Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dog days of summer

Dog Days. Whew.

The dog days of summer describes the hottest season of the year, which coincides with the rising of the dog-star, Sirius. According to the Romans, Sirius is the dog star because it is the brightest in the Canis Major constellation.  The dogs days were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as the sun.

The Old Farmers Almanac says that in the northern hemisphere, 
dog days begin July 3 and end August 11. 

Many cultures believed dogs were more prone to 
rabies during the dog days. 

Not rabid, just hot

Today it is the season when dogs are most likely to stay inside and keep cool.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Short history of canine veterinary medicine

A trip to the vet is a regular event for us dog lovers.  But only a century ago, you'd be hard pressed to find a small animal practice in most places. 
Founded in 1762 in Lyon, France, the first veterinary school was established to treat horses and other animals that contributed to the agricultural based economy.  

Source: Old Vet Books
Between 1762 and 1800, parallel to the blossoming awareness that human and animal lives were mutually interdependent, nineteen vet schools were founded in Europe and the UK. By the 1850s, Boston, New York and Philadelphia all had their own vet schools, but none focused on dogs. 

Apparently people didn't have access to
the "naturally tasty treat with a built in pouch for hiding a tablet, capsule or
liquid medication  - Pill Pockets - the #1 veterinarian-recommended
choice for giving pills!" 

In 1790,  Delabere Pritchett Blaine established a vet practice in Sussex, England, that mainly treated animals not attended to by farriers, meaning mostly dogs.  He had apprenticed with surgeons but was neither a qualified vet or a professor, although he called himself both.  His practice saw more than 2500 dogs per year.  
Blaine wrote this book in 1824.
It's a fascinating read for a
dog science nerd like Dr. Barkman.  
William Youatt was Blaine's assistant.  Yoatt went on to establish a successful veterinary clinic in London in 1813 that cared mostly for dogs and other small animals.  In 1828 he founded The Veterinarian, the first animal medicine journal. The first veterinarian to write extensively on dogs, Yoatt is probably most well-known for his book, The Dog, published in 1824. 
The Dog (1824)
You can purchase an original copy
from Go Antiques
for a hundred bucks.
As you'd expect, those Victorian dog eccentrics were the first to benefit from the increase in small animal hospitals.   By the early 1900s, there were many such clinics in big cities. 
First patient at New York City's Dog Hospital, sponsored by
the New York Women's League for Animals, 1914
Library of Congress

The Agnew Small Animal Sanitarium in Pasadena, California, may have been the first large hospital established to care primarily for dogs and cats.  It flourished well into the 1970s. Below is an advertisement published in the 1916 Tournament of Roses magazine. 
Image courtesy of Altadena Historical Society

In rural areas, dogs enjoyed good health with the availability of over-the-counter remedies you could buy at your local grain feed store. 

When automobiles replaced horses, large animal veterinarians generally served rural areas, and city veterinarians, looking to the future, provided health care to small animals.

New York's Bideawee Home for Animals
was one of the first welfare organizations
in the U.S. to provide treatment to dogs.
Photo: Library of Congress

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yawning Dogs

Bet you can't scroll through this post and NOT yawn.

Empathy is the ability to accurately identify the emotions of others around you. Researchers use contagious yawning as a tool to measure empathy in humans. Kids in certain parts of the autism spectrum are not susceptible to contagious yawns. But dogs are.

"Yawning Sammy" mixed media by Dr. Barkman
Children are totally self absorbed and self centered until about age 4 (in some it lasts until 22, but Dr. Barkman is not naming names) when they develop cognitive abilities to accurately identify emotions in others and empathize.  In dogs it's the same.
"Yawning Golden Retriever mix"
mixed media
by Dr. Barkman
In bouts of play and cuddling with 35 dogs, aged 4 to 14 months, lucky researchers repeatedly yawned to see how often dogs would do the same. Only pups over 7 months showed evidence of contagious yawning, suggesting that empathy may develop slowly over the first part of a dog's life, just as it does in humans.

My guess is this doesn't work with African Wild Dogs, 
but then again, they might be difficult to play and cuddle with.
"Yawning African Wild Dog"
mixed media
by Dr. Barkman
Read more about contagious yawning in companion dogs.  Try it with your pooch.  And let me know how it works.

"Yawning Shepherd Mix"
mixed media
by Dr. Barkman

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dads and dogs

Doctor Barkman is celebrating fathers day with vintage photos of dads who love their dogs.

Natasha's and Joshua's dad with Dr. Barkman's Kate, 1982
The photos are from my collection.  You may use them, but please credit my blog

Monday, June 10, 2013

How dogs think - a link to a funny point of view

If you get how dogs think, this post will make you laugh 'till tears roll down your cheeks.
Source: Hyperbole and a Half blog

It's about what it's like to move from one state to another, and how dogs don't understand the concept.  The blogger writes (and posts original art) at Hyberbole and a Half.

Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts like Moving
Packing all of your belongings into a U-Haul and then transporting them across several states is nearly as stressful and futile as trying to run away from lava in swim fins.  I know this because my boyfriend Duncan and I  moved from Montana to Oregon last month.  But as harrowing as the move was for us, it was nothing compared to the confusion and insecurity our two dogs had to endure.  Our first dog is - to put it delicately - simple-minded.  Our other dog is a neurotic German Shepherd mix with agonizingly low self-esteem who has taken on the role of "helper dog" for our simple dog.  Neither dog is well-equipped with coping mechanisms of any kind..."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Street dogs in Havana, Cuba

Saving street dogs in Havana - one dog at a time.

For Havana's dogs, it's not the best of times, but it's not the worst either.  Some improvement is due to the efforts of the non-governmental Cuban Association for the Protection of Animals and Plants (ANIPLANT) focused on improving the lives of dogs and other animals in Cuba.

A typical Havana street dog
making her daily rounds.

Founded in 1988 by nationally famous Cuban entertainer Maria Alveres Riso, and Cuba's first prima ballerina, Alisia Alonso, ANIPLANT  is an organization dedicated to the protection of animals (and plants, too, but honestly I don't know anything about this part).  Its mission is to eliminate the suffering of Cuban animals through massive spay and neuter campaigns, public education, assisting animals in need, promoting animal health and hands-on intervention in cases of animal suffering.
Sleeping it off! 
ANIPLANT rounds up and 
sterilizes thousands of dogs each year.
Photo courtesy of ANIPLANT

ANIPLANT also educates the public with a Saturday radio program and classroom seminars to teach the importance of animal welfare.
Cuba's next generation: 
Raising awareness about caring
for unfortunate animals.

Maria's daughter, Nora Garcia, who is now president of the organization, talked with us during a visit to the ANIPLANT facility, a re-purposed house located within walking distance of the heart of Old Havana.  The neighborhood, like many in Havana is a contradiction - tidy and clean in spite of decades of neglect.

ANIPLANT director, 
Nora Garcia with Ernesto.

Prior to my November 2012 arrival in Cuba, without too much difficulty I'd arranged to meet Nora. When my friend, Florence, and I arrived, we received a warm wet-nose welcome from 11 rambunctious happy residential dogs including Xabi, Ninamoza, Bella, Presidente, Ernesto, and Eva.


Like most Havana street dogs, they weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. All are street rescues, but unlike their street counterparts, they are on the portly side, mange and parasite free, confident and playful.

Safe inside, looking outside

The 2000 square foot building, originally a 1920s home, was officially turned over to ANIPLANT in 2007, in very bad shape.  Donors, usually dog-loving tourists, helped to rebuild the interior, donating office equipment, lights, chairs, time and money.  But money goes only so far in Cuba, because there is very little to buy.  The reception area was welcoming, squeaky clean and decorated with photos of dogs before they were rescued accompanied by after photos as well.

An ANIPLANT  success story
before she was rescued

Staffed by a few dedicated volunteers, the clinic is open two days a week. Veterinarians volunteer their time as well, but are sometimes paid a small fee when possible.  No other people, including Nora, receive salaries.

In urban Havana, people who own dogs often give them free range in the neighborhoods.  I saw a few dogs wearing hand-made ID tags, indicating that someone takes care of them.  However, taxes and tags are very expensive, so most people own dogs unofficially.

Her paper tag encased in plastic says: 
"My name is Candle. I am 
carmel colored. I am sterilized.
I live at 113 Obispo Street."

From what I saw, Daschhunds are a very popular breed.
Here a companion pooch looks out her front door.

A Dalmatian enjoys an afternoon on his second story balcony.  Balconies and roof tops, like our fenced yards, give dogs restricted freedom, but keep them safe.

Cubans love dogs. 
Nora told us that most street dogs are taken care of by someone.

Only about ten to fifteen percent are true strays.  The others are sustained by some type of care, from food and water, to real meals, to indoor privileges. Below is a an un-owned dog on the left, and a dog likely owned on the right.

ANIPLANT rescues dogs in jeopardy. But they also respond to phone calls from concerned citizens.  Many are from tourists, who often make donations for the rescue and care of specific dogs, usually ones that frequent the hotels. Some tourists want to take the dogs home, but this is especially tough in a country like Cuba.  Ninamoza, pictured below, was rescued after Nora received a phone call.  The dog was terrified, hiding in a sewer pipe, and unwilling to come out to drink or eat.  Nora used some ham to lure her out, piece by piece, step by little step, until she could grab her.  Today she lives a contented life at the clinic.


Most rescued dogs suffer from mange, anemia, distemper, gastroenteritis issues, tape worm, ear mites and renal infections. Due to lack of space, money, homes and people  that can afford to care for a pet, dogs are medically rehabilitated, sterilized, then placed back on the street where they hopefully receive care from neighborhood dog lovers.  Special case dogs stay on as permanent residents.

There are veterinary clinics in Havana, although I don't know how much it costs to vaccinate and care for dogs. Leaning through an open window, I took the photo below of a Havana veterinary clinic.  The woman has a black dog on a leash.

We took a tour of the ANIPLANT clinic and kennel. The kennels are more like rooms and corridors that can be closed off when necessary with ancient wrought iron gates.  Except for the office upstairs, the facility seems to be open for free-run.
Looking from the waiting room into a
courtyard that serves as a kennel space.
Nora gives treats to one of the dogs.
Florence, our unofficial
translator, walks from the courtyard 
with three canine guides.
An old surgical table and crickety cabinet
full of donated meds make up the bare
necessities in the surgical prep area
just adjacent to the operating room.
Nora cooks a meal on the 
kitchen hot plate, consisting of 
rice, left over viscera from 
butchers and farmers 
markets, and clear broth.  

Probably more nutritious than
our commercial dog food brands.

In Havana homes, interior rooms open to a patio courtyard and this one is no different. I'd be stretching it to say this is an outdoor exercise area.  It's more like a lounging area where dogs siesta and soak up sunshine.  For easy clean up, they are trained to pee and poop in potted plants. Building materials are neatly stacked outside, waiting for money and an opportunity to be turned into something more useful than just shade. But shade is good.

Nora, Lourdes, Florence and 
several dogs peek over 
and through the fence 
to see rescued turtles.
Dogs usually have free range of the 
entire facility, and the patio is 
a good place hang out.
The small office upstairs is used 
mostly for storage, filled with 
boxes of desperately needed supplies.
 No dogs allowed upstairs, 

thank you very much.
Nora shows us a hand-made wheel chair.
People donate whatever they can.
A donated quilt brightens 
up Nora's little office.

Lourdes with a fund-raising tool:  A sandwich board touting ANIPLANT's overarching theme - dogs before and after rescue. Draped with sandwich boards, volunteers walk through crowded Havana tourist areas to raise awareness and money.

In 2007 it was estimated that 20 thousand dogs roamed Havana streets. You can help by supporting the on-going spay/neuter campaign. To find out more, contact ANIPLANT.