Saturday, June 30, 2012


A lost dog sign tacked to the neighborhood telephone pole is a sad reminder that any dog can become lost.   According to a survey conducted by the ASPCA, of the 78.2 million dogs living in 46 million US homes, about 7 million are lost every five years. (Not the same 7 million though.) The good news is that 93% make it back home.

Owners who actively search the neighborhood, post signs and use local social media are the most likely to find their dogs - about 50% of the time.  ID tags and microchips are responsible for 15% of lost dogs being returned to owners.  Shelters reunite lost dogs with owners in 6% of cases.

If you think it will never happen to you, think again.  About 3% of dog owners lose a dog every year.  If your dog is lost, immediately begin a local search. Post signs, knock on doors and use your neighborhood blog.   If no one in your community has found her, the dog may end up with someone who will find you, via the dog's tag or microchip.  And finally, always check the shelters.

In a press release, the ASPCA stated, "The data from this research study that shows how and where the guardians found their animals could be extremely helpful for those who may lose a pet in the future."  The survey, published in the June 2012 issue of the journal Animals, also includes data about lost cats, but I didn't report it here because, well,  this is a dog blog.  But you can read all the results (cats included) at Animals.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


(I've updated this post with more photos of pugs at the end)
Pug about 1885
The history of Pugs is a long one, dating back almost 3000 years to China.  In the late 16th century they were brought to Holland by sailors of the Dutch East India Trading Company.

Soon they were the darlings of royalty everywhere. 
Portrait of Princess Ekaterina Dmitrievna Golitsyna
with a Pug puppy, 1759, Pushkin Museum

Painter and engraver William Hogarth was a Pug enthusiast.  His 1745 self portrait features his Pug, Trump. Trump looks like he weighed about 25 to 30 pounds.  Tate Gallery, London.

Queen Victoria popularized Pugs as pets in the 19th century.  The Victorian upper class went gaga over the breed.
Queen Victoria with one of her many Pugs.

Long-legged varieties were all the rage until the end of the 19th century.  This photo was taken about 1890.

Short legged or long legged, they all enjoyed a lap snooze.
About 1910

Pugs take center stage in many Victorian era cabinet cards. These two photos are from The Cabinet Card Gallery.

Pugs have a propensity to be portly. This little Pug could have benefited from more exercise.

Like many of our contemporary lap dogs, the Pug has gotten smaller with more exaggerated features. Today the Pug weighs between 14 and 18 pounds and stands between 12 and 14 inches tall,
much smaller than the dog in this Victorian photo.

To find out which breeds are related to Pugs, check out this genetics website.  
You might be surprised.

More pug photos
Guess who loves this Pug the most.
Pug Pups

Queen Victoria's Pug 
Duke of York with Pug

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Destructive behaviors needn't keep your dogs out of the garden.  Here are some tips including controlling dog urine spots, discourage digging, trampling, and sports-barking, and installing dog-safe water features and plants. 

Jesse and Chance doing what dogs do in the garden.
I live in a classic Southern California craftsman bungalow.  American Bungalow magazine published this article in their summer 2012 issue.  You can read the rest of it on their website.

Raising Dogs in Your Garden 
Inherent canine behaviors like racing, chasing, playing, and digging can make even the most stalwart dog-loving gardener throw in the trowel.  But I’ve observed my dogs’ habits and movements and let those enhance my garden design. And the traditional elements of the Arts and Crafts garden make it especially easy.   If you love dogs like I do, your garden also includes at least one dog.  To me, there is nothing more enjoyable than working outside with my canine assistants, so my garden accommodates, even encourages, what comes naturally to dogs.
Architectural unity of house and garden is paramount to the Arts and Crafts landscape. Gates, fences and walls frame outdoor rooms.  Walkways, pergolas, and trellises enhance the atmosphere of privacy, and fountains and ponds attract wildlife.
Mike and Auggie take Homeland Security duty seriously.
By providing only one place to peek out, I keep my dogs focused
on what I want them to see.
A quality wood enclosure is not only an ubiquitous part of a period garden, it also protects your dogs and prevents them from seeing and reacting to annoying stimuli like squirrels, cars and the neighbor’s dog.  And in locales where wildlife puts small pets in jeopardy, good opaque fencing keeps predators like coyotes out of the yard.

When you share your garden with dogs, walkways work best when you embrace the path of least resistance. Dogs being dogs, they will find the optimal path from point A to point B.  Be assured that everything in between will eventually be trampled. Before you finalize your garden plan, let your dogs reveal their game trails. Then make those an integral part of the design, as if you put them there with purpose. 

Jesse scratches an itch.
Use pet-friendly fertilizers to keep the lawn green and safe.
Use the bungalow garden’s signature trellises, rock walls and pergolas to grow delicate plants like sweet peas and clematis up and out of reach of inquiring noses.  Stack bricks or large rocks around vulnerable parts of the stem base to change the flow of traffic, so dogs run around the plant rather than through it. Thorny plants like bougainvillea and climbing roses are dangerous to ears and eyes of the inevitable nosey trespasser, so strip all thorns off the lower four to five feet of the stem. 

My yard features clinker brick walls and steps leading to a variety of levels including areas of low maintenance and drought tolerant plants. But I also maintain a modest sized lawn because the dogs enjoy playing there.  Multiple dogs and a lush green lawn may sound contradictory but with pet-safe organic mulch and fertilizer, it’s within the boundaries of possibilities. Apply a non-burning microbe fertilizer two or three times during the growing season. (I use pet-safe Ringer Lawn Restore Fertilizer) It not only makes play areas hardier, but with frequent and uniform treatment it also counteracts yellow spotting caused by urine.

Auggie enjoying his dog-safe garden.
Plant Palette
Unlike high-maintenance formal Victorian landscaping, the bungalow garden is unpretentious with asymmetrical beds featuring plants of different heights and textures - elements that are easily adapted to dog activities. Your plant palette depends on climate and location, but no matter what you select, make sure they are dog-safe. (You can get this information at the ASPCA Poison Control website). If your existing garden includes species that might be toxic, and they can’t be removed, make sure your dog can’t get to the poisonous parts of the plants.  I trim off all the bottom branches of some shrubbery.  Not only does it protect the dogs, but it also provides additional space for colorful under-planting, like durable lambs ear and alyssum.

Don’t invest in flowering bulbs, like amaryllis or daffodils, that take months to produce a few delicate blossoms. One raucous play session and they’re history. Rather, put in native perennials that require less care, such as been balm and coneflower. Salvias also work well.
You can't win every battle.  The pumpkin is cute, but  Lolly is cuter.
Anything smaller than a 1-gallon container plant will likely need some short-term protection. Consider partnering delicate plants with hardier varieties, like lavenders or ornamental grasses that can withstand high velocity dog activity. When the shielded plants are big enough to defend themselves, transplant the hardy varieties and put them to work elsewhere. Strategically placed arroyo boulders or large potted plants will do the same thing, and they can be moved throughout the garden with the seasons. A healthy dog garden is always changing.  I plant fragrant herbs like rosemary or lemon thyme in areas where my dogs cool off on hot summer days.  When the dogs come in the house, the garden’s bouquet trails in with them.

Give dogs a place of their own- just for digging.
Dogs will be dogs and that means they dig. Dog divots here and there are part of life, but you can employ a few tricks to discourage major excavation. 

Digging comes naturally to some dogs, whereas others learn by observation. When you use a shovel be aware that you’re demonstrating how to dig a hole.  When it’s time to put in the bedding plants, put the dogs in the house. 

For some unexplained reason, immature groundcover beds invite destructive investigation.  To troubleshoot, I lay down hog wire and peg it with wire hangers I’ve cut in half. Then I plant my starter pieces in each grid.  Digging is discouraged because the wire grid, invisible once the ground cover fills in, inhibits enjoyment. Who wants to dig in a place where you can’t make a hole?

Digging behavior is rarely negotiable, but location is. Dedicate an exclusive area and make it conducive to digging. Loosen the soil with loamy or sandy material, and then reinforce the behavior by hiding bones and favorite toys there. Keep the area cool and moist with regular light watering to attract dogs looking for a cool place to nap in hot weather. Conceal the spot with rosemary or lavender.  I prune the foliage so they can peek out to make sure they’re not missing anything. 
Izzy investigates the stream leading to the pond.
A pond is a lovely feature in any garden, but if you have dogs that like to swim, it can present problems.  Because I live with several pooches, I want to maintain control of individual personalities. Dogs that get into the water or harass the wildlife are not allowed near the pond.  However, water-adverse dogs that fixate only on what’s underneath the surface are free to explore.  To do this, and protect the integrity of the pond, I use a concealed wire-fencing product (There are several good companies. I use Invisible Fence Brand.) The transmitter wire, laid on the ground, is easily hidden between plants and boulders. Dogs wearing the special receiver collar learn to associate a high-pitched warning tone (or a slight shock depending on how you set the receiver) to forbidden areas of the garden. With some time and a little training they learn to stay away without the encumbrance of the collar.
Little dogs need little spaces.
As new dogs make their way into your heart and your garden, analyze their activities and modify garden features to suit eccentricities. A terrier garden should be different than one designed for a retriever.  An environment designed for an 85-pound dog lacks the personal touch a little dog enjoys.  Stretch your imagination.  Good dog gardens reflect the personalities of the dogs who live in them. 

Monday, June 11, 2012


Class Conscious America
The Victorian public believed only mutts got fleas 
and purebreds never got rabies.

Prior to 1900, magazines and newspapers touted only dogs of  the highest pedigree.  Stories of courageous breeds trained to save lives sold newspaper after newspaper and popularized the Newfoundland and the St. Bernard breeds. 

  To the rescue:  The noble and sagacious Saint Bernard 
rescues yet another lifeless snowbound child.

The January 1859 edition of Hutchings’ California Magazine informed the reader, “The Alpine spaniel, or "Bernardine" and the Newfoundland are the noblest fellows of their race. The peculiar characteristics of the Bernardine dog---its almost human sagacity and untiring patience in discovering and rescuing passengers from the snow drift---are familiar to the minds of every child who has read or heard of the convent  on  the top of Mount St. Bernard.”  

Rooting for the Underdog
  But by the second decade of the 20th century there was a significant shift in our attitude toward mongrels.  
Two little tramps
Any dog, blue-blood or not, could be the star in his own story, and by 1930 when the rich were being villainized, the muttier the mutt, the better the story.  Clever street smart curs who lived by their wits were the celebrities of their day.  This article is about a little mixed breed dog who saved the life of a police dog. (German Shepherds were called police dogs).  The caption reads, "Dr. J. J. Hogarty of Oakland caring for injured police dog under guard of a mongrel Spitz."
Any story about a mongrel dog down on his luck with a happy ending sold a newspaper during the depression.  Journalists knew a good thing when they wrote it and enhanced incidents by dramatizing the pooch’s personality rather than its pedigree.  Newspapers promoted the idea that scrappy little street smart mutts didn't need no stinkin' training.  Unlike their purebred cousins, they were just born with an innate sense of justice. 

Loyalty stories made the front page, especially when dead owners were involved. This is an especially good article because Skippy receives his medal at the Oakland Kennel Club dog show amongst "the bluebloods."

The story reads, "Skippy's ancestors didn't bark alarms for the Pilgrim fathers to be up and to arms against the Indians.  Nor were any of them - so far as we know- at Valley Forge.  He didn't even have an ancestral representative at Bull Run.  In fact, even his mother and father are unknown.  But Skippy sat up there among the bluebloods yesterday and looked them in the eye.  Some dogdom circles sniffed when Skippy walked into the annual show at the Oakland Kennel Club, head held high, trim white ears erect, but with a sadness about him.  Even though Skippy was believed to be the the first dog of mixed breed ever to be exhibited at a blueblood show in the Nation, he was welcome for the most part.  Skippy is a hero... Skippy is the little white dog who kept guard over the frozen body of his mistress, Mrs. Winona Ferris, high in the Sierra near Quincy, staying by her side day after day, in the deep snow and bitter cold without food."

A friend owns a tattered scrapbook full of faded yellow newspaper clippings about hero dogs. All of the articles were cut out of the San Francisco Chronicle and Oakland Tribune between 1924 and 1945 by some long forgotten dog lover. I post a few here from time to time because incredible dog stories, whether fib, fable, fiction or fact, are always worth a second printing.  See my other post Hero Dogs of the Great Depression

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her diamond jubilee this year marking 60 years on the throne. On June 2, 1952 she was crowned The Queen of seven countries.  Today she is Queen Regent of 16 sovereign states. (All photos from The Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  You can see more at the official website of the British Monarchy.)

An animal lover, The Queen is devoted to all her dogs, including Labrador Retrievers, and her beloved Dorgis (Dachshund x Corgi hybrids). Above left is a 1933 photo of her sister, Princess Margaret, with the family dogs. Photo on right features the future Queen, age 5, her mother and the family Lab.

But it's the royal Pembroke Welsh Corgis we love to love the most.  
The future Queen at age 8 
With her mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Her father, King George IV was often 
photographed with the family Corgis.  
The Queen has lived with more than 30 Corgis 
throughout her life

A young Queen with four Corgis  
Corgis were often featured in press photos.  Queen Elizabeth II and  Prince Phillip with children Anne, Charles and baby Andrew at Balmoral, their elegant estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland in 1960.

And a few years earlier
The Royal Family in the 1960s
And the 1970s

The Queen at the Royal Windsor Horse Show 
sitting with her Corgis in 1973

The Queen's Corgis always travel with her to various residences.  Here she is in 1981, arriving at Heathrow Airport with three Corgi puppies in tow.

Her Royal Majesty a few years later in 
front of Sandringham House, Norfolk, England
The Queen visiting with Lady Beaumont's Dorgi.  The dog was bred at the Royal Kennels. (On this trip, the story goes that one of The Queen's two personal footmen lost his job after getting some of the dogs drunk at a party.)
The 2006 film, The Queen, explored the royal family’s private struggle with Princess Diana’s tragic death. The royal dogs are featured prominently in several scenes.  The five corgi actors - Alice, Anna, Megan, Oliver and Poppy- won the 2007 London Film Festival Fido Award for Dogs in Movies, for their excellent and poignant portrayal of the Queen’s corgis – Emma, Willet, Holly and Willow.  

If you love Corgis AND sewing, you can find a commemorative jubilee Corgi themed quilt panel on my sister's blog:
Barbara Brackman's Material Culture

Left: Doctor Barkman's boy, Le Petite General Augie Dawgee
 b. August 4, 1997,  d. May 30, 2009