Keepers of the Wild - February 2009

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4-Legged TV Star Will Display Her Talents on Arts Center Stage
By Pat Sherman - SignOnSanDiego

ESCONDIDO — They have appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Tonight Show” and performed for the king of Morocco.

Now, Chalcy the 8-year-old Weimaraner and her trainer, Kyra Sundance, are bringing their canine and human acrobatics to California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
Under Sundance's direction, Chalcy will roll on a barrel, play basketball, retrieve the mail, tidy up her toy box, roll herself in a blanket and play a shell game.
Sundance has authored two books on the subject of dog training, “101 Dog Tricks: Step-by-Step Activities to Engage, Challenge and Bond With Your Dog,” and the forthcoming “The Dog Rules: 14 Secrets to Developing the Dog You Want.” Her first book has been translated into 15 languages.

Sundance and Chalcy got their break while auditioning for “Pet Star,” a televised pet-tricks competition on the Animal Planet channel. The duo rose through the ranks, and offers began to pour in.

To get her dog to leap through hoops and bound over her head, Sundance employes training methods that emphasize bonding, reward, collaboration and instinctive communication.

“It's the rewarding of good behavior and not the punishing of bad behavior,” said Sundance, a resident of the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles. “We give them reasons to do good and to want to be motivated to do good.”

Chalcy's treat bag runneth over with sumptuous enticements, including hot dogs, meatballs, cream cheese and chicken.

However, Sundance said, her “to-die-for reward” during live shows is corkscrew noodles.

But positive reinforcement isn't all about treats, Sundance said. She advises trainers to use toys to tap into their dog's instinctive prey drive.

“Prey drive is his drive to chase a Frisbee, to chase a ball or to play tug-of-war with you,” Sundance said. “You build that drive through exercises, which is a lot of playing and tugging and hiding the toy to make it seem like a valuable object.

“Once you've got the dog where he really wants that toy, you've got a really powerful motivator.”

Typically, tricks involving physical prowess or dexterity are easier to teach than feats involving concentration and focus, Sundance said.

“One of the recent tricks I taught Chalcy, which was quite a struggle for us, was a trick called 'fishing,' where she's got a rope that hangs over the edge of the ledge,” Sundance said. “It's just like fishing.”

Under the glare of the television lights, sometimes even the best-trained and most motivated of dogs get cold paws, Sundance said.

“There's nothing worse than being on stage and having your dog not feel like performing or not do the trick,” she said. “What you learn as a professional performer over the years is how to either cover up those times or ... on the fly change the plan.”

Chalcy said the key to overcoming stage fright is to socialize the dog often and early.

“A lot of their personality is going to be formed in puppyhood, and if you can get them used to sounds and people and smells and noises and wheelchairs and all different kinds of distractions at that age, then they take it in stride when they're older,” she said.

For the past six months, Sundance has been socializing a 6-month-old Weimaraner named Jadie, who will make her public debut on the Escondido stage.
“She's been going to all the live shows with Chalcy and myself,” Sundance said. “She just takes it in stride now.”

Chalcy will perform her signature trick in which she appears to recognize numbers.
“There are a bunch of numbered blocks on the floor, and I'll usually have a volunteer pick a number,” Sundance said. “They'll say, 'Chalcy, find No. 5,' and she'll look at all the different numbers and come back with No. 5.”
When pressed explain how the trick works, Sundance declined to elaborate.
“My dog can read,” Sundance said. “That's my story and I'm sticking to it.”
Pat Sherman: (760) 752-6774;

Pets Do Wonders for the Workforce
Caroline Marcus -

COULD seeing Rover chase his tail around the office boost productivity during tough times?

More employers appear to think so - some companies now have pet policies to lift staff morale during the economic downturn.

Petfood manufacturer Mars Petcare launched the Pets in the Office policy last year.

Program manager Amanda Fisher has developed Petiquette, which requires employees to register their animals, demands vaccinations and provides pet identification tags with owners' contact details.

Acacia Gardens production manager Tara West, 23, said bringing her kelpie, Kelsey, and Lhasa apso-cross, Ruby, to work at advertising agency Leo Burnett was "good stress relief". Dogs have been welcome there for two years.

"Advertising is pretty fast-paced so I think it just helps," MsWest said.

"You see grown men rolling on the ground with the dogs."

Employers First executive director Garry Brack warned of health and safety concerns, including accidents and allergies.

A NSW Health Department spokeswoman said there were noregulations about allowing dogs in the workplace, though certain restrictions would applyto businesses making or selling food.

The Many Human Tricks Our Pets Can Teach Us
By NEIL GENZLINGER - The New York Times

At first glance, cats and dogs wouldn’t seem to have many similarities to mules, but humans sure do have a tendency to load Fido and Fluffy with baggage. Emotional baggage.

Clip: 'Why We Love Cats and Dogs' That, at least, is the impression left by “Why We Love Cats and Dogs,” Sunday’s likable if aimless installment of the PBS series “Nature.” The program features the obligatory experts expounding on theories of owner-pet dynamics and such, but the appealing part is the generous helping of ordinary people simply talking about what their pets mean to them.

“She taught me how to love, actually,” one man says of his animal. “I never thought I would get that from a dog.”

Others credit their pets with helping them recover from loss, getting them through sickness, forcing them to mature, pulling them out of this or that personal abyss.

Best of all, very few of these people have that crazed, cultish aura sometimes given off by pet owners, especially cat owners. Even the woman who says, “I think I would give up my baby before I would give up my dogs” sounds normal.

What the cats and dogs think of this outpouring is unclear, though it probably is nowhere near as profound as what their owners imagine. It is, in all likelihood, some variation of the phrase, “Is it time to eat again yet?” Certainly the two cats in this reviewer’s house do not seem capable of anything more profound than that.

The program does have one recurring story line among these scattershot vignettes. It’s about a dog named Jerry, down to three legs after a cancer operation, and the couple who own him, who have given up their home and business to fill the dog’s last months with cross-country travel.

It is a segment calculated to leave you misty-eyed, and it does. But it also feels a little unfair. We never learn the details of how the couple can afford such an indulgence in recessionary times.

On the Road With Pets
By Chuck Myers - McClatchy-Tribune

Traveling with a pet to a campsite or national park is made much easier when touring in a recreational vehicle. RVs typically have plenty of room for pets, and amenities, such as access to fresh water, not normally found when hiking to a campsite in the hills.

A pet owner however, shouldn't leave pet safety measures behind at home when hitting the road in an RV with a pet. The safety guidelines that car owners practice when traveling with a pet should likewise apply to RV users.

Before arriving at an RV campsite, drivers should have the following pet traveling tips in mind:

--Make sure an RV Park or campground permits pets on the premises. Check ahead for a park's pet rules. Also, some RV locations may have size restrictions or limit the number of pets allowed by individuals.

--Never leave a pet locked inside an RV without the air running or proper ventilation.

--Provide a pet with plenty of water and air circulation if it must be left alone for short periods.

--Don't tie a pet to an RV with a metal chain. A power surge or improperly grounded facilities can travel along the chain and injure or kill the pet.

--Check the type of metal steps on the RV. Some RV steps have little holes in them that may pose a hazard to pets. An unattended dog may get its claws stuck in the holes and injure itself while trying to get out.


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Tips for Getting Into a Pet Profession
By: Deidre Wengen -

Do you ever wake up and wish that you had a different job? Would you rather spend time playing with your dog than sitting at a computer all day? Then maybe, a career helping animals is something that you should consider.

Times are definitely tough right now, but finding a rewarding career is essential to being happy. If you are an animal lover then going into the field of animal protection might make a great fit.

You would be surprised how many jobs there are that involve being around animals. You could seek work at the Humane Society or a local shelter. You can open up a grooming service or a savvy pet accessory boutique. You could work as an assistant in a veterinary office or even consider applying to a zoo.

The best way to go about getting a job in an animal-related field is to get a little bit of experience under your belt first. Volunteer at local shelters in order to get accustomed to what goes on there on a daily basis. This will also help you build contacts and meet other people that love helping animals. You can also consider taking classes that relate to pet care or business at a local college to jump-start your education.

When Is Dog Play Too Rough?
by Jeff Millman, Dog Training Examiner

It is important to understand dog play.

I frequently get questions about dog play, whether it is between two siblings in the same home or about a dog that frequents the dog park and plays with other dogs. The questions might pertain to my client's dog and if their play style is too rough or worries about the behavior of other dogs at the park.

I have a simple list of things to look for and actions to take when dogs are playing.

Intensity and duration of behavior. If your dog interacts with another dog ten times at the park and each interaction results in a little rougher play, more intense vocalization and worry by one of the dogs, then it is time to step in. Eventually this situation will escalate into a fight. Gently move them apart, take your dog home or move to another part of the park.

Intensity and duration of eye contact. While some dogs "eye" each other because of their innate herding instincts, often a "hard" stare lasting for more than a couple seconds could indicate anxiety. If a dog is afraid of another dog, they will not feel comfortable turning their back on them.

Extended periods of chase. If you ever see a dog getting chased by one or more dogs for an extended period of time, step in front of the chase dogs to give the lead dog an opportunity to get away and rest. Sometimes dogs are running because they like being chased, other times, they are trying to get away and are not able to.
Yelping. If one dog yelps and the other dog backs of ("Sorry about that!") then, that is acceptable. However, if one dog yelps more than once, I always step in and tell the other dog to back off.

Overall the keys are to look for patterns of play involving all dogs. If you are ever in doubt, separate the dogs to give them an opportunity to calm down before the situation gets out of hand. It is always easier to prevent a fight then to break it up.

Dog Turns into Expert Tree Climber

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Does Your Pet Have a Nose for Love?
Posted By: Amelia Glynn - SF Tails of the City

I have Lorna Doone to thank for introducing me to my now ex. (But, more truthfully, it's the other way around.)

When I first met The Doone, she was playfully tugging on a tangled leash and my ex just happened to be attached to the other end. He wasn't THE ONE, but happily she turned out to be the canine equivalent.

Because he and I still co-parent The Doone in what has evolved into a tidy joint-custody arrangement, I usually don't put a whole lot of stock in her opinion of the men I date. She's a one-dude dog and pretty much ignores everyone else (unless they're tall surfer-types... then she goes berserk until she discovers he's not really HIM).

Sure I take note when new suitors make a special effort to win The Doone's affections with treats or a game of tug-o-war with her favorite snake. I just don't hold it against them when she predictably plays the aloof card and slinks just out of their reach.

But many of my friends swear by their animal's "sixth sense" when it comes to sizing up their soon-to-be (maybe) new beaus and bims. If their animal's tail is wagging it's a go, but if Fluffy or Meowzers is acting skittish (or worse), canceling the date due to a fast-onset flu isn't out of the question.

Animal behaviorist and Pet Talk host Harrison Forbes, who conducts an annual poll on the subject, says an overwhelming number of his radio show listeners will judge a relationship (new or old) purely based on their pet's reactions.

While I'm not nearly as extreme, a single girl's gotta have some standards. Here are my four major pet peeves (pun intended) for those first meet-the-dog moments:

1. When guys see my dog and nervously raise their hands up by their sides and flap them like little wings.
2. When my date turns his body sideways as The Doone runs up to him so he doesn't have to touch her.
3. When he says things like, "I don't do dogs," or "Dogs are dirty."
4. When a guy immediately excuses himself to wash his hands after a perfunctory "pat-pat" on the head. (See #2 and #3)
If any or all of these things occur when a potential date meets my dog, it's game over.

Of course these "peeves" have everything to do with "dude's" behavior and nothing at all to do with The Doone telegraphing me a signal about whether he's marriage material or if I should run away screaming. (She actually tries harder when they act distant. Not exactly the kind of helpful canine clairvoyance I'm looking for.)

But there are those stories that make me scratch my head and think, maybe there really is something to this whole animal-relationship-radar thing. Like the woman who told me her dog Cher took a sudden dislike to her boyfriend (including bearing her teeth and chewing up one of his shoes) after what had been a super friendly first few months. Not long after, the woman found out Mr. Boyfriend was cheating on her. Or the tale of my pal's cat Hilde, who hissed at every guy she brought home, until Ben walked through the door. Hilde was on her best behavior from the second she laid eyes on him, purring and doing the whole let-me-mark-you-with-my-face-because-your-mine routine. And sure enough, he was THE ONE (for both of them).

Does your animal have relationship radar?How do they let you know who's in and who's OUT? Do you have a love story that started with your pet (or theirs)?

Ah yes, and now the sniff test includes the butt!

Posted By: jimmyhoffa_bush February 12 2009 at 06:36 PM

Beaus and bims? Bims? What is "bim" short for, pray tell? Not, I sincerely hope, what it seems to be. Because if it is, things are even worse for women than I thought.

Posted By: catburglar February 12 2009 at 06:53 PM

Don't hate on all the guys who wash their hands after petting dogs. I have to, since I have allergies...

Though, of course, I usually only do it after playing with the dog for more than an hour. A couple of my friends swear I like their dogs more than I like them.

Unfortunately, the girl I like has a dog who hates me, just slightly more than cats. That is not a good sign for me, I suppose.

Posted By: brutesentiment February 13 2009 at 02:48 AM

My dogs have helped choose contractors for work on my house, but they haven't been a factor in dating. Since it's all "friends first" these days, I just think to myself, "I've got two great friends already", grab the leashes and head for the hills! Much more reliable and they NEVER get upset when I pet other dogs.

Posted By: david_42 February 13 2009 at 06:20 AM

A friend had a service dog who seems to have been a great judge of character. Peake was a huge white german shepherd, so he'd intimidate many people just by sniffing at them. But after a few years and a few bad boyfriends, Peake's owner realized that the dog had found the lame ones wanting long before she did. She'd catch the dog herding the bozos away, or being overly persistent to make them play ball, etc. A 100+ lb dog can make most men "play" just through intimidation. If she shooed the dog away he'd just plop down in a doorway, blocking the "bad" guy from moving around (or getting to the bedroom).
Sadly Peake is now chasing rabbits in doggie heaven. But for years he did a great job keeping my friend safe from her own sweet instincts. Maybe I'm biased as Peake seemed to like me, but then again I'm pretty dog friendly despite not being a pushover. Either way I was glad to get to know him.

Posted By: Kyrax February 13 2009 at 11:13 AM

My dog will physically jump between me and a date if we're sitting on the couch. Same thing in bed. LOL. Of course, most of the time, I'd rather sleep with my dog anyway. Haha!

Posted By: peggymc February 13 2009 at 11:22 AM

Even more to the point - The way the date responds to your pet is a good indicator of what kind of partner he'll be to you.

Posted By: stepmom February 13 2009 at 11:28 AM

My old kitty Bozo had a sixth sense for which girlfriends weren't right for me...according to her, *all* of them. Yep, none of them were good enough for yours truly, based on the defensive actions of my little cat. One ex-girlfriend dubbed her the Urinator for her favorite tactic of pissing on her clothes. My mom told me once that she had this vision of Bozo rubbing her little paws together and cackling with glee after sending another woman packing. Bozo has gone to kitty heaven after spending the better part of two decades defending me. Now I'm only guarded by my giant Maine Coon who's easily bribed with treats. Perhaps I'll finally find love now that Bozo's terrorizing her prey in the after life.

Posted By: Berkeleyhills February 13 2009 at 11:45 AM

I'm one of those people who washes his hands after touching dogs, but not for the reasons you might think: I love dogs, dogs love me, I am 110% a dog person but... I'm allergic to them, and if I *don't* wash my hands after touching them, I'll get sick in no time. So... careful, it's just prejudice.

Posted By: starstuff February 13 2009 at 01:07 PM

They predict any kind of disaster--earthquakes or girls/guys. How can you not love 'em?

Posted By: dualactionblend February 13 2009 at 03:30 PM

I met my wife at a dog park, and our well-blended family includes all our dogs!

Posted By: Jgor February 13 2009 at 05:03 PM

I don't know *how* this works, but it does. I'm a cat person, but i've seen enough dogs with excellent taste in people to believe in this. If your dog doesn't like someone, they're quite probably a slimeball.

Posted By: alyxandr February 13 2009 at 05:05 PM

My tabby cat Louie is the most affectionate cat you'll meet. He instantly jumps on laps and demands your undivided attention. He loves kids and will ruin any puzzle or board game you are working on - and forget wrapping presents. He's an excellent judge of character. He runs frantically out of the room whenever my ex-husband (the jerk) comes over to pick up our daughter.

Posted By: imlizzybear February 13 2009 at 05:23 PM

We had a one time a wonderful tuxedo cat who was a pretty darn good boyfriend barometer for my daughter. He was wrong just once out of many.

Posted By: nmchris1 February 13 2009 at 08:44 PM

So, what IS a bim?

Posted By: dosido February 14 2009 at 08:44 AM

So what happens when your mate decides to join the transpecies community and "becomes" a dog?

Youthful Dogs, Cats May Cost More to Adopt
By Daniel J. Chacon, Rocky Mountain News

Denver seeks to raise fees for in-demand pets and some licenses

Adopting a dog or cat from Denver's animal shelter may get more expensive except in cases of people taking older pets.

The Division of Animal Care and Control is proposing a long list of fee increases, including a hefty boost in the cost of adopting dogs and cats younger than 6 years old.

Director Doug Kelley said Friday he doesn't think the proposed fee increases will drive up the city's overall euthanasia rate, which was 35 percent last year.

He said he thinks the proposed fee increases are reasonable and in line with other agencies.

"We have really good programs as far as getting those animals adopted," Kelley said. "And if not, they can be transferred to other organizations so if they are adoptable animals, they can stay adoptable. We're going to try our best to get them either adopted out or somewhere," he added.

Under the proposal, the cost of adopting a dog between 8 weeks and 1 year old would increase to $150 from $109.50.

For a dog between 1 and 6 years old, the cost would increase $20.50, to a total of $130.

The fee for adopting a cat between 8 weeks and 5 months old would increase to $95 from $71.50.

The adoption fee for a cat between 6 months and 6 years old would be $87, an increase of $15.50.

The cost of adopting dogs and cats 6 years and older would decrease $14.50 and $11.50, respectively.

Meghan Hughes, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Environmental Health, said most municipalities have similar fee structures.

"We actually spent a year doing comparisons on this and checking with other municipalities, like Aurora," she said. "The majority of them, that's the way they do it because obviously younger animals are in higher demand than older animals so it allows us to encourage (the adoption of older animals) by actually minimizing the cost of adopting an older pet."

Animal control is also proposing to increase the cost of vaccinations, certain licenses and permits, impoundment fees and other services.

Under the proposal, a one- year license for a dog and a cat will increase by $5 and a three-year license will increase by $10.

"We are still doing (revenue) projections because it depends on volumes and so forth," said Sherry Purdy, deputy manager of environmental health. "But I believe we have targeted for both fees and fines additional revenues of approximately $350,000 in 2009. That's not just fees. That's also civil penalties."

The proposal is going before a City Council committee Tuesday.

Hughes said the animal shelter isn't increasing fees to make money.

"Most animal-care agencies raise their fees every year, and the majority of our fees haven't been raised in five years or more. Some, believe it or not, go back as far 27 years," she said.

"Part of being able to provide this service is being able to ensure that we can continue to provide this service," she said. or 303-954-5099

Cat Fancying
By Thomas O'Grady - Boston Globe

Looking for a man schooled in the ways of intimacy? Check for feline fur on his collar.

Recently my youngest daughter announced, "I think I'm allergic to the cat." "That's a pity," I replied. "We'll miss you around the house." While my daughter quickly got over her allergy, that little exchange raised -- not for the first time -- the not-so-little matter of just where the family feline ranks on my list of domestic affections. "She's tied for first with his guitar," my oldest daughter suggested. "Or with his Volvo," my second daughter offered. "Not true," I protested. But what I thought was: She's tied for first with your mother.

Probably such an admission would dismay my three daughters . . . but not my wife. She would, I expect, take it as the highest of compliments. Twenty-four years into our marriage, we're eight years into our second cat. My wife seems to have figured out and accepted that a man could turn out to be considerably worse than a cat fancier.

She did, however, raise an eyebrow not long ago when I enlivened a dinner party conversation by shutting down a cat-slandering sidebar between two men at the table with the declaration: "Men who can't handle cats can't handle intimacy." Was that any way to treat guests? she asked me afterward. What was I thinking? Was I thinking at all?

OK, perhaps my statement involved more reflex than reflection in the heat of the moment, and perhaps my cattiness (as it were) was a whisker inhospitable. But, as I've been hearing (or overhearing) tales of dating and mating woes traded back and forth by my three daughters, who are 21, 18, and 17, I wonder whether my off-the-cuff remark about men and cats could have been on the mark after all.

Even a casual observer of all those black Labs, German shepherds, Rottweilers, and pit bulls slobbering out of cab windows of hemi-powered toolbox-laden pickup trucks might conclude reasonably that men who own dogs go out into the world with the dog as a projection of the self: A man is only as manly as the breed tugging muscularly at the end of the brass-studded leash. (Just for the record, the dog that yanks me along our suburban streets at sunup every morning is a springer spaniel, a natural-born bird dog and thus a "man's dog" for sure . . . though strictly speaking she is my wife's pet, not mine.)

In his book Dogwatching, animal behaviorist Desmond Morris interprets canine conduct as evidence that dogs essentially self-identify as human and comport themselves accordingly, surrendering a significant measure of their canine quidditas -- their species-defining "whatness" -- to ensure a secure place in the surrogate "pack" of their adoptive family.

In contrast, Morris asserts in his companion book Catwatching, felines believe that humans are simply "giant cats" -- and therein lies the foundation for my argument about men and cats and intimacy. Unlike dogs, cats insist that their owners surrender some of their human quidditas to accommodate the complexities of feline "whatness" in the domestic sphere. That is, unlike dogs, cats expect us to live with them on their terms -- or at least to make some genuine effort to see the world from their perspective. Making that effort can lead to another sort of intimacy altogether, an intimacy of the mind . . . and thus of the heart.

So, is it really more than a yawning stretch to wonder if, in the case of men, an openness to feline quidditas might signal a capacity for an empathetic tuning in to female quidditas as well -- the possibility of a sensitive and generous embrace of the "whatness" of one's significant other? (Let's admit that "women are from Venus, men are from Mars" barely scratches the sofa arm of gender differences.) Was that what I was thinking when I took my stand against those cat-bashing he-men at our dinner table?

Well, it's what I'm thinking now, after listening to my daughters hold forth on the emotional obtuseness of their various male suitors. My wife responds to them in her wise, motherly fashion -- after all, she has decades of on-the-job experience dealing with me. If asked for fatherly advice (not likely!), I would keep it simple: Dog lovers drool. Cat fanciers rule.

Thomas O'Grady is an English professor at UMass-Boston. He lives in Milton with his wife and three daughters. Send comments to

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