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.

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.

Heroin Puppies

February 2, 2008

Heroin Traffickers Used Puppies to Smuggle Drugs
Medellin-based Organization Surgically Implanted Packets of Heroin in Pure-Bred Dogs

Feb. 3, 2006: The DEA arrested 22 heroin traffickers based out of Medellin, Colombia, who used puppies to smuggle drugs. The drug traffickers surgically implanted packets of liquid heroin into purebred dogs. All of the puppies who survived were adopted by local families and are still doing well today.

DEA has received numerous calls concerning the fate of the puppies who survived the horrific deeds of drug smugglers. Many of the callers expressed interest in adopting the dogs. We are pleased to report that all of the puppies have been taken in by Columbian families and are in great health. The public reaction to this story has been overwhelming. We thank you all for your interest.

— from the DEA’s website