May 28, 2006

marathon dogs

marathons are exhausting. especially for puppies waiting at the finish line.

May 26, 2006

perhaps i should sell this on e-bay?

admitted, it's not the virgin mary, but which dog & coffee aficionado wouldn't swap a slice of burnt toast for this café con canine?

May 22, 2006

lab party at the dog park

a great afternoon at the dog park. look who has joined the lab party: two black labs, one chocolate lab, one silver* lab, and one bassador!

* i had never seen a silver lab before. at first i thought he was some kind of weimaraner-mastiff mix, but he was just too big for a weimaraner. it turned out that he was simply a huge lab with a rare coat color. according to a breeder's website, until 1987 the american kennel club recognized "silver" as a registered lab color, but after some breeders protested, the silver color is now listed as "a shade of chocolate". ah well. what's in a name?

May 20, 2006

do you speak american?

the senate has decided to add to its immigration bill an amendment that declares english "to be the national language of the United States". this may sound innocent enough, but the consequences would be far-reaching. from an editorial in today's new york times:

If the amendment merely stated the achingly obvious, it might be nothing to get upset about. Senator Ken Salazar, Democrat of Colorado, offered an amendment asserting, nonbindingly, that English is the language that unites us all. That one was passed, too. But Mr. Inhofe and his allies weren't looking to make a statement about our shared heritage.

They made another point — one that is exclusionary, potentially discriminatory and embarrassingly hostile to the rest of the world.

"Unless otherwise authorized or provided by law," the Inhofe amendment says, "no person has a right, entitlement or claim to have the government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English." It goes on to insist that new citizens be tested for knowledge of English and of certain pillars of American civics, like the Federalist Papers and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

People who struggle with the language don't need to be told how important English fluency is in America. If Mr. Inhofe wanted to lavish federal money on English-language classes, now overwhelmed with immigrants on waiting lists, such a step would do more to advance the cause of English and assimilation than any xenophobic amendment. [...]

This country has always come to regret official actions that exclude and alienate large populations of newcomers. It has never stood prouder than when it greeted them with openness and confidence, in the spirit behind the motto "E pluribus unum." Sorry — make that "Out of many, one."

May 19, 2006

complementary distribution*

this is lena, our neighbor's beautiful border collie. lena is 10 months old and in constant motion. it's very hard to get a picture of her that isn't blurred:

lena is all that you would expect from a young boarder collie. she's overeager and playful, and will enthusiastically go after a stinky old volleyball dozens of times. she thinks the world is a wonderful place, filled with frisbees, squirrels, and people that love her.

brandy knows better, but keeps her wisdom to herself.

*in linguistics, the term complementary distribution refers to two elements that can never occur in the same environment. for example, the demonstratives "this" and "these" are in complementary distribution -- whenever "this" is o.k. (singular environment), "these" is not, and vice versa.

May 18, 2006

god spelled backwards...

...doesn't spell nevaeh. according to an article in today's new york times the name nevaeh has undergone an unprecedented surge in popularity. and why? because it's "heaven spelled backwards":
Chances are you don't have any friends named Nevaeh. Chances are today's toddlers will. In 1999, there were only eight newborn American girls named Nevaeh. Last year, it was the 70th-most-popular name for baby girls, ahead of Sara, Vanessa and Amanda.

The spectacular rise of Nevaeh (commonly pronounced nah-VAY-uh) has little precedent, name experts say. They watched it break into the top 1,000 of girls' names in 2001 at No. 266, the third-highest debut ever. Four years later it cracked the top 100 with 4,457 newborn Nevaehs, having made the fastest climb among all names in more than a century, the entire period for which the Social Security Administration has such records.

Nevaeh is not in the Bible or any religious text. It is not from a foreign language. It is not the name of a celebrity, real or fictional. Nevaeh is Heaven spelled backward.

The name has hit a cultural nerve with its religious overtones, creative twist and fashionable final "ah" sound. It has risen most quickly among blacks but is also popular with evangelical Christians, who have helped propel other religious names like Grace (ranked 14th) up the charts, experts say. By contrast, the name Heaven is ranked 245th.

"Of the last couple of generations, Nevaeh is certainly the most remarkable phenomenon in baby names," said Cleveland Kent Evans, president of the American Name Society and a professor of psychology at Bellevue University in Nebraska.

The surge of Nevaeh can be traced to a single event: the appearance of a Christian rock star, Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D., on MTV in 2000 with his baby daughter, Nevaeh. "Heaven spelled backwards," he said. [...] Today Mr. Sandoval is introduced to and photographed with baby Nevaehs all the time. His own Nevaeh, now 6, skateboards and, when introduced, pipes up that her name is Heaven spelled backward. Does she understand the meaning of heaven? Mr. Sandoval replied, "She knows that is where her grandmother is."
well, i can't help it. not only do i find the concept of naming one's child after the reverse spelling of a word that one considers particularly meaningful not exactly a stroke of genious (evol, anyone?), it will also create very odd-sounding and odd-looking words -- if you reverse a syllable, there is no reason why the result should still sound or look like an english word. in this particular case the result reminds me of nivea, the ubiquitous german all-purpose cream. (in german, the brand name is stressed on the second syllable.)

click here for more on baby names gone wrong.

May 14, 2006

"The question of when an animal goes from being a pet that provides love and companionship to an emotional-support animal [...] is subjective"

where should one draw the line between a loved companion animal and a needed service dog?

from today's new york times:
Wagging the Dog, and a Finger By BETH LANDMAN

ON a sun-drenched weekend last month, cafes from TriBeCa to the Upper West Side were swelling with diners, many of whom left dogs tied to parking meters in deference to Health Department rules that prohibit pets in restaurants. At French Roast on upper Broadway, however, two women sat down to brunch with dogs in tow: a golden retriever and a Yorkie toted in a bag. "They both said that their animals were emotional service dogs," said Gil Ohana, the manager, explaining why he let them in. "One of them actually carried a doctor's letter."

Health care professionals have recommended animals for psychological or emotional support for more than two decades, based on research showing many benefits, including longer lives and less stress for pet owners. But recently a number of New York restaurateurs have noticed a surge in the number of diners seeking to bring dogs inside for emotional support, where previously restaurants had accommodated only dogs for the blind. [...]

The increasing appearance of pets whose owners say they are needed for emotional support in restaurants — as well as on airplanes, in offices and even in health spas — goes back, according to those who train such animals, to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating for the first time that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness. [...]

WHILE most people who train animals that help the disabled — known as service animals — are happy that deserving people are aided, some are also concerned that pet owners who might simply prefer to brunch with their Labradoodle are abusing the guidelines. "The D.O.T. guidance document was an outrageous decision," said Joan Froling, chairwoman of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, a nonprofit organization representing people who depend on service dogs. "Instead of clarifying the difference between emotional support animals who provide comfort by their mere presence and animals trained to perform specific services for the disabled, they decided that support animals were service animals." [...]

The 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act states that anyone depending on an animal to function should be allowed full access to all private businesses that serve the public, like restaurants, stores and theaters. The law specifies that such animals must be trained specifically to assist their owner. True service animals are trained in tasks like finding a spouse when a person is in distress, or preventing people from rolling onto their stomachs during seizures. But now, because the 2003 Department of Transportation document does not include language about training, pet owners can claim that even untrained puppies are "service animals," Ms. Froling said. "People think, 'If the D.O.T. says I can take my animal on a plane, I can take it anywhere,' " she said.

do you have a therapy dog? did you train him and take tests? do you take him to children's hospitals so that the patients can connect emotionally with the dog? what do you think of people who declare their own dog to be a service dog, simply because connecting with the dog makes their life a little easier? (isn't that what all dogs do?)

do you have a service dog? a dog that underwent lengthy training to assist people with disabilities to increase their functional independence and mobility? what do you think of people who insist on bringing their dogs on airplanes and into medical practices, simply because it makes them feel "less hostile" about the world?

sure, my dog enhances my emotional well-being. and certainly, i'd be very happy if i could take her into the passenger cabin on an airplane. but by claiming that my dog should be treated like a service dog, i'd be exploiting the rights of people with disabilities and diminishing the training and the work of true service dogs.
Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen, who teaches psychology at John Jay College in Manhattan and sees a psychotherapist, said her dog, a pit bull mix, helps fend off dark moods that began after her husband died eight years ago. She learned about psychological support pets from the Delta Society, a nonprofit group that aims to bring people and animals together, and got her dog, Alexander, last year. "When I travel I tell hotels up front that 'Alexander Dog Cohen' is coming and he is my emotional-needs dog," she said. She acknowledged that the dog is not trained as a service animal. "He is necessary for my mental health," she said. "I would find myself at loose ends without him."

It is widely accepted that animals can provide emotional benefits to people. "There is a lot of evidence that animals are major antidepressants," said Carole Fudin, a clinical social worker who specializes in the bond between animals and humans. "They give security and are wonderful emotional grease to help people with incapacitating fears like agoraphobia."

The question of when an animal goes from being a pet that provides love and companionship to an emotional-support animal, without which an owner cannot get through a day, is subjective.

what can a self-declared service dog do for you? well, it can make you feel less hostile towards everyone else:
One 30-year-old woman, a resident of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., said she does not see a psychotherapist but suffers from anxiety and abandonment issues and learned about emotional-needs dogs from a television show. She ordered a dog vest over the Internet with the words "service dog in training" for one of the several dogs she lives with, even though none are trained as service animals. "Having my dogs with me makes me feel less hostile," said the woman, who refused to give her name.
it can also provide emotional support during hair removal:
In general, business owners seem to extend themselves to accommodate service animals. Though Completely Bare, a chain of health spas in New York and Palm Beach, Fla., has a policy barring animals in treatment rooms, Cindy Barshop, the company's owner, said that she made an exception for a customer who insisted that she needed her large dog for support while she had laser hair removal. "We had to cover the dog with a blanket to protect its eyes during the procedure," Ms. Barshop said.

and finally, dogs can help you run your store:

Jerri Cohen, the owner of a jewelry store in Manhattan, said she tried living without animals when she married a man who bought an apartment in a no-dog building. "I went into a severe depression and had to go on medication," she said. "Three years later a friend bought me two pug puppies, and I refused to give them away. My co-op threatened us with eviction. An attorney suggested I get a letter from my psychiatrist. She wrote that I was emotionally needy and the lawyer said that was no good. So she wrote that I can barely function or run my store without them. I won the case. "They sleep with me," she said. "They have a double stroller. They go to restaurants with me and fly with me."
i agree - these people need treatment and support, but it should be by a mental health professional, not by a dog. (and never give someone who lives in a no-dog building puppies as a present. this may create so much stress that you need to adopt a dozen more to barely function. and think of the stroller problem you'd run into then.)

May 13, 2006

why get pet insurance?

why do people get pet insurance? to insure themselves against financial ruin? most likely not. to protect a financial investment? don't check either. an article in today's new york times argues that people pet insurance to protect themselves from having to choose "economic euthanasia".
Vet Bills and the Priceless Pet: What's a Practical Owner to Do?

When Henry the cat began dragging his legs, his owner, Carol Kalinoski, suspected her 15-year-old pet's problem might be more serious than old age and arthritis.Steroids weren't helping, so her veterinarian suggested that they do a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his lower spine. The cost was $1,200. Ms. Kalinoski paid. The vet didn't learn enough from that and he advised Ms. Kalinoski of Alexandria, Va., to get a second M.R.I. at the nearby imaging center run by Iams, the pet food unit of Procter & Gamble. Imaging the entire spine would cost another $1,200, and Ms. Kalinoski paid again. The veterinarian spotted a tumor. Ms. Kalinoski was given a number of choices, including putting Henry to sleep or surgery that would cost $3,200.

What would you have done? Paid the money even though the cat was old and the surgery had only a 50 percent chance of success, or said, "It's a cat," and asked the vet to euthanize him, or wished you had bought pet insurance 10 years ago? Ms. Kalinoski, a consultant and regulatory lawyer, chose surgery. [...]

Veterinary care is not a trivial expense. Americans will spend about $9.4 billion this year on the health of their pets, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Those bills are rising about 9 percent a year, almost three times the rate of inflation. [...]

Pet owners, though, often underestimate what they spend on their animals. James F. Wilson, a veterinarian based in Yardley, Pa., who often testifies in court on the value of an animal, said research completed this year puts the average lifetime cost of a medium-size dog at $10,400. A small dog will cost slightly less and a large one slightly more. Caring for a cat will cost an average of about $10,600. Dr. Wilson took his calculations a step further. He found that among people who have a strong bond with their pet — did you know 5.8 million pet owners celebrate their pets' birthdays? — the expenses more than double. For instance, he found dog owners spend more on treats than on food. He said that the cost of caring for a medium-size dog can go as high as $100,000 for those who make man's best friend their best friend. [...]

Is pet insurance any more defensible as a money saver? Probably not. A policy on a 2-year-old cat offered by VPI Pet Insurance, the nation's largest provider, carried a premium of $28.75 a month, or $345 a year. If the cat lives 18 years (not uncommon), 16 years of payments would add up to $5,136, or just about equal to what Dr. Wilson estimated as the high end of out-of-pocket health care costs for a cat. [...]

There may be another reason to buy pet insurance. "It is an easier decision if you make it with your heart and not your pocketbook," said VPI's spokesman, Brian Iannessa. "It makes pet owners feel better." And there you have it. The pet insurance is really human emotion insurance. It is there to protect you from choosing what Mr. Iannessa called "economic euthanasia."

But what does Ms. Kalinoski, Henry's owner, think of spending $5,600? "Would I do it again?" she asked. "Yes." Within weeks of his surgery, Henry was jumping off the furniture. She said, "You wouldn't have thought he was 15 years old."

i had pet insurance for two years, mainly because i was traveling quite a bit at the time, and i wanted the dog sitter to feel comfortable about taking the dog to the vet no matter what. if your dog is prone to running on the street or to fight with other dogs, it may not be such a bad idea to have part of the vet bills covered through insurance. i only bought the "minimum protection" policy, which at the time was around $10 per month. it provided coverage up to $2500 per incident, including accidental injuries and poisoning. it gave me peace of mind, and i was very glad (not disappointed) not to have to file a claim.

May 08, 2006

racing dog

who would have believed it? i took brandy to a local 20k race (for humans) this weekend. it was a beautiful spring day, and she quite contently sat in the grass waiting for the race to finish. no nervous tugging on the leash, no whining, just a happy, curious dog, with a nose in constant sniffing mode:

(note the seasonal collar and leash)

and this is the moment we had been waiting for:

brandy's way of saying "good job":

all in all, a perfect race.

May 07, 2006

"Pet your dog -- not your date"

This motto has been around in the sexual abstinence community for a while, but I only read about it today. If you want to instill abstinence in teenagers, surely there must be a better slogan than one that asks you to redirect your, eh, attentions from a human to a dog, no?

Edit: Apparently, I'm not the only one who finds the wording of the slogan rather awkward.