Foreclosure Pets: to adopt your next dog, please go local

April 8, 2008

The current housing crisis has added another unwanted phrase to the national lexicon: foreclosure pets.

Even in good economic times there’s a significant percentage of people who move and leave their pets behind. Most local shelters have a standing policy of not accepting “owner surrendered” pets for fear of being overwhelmed.

This doesn’t prevent these abandoned dogs and cats from ending up in shelters; the most common technique is to remove the dog’s tags and collar and set it loose two towns away. The idea is that before the dog could find its way back to familiar turf, it will be spotted, reported and picked up by animal control. And believe it or not, these people are giving their dogs a better chance than most. Too often families move and leave their pets behind; tied up in the yard, locked in basements and closets.

The most common reason given for surrendering a family pet is “We’re moving.” Now shelters are starting to hear: “I lost my house.”

While going through the stress of losing their home and figuring out the next step for themselves, families often forget the obligation they undertook when the got their pet. Some may believe (wrongly) that local officials or the bank that has taken over their property will shelter and provide for the dog they left behind. Or perhaps a neighbor.

There are also people who consider their pets disposable, like so much else in Today’s Modern World.®

In almost every state pets are considered personal property. They have no rights granted them or inherent protection. While it may be admirable to try and save these animals, shelter them, feed them, treat them for medical conditions and try and re-home them, there is generally no legal requirement to do so.

In most towns as long as there aren’t roving packs of feral dogs loping across Main Street at noon, they consider the canine problem well-managed.

Abandoned dogs face some pretty stiff odds. If they’re locked in the house when the owners depart they may die of dehydration. A dog, like a man, can go longer without food than without fresh water. If they’re left outside they may be leashed or tied where they are open to attack by local predators. They may also injure themselves trying to break free. Once free they are still prone to attack by predators, car strikes, starvation, and disease.

I saw a pit bull once whose neck was shaved completely around, a four-inch wide swath. Running around at the center of this stubbled skin was a bright red gash — it marked the place where a rope had been tied around its neck. The rope became embedded in the dog’s skin. The pit had been found tied to a porch at an abandoned house. On his journey from the vet’s office to the local shelter I was asked to take care of this dog, briefly.

As I sat near him I felt all the things that make people afraid of this breed. This dog was clearly powerful, heavily muscled, and easily 100 pounds. There was that wide jaw, rightly feared for its ability to lock in place and refuse to release once bitten. There was no leash or collar, so I really had no way to control the dog or keep him near me, if he chose to leave. Or to protect myself. I was sitting on a wooden bench, and this unfamiliar pitt bull was sitting in front of me, with his back to me, between my legs, and panting rapidly. A dog, I was starting to think, that had been severely neglected, and probably abused, by people. People just like me. If I was him, would I be suspicious of me? Might I want to show this stranger just how tough I am? If he did attack me, I could easily justify it in several ways from his point of view.

Just as I was starting to get a bit concerned, he turned his head over his shoulder and smiled at me, baring all his teeth and a little drool. At least I chose to interpret it as a smile. I curled in the fingers of my right hand and slowly offered the back of my hand for him to sniff.

Of course, you know the end of this story by now: he licked my hand and in another moment I was happily scratching him around his ears, just as if we was old pals.

What I take from this experience (and others) is that dogs, even though they have been horribly treated by humans, are almost always ready to give us a second chance; to begin a relationship, to offer companionship. A child treated the way this pit bull had been would never completely recover from the experience. It might even turn a child into a small, amoral monster. I’ve seen that happen, too.

I’m humbled by the fact that the canine race seems so willing to forgive the human race our cruel treatment of them.

So if you are looking for a dog right now, please go to your local animal shelter first to see if they might have the dog of a lifetime for you. If you strike out there, go to the next town over and then the town after that. If you’re lucky enough to have a county facility, try there.

At this moment, the sub-prime mortgage crisis means that there are thousands of great dogs flooding into the local shelter system. The odds for most of them being re-homed are narrow. Make a difference. To adopt your next dog, go local.

Give a great dog a second chance.

Zebras are reactionaries, Antelopes are missionaries, Pigeons plot in secrecy. . .

April 6, 2008

I grew up on Simon & Garfunkel and for days now this old tune of theirs has been rattling around in my brain, At the Zoo, lyrics below.

According to the 1997 liner notes to their Old Friends album, Paul Simon toyed wth the idea of changing the song Mrs. Robinson to Mrs. Roosevelt, the landmark 1967 film The Graduate’s most famous song. Director Mick Nichols replied, “Don’t be ridiculous! We’re making a movie here! It’s Mrs. Robinson!”

Mrs. Robinson: Benjamin.
Benjamin: Yes?
Mrs. Robinson: Isn’t there something you want to tell me?
Benjamin: Tell you?
Mrs. Robinson: Yes.
Benjamin: Well, I want you to know how much I appreciate this. Really.
Mrs. Robinson: The number.
Benjamin: What?
Mrs. Robinson: The room number, Benjamin. I think you ought to tell me that.
Benjamin: Oh, you’re absolutely right. It’s 568.
Mrs. Robinson: Thank you.
Benjamin: You’re welcome. Well. . .I’ll see you later, Mrs. Robinson.

Someone told me
It’s all happening at the zoo.

I do believe it,
I do believe its true.

Its a light and tumble journey
From the East Side to the Park;
Just a fine and fancy ramble
To the zoo.

But you can take the crosstown bus
If its raining or its cold,
And the animals will love it
If you do.

Somethin’ tells me
Its all happening at the zoo.

The monkeys stand for honesty,
Giraffes are insincere,
And the elephants are kindly but
They’re dumb.
Orangutans are skeptical
Of changes in their cages,
And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.

Zebras are reactionaries,
Antelopes are missionaries,
Pigeons plot in secrecy,
And hamsters turn on frequently.
What a gas! You gotta come and see
At the zoo.

— Paul Simon

Huxley’s First Stick, half-chewed (circa 2002)

April 6, 2008

Now held in secure storage in the doggie closet, source of kibble and treats.

Huxley’s Paw at 6 Years Old

April 6, 2008


Dogs as Livestock in South Korea

April 3, 2008

The Australian Herald Sun is reporting that the Seoul city government is trying again to classify dogs as livestock in a bid to legalize, license, and regulate the industry and raise health standards for consumers.

Estimates of somewhere between 2 and 4 million dogs are eaten in South Korea each year; in Seoul alone there are about 500 dog meat restaurants. Other estimates say that nationwide there are 6,000 restaurants serving dogs and they are enjoyed by 10% of the population. Since there is no current regulation the market is underground. Almost all of these dogs are slaughtered and processed in less than pristine, sanitary conditions, making dog meat a somewhat risky entree for diners.

If this proposal is made law and effectively enforced, it could produce a rise in consumption as restaurant goers grew more confident that the dog meat they were ordering is ‘safe,’ that is, free of pathogens and other contaminants.

There is local opposition. Lee Won-Bok, president of the Korea Association for Animal Protection said, “It’s horrible to imagine dog meat on display next to beef and ham at supermarkets. It would also be nauseating to see roasted dog meat on the menu of your restaurant.”

However, Won-Bok’s statement seems to ignore the fact that dog meat is already consumed in fairly large quantities nation wide and is currently on many restaurant menus. Keeping this industry underground invites abusive and inhumane treatment.

The ethics here seems quite clear: if you are going to serve dog meat, consumers should be protected by making sure that meat is processed under sanitary conditions.

I wonder what the status of bestiality laws are in South Korea? Is it illegal to have sex with dogs but OK to roast and eat them?

Research science tells us that dogs and pigs rank very close to each other on scales of intelligence and gentleness. If you arrived from another planet and observed conditions in a factory farm that raises and slaughters pigs and then saw how some people are practicing Yoga with their companion dogs, you would be quite appropriately confused.

The distinction drawn here is simply cultural and not based on biology.

As a consumer of pork and a platonic, non-sexual lover of dogs, I recognize the weakness of any moral outrage I might muster over this dichotomy. No one likes to accept the fact that their moral position is arbitrary and based on locale and not any set of hard facts.

But to pretend otherwise is a lie.

42 Must-Bookmark Resources for Web Designers — Inspiration, Design, Color, Fonts and more

April 2, 2008

These links have been compiled by the site [Re]Encoded dot com and are well worth checking out. Go here to peruse them yourself.

One of my favorites is the listing of 25 Beautiful Minimalistic Website Designs by Vandalay Website Design.

Dogs and Autistic Children

April 2, 2008

Here’s a story we’d like desperately to believe is true: the benefits of service dogs assisting parents raising autistic children.

The evidence so far is anecdotal but heartfelt and persuasive; we’d love to see a double-blind study back up these wonderful stories with some hard data.

Parents claim that specially trained service dogs help make their autistic children “calmer, more social and more comfortable in the world.” The problem with self-reporting like this is that the parents are hardly disinterested parties and they’re not trained observer’s to boot.

The wife of a friend who works with autistic children has told me how eagerly they call her to report some sign of progress. But when she had her next session with the child the ‘breakthrough’ was just. . . a misinterpretation, wishful thinking, something you want so badly that you convince yourself you’ve seen it even though it was never there.

I must admit that I’m not a disinterested party either. I would very much like this be true. Helping a severely disabled child and giving rewarding work and love to a canine, what’s not to like. But we must be careful not to impose our wishes on reality. A case in point is the Facilitated Communication fiasco of a few years back.

The story here was that acutely disabled people, mostly children, could communicate if a trained person helped move their hand where they intended it to go on a keyboard or another surface with multiple options. It turned out to be wishful thinking and self-delusion when subjected to properly controlled conditions. Unconsciously, the facilitators were the ones providing both the intelligence and communication, not the subjects.

There’s something called the ideomotor effect, the kind of phenomenon that is behind such things as dowsing rods and Ouija boards. Your motor control is influenced without your awareness and the only information thus obtained comes from the user, not their environment or the Spirit World.

So the fact that I want this to be true makes me call all the more strongly for independent verification. College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, are you reading this?

You know, instead of buying a hand-embroidered suede lounge cushion “Lotus Bed” for your dog (see previous post “Doga: Dog Yoga”) I’d ask you to please send that money to 4 Paws for Ability.

Their mission is to enrich the lives of people with disabilities by training and placing service animals to provide companionship and promote independent living.

Your dog doesn’t need a luxury Lotus Bed (trust me on this one), and these good folks could use your support to help make a real difference in people’s lives.

Unless you think that buying a Shanti stick inscribed with the mantra of Peace for your pooch is a better deal.

Doga: Dog Yoga — Indulgent, Self-Deluded Owners Waste Money on Latest Stupid Fad

April 2, 2008

There is nothing beyond the capacity of some loving dog owners to convince themselves is the Next Great Thing to do with your dog. Even in a recession there are still many Americans with too much time and money on their hands and product pimps only too happy to relieve them of some it.

You can read about it in the credulous article Bring Your Mat, and Man’s Best Friend: Yoga for Dogs is Becoming Increasingly Popular Around the World on the ABC News Nightline site, here.

If you’ve simply got to burn off your disposable cash why not piss it away on a stylish velour Yoga sweat suit with these amazing claims: “it stretches” and “it keeps them warm,” says Susan Bing of Trixie and Peanut in NYC.


You can also buy chew toys “inspired by Indian art and philosophy” like squeaky Mendhi balls decorated with lotuses and leaves; Shanti sticks inscribed with the mantra of Peace; an Om Ball with a recording of the mantra OM by a yogi whose name you’ll never read again, Bhagavan Das; or a hand-embroidered suede lounge cushion that you can tell people is actually a Lotus Bed. These are based on the classic yogic principles of Om. Bliss. Play! and can be found at Bohdi Toys.

The other option, of course, is just to pile your money in a corner of your yard and set it on fire.

Animals in the Womb: Amazing Photography by National Geographic

April 2, 2008

These photos of dog embryos in various stages of development are from a series done in 2006 for National Geographic called Animals in the Womb. Here’s a link to a gallery hosted by Der Speigel Online with 12 incredible images: photo gallery.

Please click on the thumbnails below for larger images.



dog_embryo_three.jpg — Search for Any Song by Any Artist, Click and Play it, like “More Werewolves of Alabama”

April 1, 2008

I’ve been run down
I’ve been lied to
I don’t know why,
I let that mean woman make me a fool
She took all my money,
wrecks my new car
Now she’s with one of my good time buddies,
they’re drinkin’ in some cross town bar

I came of age in the late 60s/early 70s and thus bent, ever has the twig grown.

Like many of my generation that means that I was trained to respond emotionally, viscerally, psychologically, and sexually to certain pitches, tones and vibrations of a crying, singing, talking AMPLIFIED ELECTRIC GUITAR.

Especially when AMPLIFIED ELECTRIC GUITAR is combined in rolling riffs that build to a feverish pitch and then explode in a shower of cascading golden nails of liquid sound.

I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.

Now I’ve learned of a site called that does, within limits, allow you to do exactly as the headline above says. Far freaking out, man.


Sometimes I feel
Sometimes I feel
like I’ve been tied
to the Whipping Post
tied to the Whipping Post
tied to the Whipping Post
Good Lord, I feel like I’m dyin’

Sometimes I think the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who have listened to the Allman Brothers Band’s half-bour live performance of “Whipping Post” recorded at the Fillmore East in 1970 behind a head full of prime acid . . .and all the rest of you guys.

Metaphorically speaking.

And I said “Obie, I don’t think I can pick up the garbage with these handcuffs on.” He said, “Shut up, kid. Get in the back of the patrol car.”

ALSO, you must check out AudioDiles’ More Werewolves of Alabama, also available on, a mash-up of Boston, Lynard Skynard and Warren Zevon and their songs “More than a Feeling,” “Sweet Home Alabama” & “Werewolves of London.”

Turn it up.

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