Peanut Dogs for those with Severe Allergies

February 26, 2009

We’ve all read about the rise of severe peanut allergies over the past 25 years. Lots of jokes are made about this by those who don’t suffer from it. I’ve made a few myself.

But if you’re as allergic as eight year old Riley Mers — who has a scar on her foot from the time a peanut shell slipped into her sandal and burned her like an acid — you wouldn’t make jokes about it. Riley has also struggled to breath from inhaling peanut reside too faint for a human to smell.

But not too faint for a dog to smell.

Add another category of the amazing things are canine pals can do for us and meet the Peanut Detection Dogs.



Riley’s dog, a Portuguese water dog named Rock’O was trained by Bill Whitstine, a Certified Master Trainer at Florida Canine Academy in Safety Harbor, Florida. Whitstine usually trains detection dogs for the threat of bombs, drugs, flammable materials and bed bugs.”This really is a bomb dog for this child,” said Whitstine, “because the peanut is a bomb for her.”

For more on Riley’s story go here.

Using Your Dog to Find Love

February 23, 2009

“A lot of people are more emotionally touched when you do something for their pet, more than if someone brings flowers on the first date,” says Stephanie LaFarge, director of counseling services for the ASPCA and an expert on the human-animal bond.

In Heavy Petting: When animals dog a new relationship the AP’s Linda Lombardi writes about the issues (read: conflicts and connections) that modern singles with pets are coping with today.

leashes_lovers_logoLeashes and Lovers is an online community devoted to connecting dog lovers for friendship and possibly more. I can certainly think of worse ways to start a relationship. At least this one doesn’t involve alcohol.

Kids, go ask your parents how wasted they were when they first met at that club/bar/party/wedding. See how well that worked out for them?

Having a mutual interest in canines might be a better foundation to build a life together. It’s not weird or sick like Litterboxes & Lovers, Where Crazy Cat Ladies Meet their Disturbing Male Counterparts, for example. 

Update 2/24: But there’s a great  deal more than just connecting with other dog lovers available on the Leashes and Lovers site — Blogs, Forums, a Directory of Dog Products & Services, Training Advice & Tips, Photos, Videos, News, Events, an E-zine and more. So you don’t have to be a dating single to use the many resources on this site.

I’d say that this is another example of the ongoing development of contemporary Dog Culture,  like The BARK magazine. For thousands of years dogs have been an integral part of human society as partners, work mates and companions. Today they are being recognized for their important contributions to our lives in ways that highlight this as never before. Now go hug your dog and give her a treat — she deserves it!

50+ Very Useful OS X Tips

February 19, 2009 offers a nice collection of OS X tips under 3 categories:

  • Timesavers for everyday Mac use
  • Save time working with photos, music and movies
  • Save time doing common tasks on your mac

10 Steps to Advanced Photography

February 19, 2009



Hong Kong from a peak on a summer night as the city comes alive by Trey Ratcliff.

Smashing Magazine has Trey Ratcliff, a master of HDR (high dynamic range) photography offering his 10 steps to advance your photography skills. They are well worth reading and taking heart. Here’s an example of his work. Click on the image for a larger version of this spectacular view (if that doesn’t make you say OMG, put your camera away and find another muse).


Increased Penalties for Pet ‘lemon laws’ Debated

February 16, 2009


The Connecticut legislature is discussing a significant increase in the penalties against  pet shops who sell diseased  or defective dogs and cats. The current law calls for reimbursement up to $200 for veterinary care, clearly an inadequate figure given the typical costs of a visit to the vet in this state.

The Westport Coalition Against Puppy Mills is calling for a penalty that would be twice the purchase price of the animal. Since purchasers spend from $1,000 to $3,000 for ‘purebred’ dogs that come from these mills, the dealers that act as middle-men or the pet stores and chains that sell them directly this penalty would have a real impact on their profits.

Typical problems associated with dogs from Pennsylvania puppy mills sold in CT include the mild, kennel cough and intestinal ailments to the chronic and genetic, pneumonia and hip dysplasia. 

The WCAPM site is packed with solid information and resources to learn more about this issue. Please check them out to educate yourself and help stop this awful ‘industry.’

“. . .it is dangerous to let one’s mind wait upon one’s stomach for moral guidance.”

February 13, 2009

“. . .it is dangerous to let one’s mind wait upon one’s stomach for moral guidance.”

Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man by Garry Wills

Doctor Faked Data Linking Vaccines to Autism

February 12, 2009

It just goes to show: you shouldn’t get your medical information from a woman who ate her own snot on MTV, even if she is blonde and beautiful with large, artificial breasts (Jenny McCarthy, we hardly knew ye).

The Sunday Times of London has the story of Dr. Andrew Wakefield who started the panic over the non-existent link between the childhood MMR (for measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

Here in the states a special U.S. court ruled against three families today (2/12/09) who claimed vaccines caused their children’s autism. From Reuters:

“Considering all of the evidence, I found that the petitioners have failed to demonstrate that thimerosal-containing vaccines can contribute to causing immune dysfunction, or that the MMR vaccine can contribute to causing either autism or gastrointestinal dysfunction,” the ruling from Hastings said.


“I further conclude that while Michelle Cedillo has tragically suffered from autism and other severe conditions, the petitioners have also failed to demonstrate that her vaccinations played any role at all in causing those problems.”


Hastings also rejected an argument that some children may be genetically “hypersusceptible” to mercury.

Of course, it’s too much to expect that McCarthy and the people she has duped (Oprah, I’m looking at you) will accept the findings of the courts and science. By scaring people away from routine childhood vaccinations McCarthy has done incredible damage to the health and well being of children in America.

Phil Plait, a wonderful writer (Death from the Skies), astronomer and author of the Bad Astronomy blog had a great piece on McCarthy last October here.

Conclusion: Jenny McCarthy is lovely to look at, but get your medical advice from a real doctor.

“Inglourious Basterds” teaser trailer – “And I want my scalps!”

February 12, 2009

Having read what was reputed to be a final draft of Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay online, I thought this could be a return to Pulp Fiction form (and possibly popularity) for the director.

The teaser trailer makes it appear he can deliver on this promise. It will certainly give you an accurate feel for this material; if you respond negatively to the trailer then you’re not the audience for this film.

[Personally, I avoid movies that are promoted with the idea that seeing the film will make you a better person (Schindler’s List I’m looking at you). Film is, by its very nature, an anti-intellectual experience. OK, all you film school grads working at Blockbuster are invited to debate the point in the comments.]

Dr. Michael Fox: Photographic “Proof” of Life after Life

February 11, 2009

My favorite goofy veterinarian Dr. Michael Fox, is back with another entry in his ongoing attempts to prove what he calls “life after life” in his nationally syndicated newspaper column titled, Evidence of ‘life after’ provided (2-11-2009).

Once again, the lede is being buried on the crossword puzzle page.


If the editors thought for one moment that Dr. Fox had compelling evidence for the continued existence of personality after a dog’s metabolic processes have ceased, surely this would be on the front page, above the fold. Instead they ran it next to the horoscope and Suduko puzzle.

Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Fox can hold whatever spiritual or religious views he chooses. I simply think that such opinions should not contaminate the offering of his medical expertise as an experienced and knowledgeable veterinarian in the public press.

He’s outside of his skill set here: he is, after all, writing a column of advice to pet owners. It would be just as inappropriate for him to include his opinion about  Jewish dog owners, Southern Baptist cat fanciers and Druid parrot keepers.

There are two distinct problems with Dr. Fox’s presentation. One is that all his readers who write in about seeing or somehow sensing their recently deceased pets are grieving. I think Dr. Fox is exploiting that grief, just like alleged psychic John Edward does on TV.

The second is the sketchy photographic proof he provides on his web site, here. The term for what’s going on here is pareidolia, the misperception of something unique and distinct in a vague or ambiguous pattern. Think the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast, Jesus Christ on a burnt tortilla, a pretty horsie in the clouds above.

I’m going to show you Dr. Fox’s evidence. Look carefully at the three images. Later, I’ll tell you what he thinks you should see and you can compare impressions. . .click on the pictures for larger images.

If you don’t independently and without prompting see precisely  what Dr. Fox sees, I’m going to call this pareidolia, not evidence. 

Picture 1:









Picture 2:












Picture 3:










Instead of encouraging his audience to accept the cycle of life (which ends in death for wonderful dogs, credulous veterinarians and rotten skeptics like me alike), he indulges in wish-fulfillment fantasy. Not only it is unlikely that there will be any freight trains in Heaven*, the matter of  canine and cats having souls is also unclear.

In the current instance K.T. of Chicopee, MA considered her cocker spaniel her “soul mate.” The dog Casey, had been with her through a divorce and several moves. When it became necessary to euthanize Casey, she says, “It was the most devastating time of my life. I missed her so much.”

Now, her description of the visitation:

“On one particular night, I was crying so hard I just screamed out, ‘Casey, I want you back.’ A few nights later, she came to me. I was sitting on my bed, holding, kissing and petting her. She didn’t actually ‘speak’ to me, but somehow conveyed to me that she was happy, safe and no longer in pain. It was so real: I could actually feel her.”

K.T. doesn’t explicitly state that she was alone during this encounter, but I suspect she was. If not, I wonder if anyone else present could also see, hold and pet Casey?

I’m suspect of the unfailingly positive messages the deceased animals give their grieving owners.

You never have anyone report that their cat can back and bitched at them, “You stupid tool—it wasn’t a tumor, it was a benign cyst. Dr. Brown is  an incompetent old fool! You had me killed for no good reason.”  They always tell their owners exactly what they want to hear, even if it is non-verbally.

So there are two possibilities: a grief-stricken, heart-broken person imagines something that comforts them OR spooky ghosts of all dead animals (why should it be limited to dogs and cats?) wander through the night comforting some, annoying others.

How this affects me personally: the cows who were slaughtered for every burger I’ve eaten congregate in my living room nightly, glowing ectoplasmically and try to graze on my rug. For every dish of Kung Pao Chicken, another ghostly clucker scratches my bed looking for phantom seed. Not to mention the pigs from my BLTs!  Far better to be a vegetarian and only have to answer to the Spook Carrots and Spirits of Arugula Past.


Dr. Fox’s ‘Extraordinary’ Photographs: His Explanations

Picture 1: “This photo, as well as a video, was taken by the parents of a little girl who was the first to notice the image of her deceased dog in the sky. It looked just like their old Golden retriever, and yet ironically, nobody else at the outdoor school event, except her parents, could make out the image. I slightly enhanced the original photo with a little more contrast.”

Picture 2: “This photo. . . shows an aura or astral body of light around a tree that had been planted in memory of the family dog, whose surviving companion lies beneath. The owner, an experienced photographer, told me that this image was not evident when he took this picture, nor was it evident in pictures that he took just before and immediately after this extraordinary one.”

Picture 3: “Copies from the scratched color print (negative was lost) provided by the owners  are reproduced here in contrast color and black and white to reveal the image as clearly as possible in the foreground. This phantom-like image, which they took to be their recently deceased dog, was not evident to them when they were out in the woods walking their other dogs and snapped a photo of one of their dogs further down the trail. The deceased dog’s tail, possibly wagging, and the hind legs can be clearly seen in the foreground, with the dog’s head and ears toward the center of the photograph.”

How close did your guesses come to Dr. Fox’s explanations?


*Jimmy Rodger’s “Hobo’s Meditation

Will there be any freight trains in Heaven?
Any box cars in which we might hide?
Will there be any tough cops or brakemen
Will they tell us that we cannot ride?

50 Best Sets of Free Web, Design & App Icons

February 3, 2009

Specky boy’s website offers a great list of complete sets of web, design and application icons. One of my favorites is from the Function Web Design & Development site (below).function_icon_set