost.  For the remainder of the film, the extended family searches for Freeway.

There’s some real romance and humor in this film and very nice scenery of Colorado.  Something of a predictable storyline, with aspects of dog adoption woven into the story which is a theme I’d support in any film.

Well worth seeing.  (Freeway is very cute).

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Workplace fostering

Most rescue and adoption groups are familiar with fostering programs – these are programs when a dog is taken to a home on a temporary basis so it can learn to adapt to a domestic living situation.

Foster carers are very special people who bring animals into their homes knowing that they may have had a rough start in life; they expect some teething problems.  Adopters will often ask to look at dogs who have been fostered because these dogs have a ‘head start’ in terms of settling in and can be less challenging for the adoptive family.

The folks at PetRescue, which supports 800 independent rescue groups in Australia, have taken fostering to a whole new level by developing a Workplace Foster Care Programme.  The rationale for the programme relies on research evidence into the human-animal bond and the positive impacts that pets in the workplace can have on productivity.

Things like encouraging staff to interact with one another, stress relief with a dog who wants pats or walkkies, and breaking the ice when new staff are introduced, are all aspects of workplace life that benefit when there’s a dog around.

Workplace Foster Care Programmes also raise awareness, so staff, clients and the general public learn about the benefits of adoption.

workplace foster dog

Vinomofo, a wine retailer based in Melbourne, was an early addition to the Workplace Foster Care Programme (photo by StartUp Daily)

The Sydney Morning Herald has recently covered the story of one company with a greyhound as its workplace foster dog.  Click here to view.

If I was looking for employment, I’d definitely be attracted by companies with a foster dog included in the benefit package.  (Sign me up!)

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Izzy’s letter to Santa

Dear Santa

This is my first-ever letter to you, although I will soon be 8.

I was a racing dog until the age of 5 ½ when I came to live with mummy.  I was still settling in during our first Christmas together and, last year, you might remember that we had our photo taken together. 

Back then, I just thought you were a guy that was over-dressed for a warm summer day.  I wasn’t sure about sitting next to you but that’s what mummy wanted and so I did it to make her happy. 

Then someone told me that you are the one who brings presents at Christmas.

So I’m writing because for Christmas I’d like a bed; I already have a bed – this one is for mummy.

You see, I don’t think there’s enough room for both of us in my bed.  When mummy is in bed with me in the hot weather,  I get too hot.  So I’d like another bed for mummy.

But there isn’t enough room in our bedroom for another bed and I do like sleeping close to mummy so I was hoping you could arrange to make the bedroom bigger, too.

Now I know I’m asking for a lot, but everyone says that you are really good at what you do – getting around the world in one night and leaving everyone presents.  And it isn’t like you’ve heard from me for the last 7 years.  That should count for something.

I have faith in you, Santa. 

You got this.

Love,

Izzy

Your dog remembers what you did

People have a remarkable ability to remember and recall events from the past, even when those events didn’t hold any particular importance at the time they occurred. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology have evidence that dogs have that kind of “episodic memory” too.

The study found that dogs can recall a person’s complex actions even when they don’t expect to have their memory tested.

“The results of our study can be considered as a further step to break down artificially erected barriers between non-human animals and humans,” says Claudia Fugazza of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest, Hungary. “Dogs are among the few species that people consider ‘clever,’ and yet we are still surprised whenever a study reveals that dogs and their owners may share some mental abilities despite our distant evolutionary relationship.”

memory-research

This image shows Claudia Fugazza and her dog demonstrating the Do As I Do Method. Credit: Mirko Lui

Evidence that non-human animals use episodic-like memory has been hard to come by because you can’t just ask a dog what it remembers. In the new study, the researchers took advantage of a trick called “Do as I Do.” Dogs trained to “Do as I Do” can watch a person perform an action and then do the action themselves. For example, if their owner jumps in the air and then gives the “Do it!” command, the dog would jump in the air too.

The fact that dogs can be trained in this way alone wasn’t enough to prove episodic memory. That’s because it needed to be shown that dogs remember what they just saw a person do even when they weren’t expecting to be asked or rewarded. To get around this problem, the researchers first trained 17 dogs to imitate human actions with the “Do as I Do” training method. Next, they did another round of training in which dogs were trained to lie down after watching the human action, no matter what it was.

After the dogs had learned to lie down reliably, the researchers surprised them by saying “Do It” and the dogs did. In other words, the dogs recalled what they’d seen the person do even though they had no particular reason to think they’d need to remember. They showed episodic-like memory.

Dogs were tested in that way after one minute and after one hour. The results show they were able to recall the demonstrated actions after both short and long time intervals. However, their memory faded somewhat over time.

The researchers say that the same approach can most likely be used and adapted in a wide range of animal species, to better understand how animals’ minds process their own actions and that of others around them.

“From a broad evolutionary perspective, this implies that episodic-like memory is not unique and did not evolve only in primates but is a more widespread skill in the animal kingdom,” Fugazza says. “We suggest that dogs may provide a good model to study the complexity of episodic-like memory in a natural setting, especially because this species has the evolutionary and developmental advantage to live in human social groups.”

For all those dog owners out there: your dogs are paying attention and they’ll remember.

Source:  Science Daily

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for December

“Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the railroads.”

– Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the United States

harry-truman

Cat TV

There’s a gap in the fence in our back yard.  And in the rental house next door, a new cat has moved in.  Izzy is fascinated.  Izzy watching cat tv

Unless it is raining, she enjoys watching Cat TV most days.

Izzy of course is not unique in this interest.  Cat TV is a favorite hobby of many dogs – so much so that the folks at PetPeek™ have created a window for your fence designed with your dog in mind.

The window is a 9.5 inch diameter acrylic dome that you install in your fence.

I’m not sure how much the neighbors would appreciate a noticeable window appearing in the fence…

There’s a product out there for every pet need.  Unfortunately, this product is not sold outside of the United States so I decide to buy one, I’ll have to use a freight forwarding service.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog

For all those who have

loved and lost a beloved pet,

here is a dog’s life

beautifully remembered

…so says the dust cover on my edition of The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog, written by playwright Eugene O’Neill.

Written in the early 1940s about his dog Blemie, from Blemie’s point of view, this small book tells Blemie’s owner how he is feeling and what he wants for his owners after his passing…including things like having another dog and not to grieve for too long.

I see many owners who must face the grief over the loss of their dog (I deal with many older dogs in my massage practice); and I have lived through the loss of my own dogs.  I can relate.

Every pet parent needs support during the grieving process.  I highly recommend buying a copy of this book.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand