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Rescue Dogs at Work

December 17, 2013 at 11:01 am

This is a great read on Rescue Dogs more commonly called SAR (search and rescue) animals and I learned a ton from it, the author gives you the nuts and bolts info on these amazing animals,

When you’re out hiking and you realize you’ve passed the same dead tree for the third time, ­and sundown is 20 minutes away, a dog looking for a game of tug-of-war might be your best chance at making it home. Search-and-rescue dogs are smart, agile and obedient, but their high “play drive” is what makes them look for a missing person through snow and rain, down steep rock walls and in crevices that would make a claustrophobic run screaming.

At its most basic, the job of a SAR dog has two components: Find the origin of a human scent and let the handler know where it is. In this article, we’ll learn what SAR dogs do and how they do it, see what SAR training entails and find out what a real search-and-rescue mission is like

To read the entire article please see this site.

Different dogs, different problems

December 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Picking out what kind of dog you would like to bring home to your family? Depending on which breed your bring home – you could be bringing home medical problems along with your new pooch.

A recently published article in the Star, discusses what different types of cats and dogs are more likely to frequent the vet and why. This is something to think of when bringing a new pet into your home.

Born with it

The issues that different breeds encounter are hereditary. Certain issues are caused by different genetic predetermined problems.They are often caused by the build of the dog as well. Different problems include: breathing difficulty, bone problems, joint problems and disease.

What breeds have what problems?

According to the Star Bulldogs suffer from respiratory issues. This is caused by the scrunched shape of their face. Pinched nostrils can be so severe that some dogs have to undergo corrective surgery. Pugs suffer from the same problem – which is why these dogs are such heavy breathers

Golden retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia. The ball of their socket joints and their hind legs aren’t properly formed. Sometimes this is so severe the dogs need surgery. They’re often stiff and sore.

Bernese mountain dogs are more likely to get malignant histiocytosis than other breeds. This is a genetic cancer of the lungs and lymph nodes. More than a quarter of the breed population is affected by this cancer.

What breed requires the fewest vet visits?

This is a really difficult question as all breeds have different problems. Unfortunately, every dog is prone to pick up illnesses or injury. There isn’t one invincible breed. However, dogs bred for work tend to be healthier than those bred for aesthetics. Mixed breed dogs or dogs bred in impoverished areas are less likely to pick up disease because they will have to have strong immune systems to survive.

The Net Vet lists the following breeds as the “healthiest” breeds of dogs; Beagles, Border Collies, English Springer Spaniels, Foxhounds, East German Shepherds, Portuguese Podengos, Shiba Inus, Siberian Huskies, Lakeland Terriers and Malteses.

Checking your dogs parental background can help determine how healthy your dog will be. Making sure to take your dog for regular exercise and keeping their diet healthy are great ways to keep your pet in tip-top shape!

Rescue dogs

Instead of picking a dog based on their pedigree – how about adopting a dog in desperate need of a home? Rescue dogs are often very hearty. They beat the odds on survival! These dogs have a wider genetic background with minimal human interference. This often leads to the healthiest of canines!

There are several important factors when picking the right dog for your family! Cuteness should not be the only deciding factor. Remember,looks are only fur-deep!

Turning assistance puppies into service dogs

December 2, 2013 at 1:06 am

The day you bring home a new puppy is an incredibly memorable day! But would you raise a puppy for someone else?

Raising a puppy and giving it up to someone else might be difficult – but if it means providing someone in need with an assistance dog the act becomes extremely rewarding.

What does adopting an assistance puppy entail?

Most dogs train for the first year of their lives. By age one the pups typically attend a training center for six to eight weeks before being assigned to their new owner. Those interested in training an assistance puppy should look in their local area for training centers. Training centers often require adopters to take a training class.

What do assistance puppies help with?

Assistance puppies grow up to be Service dogs that help with a wide variety of issues. Service dogs help disabled people, people suffering from autism, diabetes, post traumatic stress disorder and several other ailments. The dogs are even used for therapy in cases of illnesses like cancer or depression.

Why do assistance dogs start as puppies?

To start off on the right paw! Puppies need to prepare for the challenges they will encounter once they begin their working lives. Puppies will adjust easily if they begin training at around 20 weeks old. The puppies are conditioned for the unusual circumstances they may encounter in their everyday working lives. Their owners often depend on these dogs for their basic needs – they have a very important job!

Who should adopt an assistance puppy?

Champdogs, a puppy raising foundation, recommends raising assistance puppies to those willing to dedicate the extra time and effort into training a special puppy. Trainers will need to introduce the puppies to several different people every day – men, women, adults, infants, elderly, people of every ethnicity, people using walkers or wheelchairs, people pushing grocery carts, people wearing backpacks or using umbrellas and people wearing uniforms. The puppies also need to be exposed to different household sounds that they may come across in their later working lives. The puppies need to be taught specific training instructions so they will be able to help their next owner. Their new owners are unfortunately unable to train puppies, so your job is essential!

While assistance puppies are trained to work – it’s still vital to play, cuddle and enjoy life with your puppy! These puppies will grow up to be canine-heroes and a best friend to people in need.

Startling Animal Friendships

November 25, 2013 at 8:11 pm

As the the saying goes, opposites attract – but are dolphins and dogs really opposites?

A National Geographic special highlights how Ben the dog and Duggie the dolphin find a way to make their land-sea friendship work! Ben dives in and swims around with Duggie, once he’s tuckered out Duggie returns him to shore.These unlikely companions found a way to meet in the middle!

This is just one of the many unusual animal friendships out there.

A friend in need

In some cases, an unlikely friendship forms when another animal is in need. Take for example, a sweet story mentioned in the Vancouver Sun. An aging Labrador, Cashew, lost most of her sight by the time she hit her twelfth birthday. Her feline friend, a tabby named Libby, made it her personal job to ensure her canine friend was guided to wherever she went.

Mother Nature Network shows just how important comfort and friendship are through baby elephant Themba and a neighboring sheeps’ special bond. Themba’s mother died and none of the other elephants allowed her to nurse. Her health was declining rapidly and her depression was growing rapidly as well. Even though specialists tried to feed her, Themba was lacking the comfort she received from her mother. After befriending a neighboring sheep, Albert, Themba began eating again. This just goes to show that animals care more about relationships than they do about their basic needs.

Predators and prey?

That’s right! Even animals that historically have been enemies – with one animal being the hunter and the other, the hunted- are friends! Mother Nature Network tells the story of one cat, who cannot be without her baby chick best friend. This Russian kitten protects the baby chick from aggressive rats that often attack in the area. The chick and kitten can play worry-free outside in the springtime!

Animals have feelings and needs, just as we do

Animals need love and affection just as much as people do! Not only can a dog be a man’s best friend, but he can also be a cheetah’s best friend. When I think about it, none of these friendships really are all that unusual. Animals genuinely care for people and other animals. It makes perfect sense that they would help each other across species.

True friendship knows no bounds! Or species for that matter. Maybe we should all take a page out of these animals books- if a cat and a chick can be buds, why can’t we all be friends?

Soldiers and War Dogs: The perfect team

November 15, 2013 at 12:34 am

A soldier gives his canine teammate a hug

During stressful times of war, dogs and people partnerships are a match made in heaven.

In a recent Toronto Star article, a trauma team leader recalls how helpful having dogs in war zones was for soldiers. The dogs were never far from the soldiers, proving them the loyalest of companions and partners. They spent meals, days, nights and even time on the front lines together.

War dogs: mine-detection

War dogs have different roles throughout military bases. In Afghanistan, dogs sniff out underground land mines. The land mines are hidden from the human eye and when detonated, cause death or major injury. The dogs are able to find these devices before an unknowing soldier steps on one of the deadly mines. They save hundreds of lives this way!

Search and rescue

Dogs also help find and rescue injured soldiers. Most canine units deploy one dog and one handler to accompany troops when conducting a search and rescue mission. Dogs are able to use their instincts and keen sense of smell to find lost and injured soldiers.

War dogs as therapy dogs

When the dogs are off-duty, they provide major emotional support to the soldiers and people living in stressful war zone areas. The handlers often bring the dogs through the infirmary to visit the patients. The dogs provide comfort and emotional support for injured soldiers. Many soldiers have pictures with the dogs that were on-site in the war zones.

A beautiful friendship

In the Toronto Star, a trauma team leader tells the story of a wounded dog handler and wounded dog. The two stayed together through their entire treatment. During recovery, the dog would come and sit beside his handler. The handler would place his hand atop the dog’s head. Whenever the medics came on rounds, the dog would take a defensive stance in front of the handler. He was being protective of his handler in front of unknown people. This is true friendship and a loyal team. This is also just one of many beautiful stories of the friendship between dogs and soldiers in conflict areas.

In the midst of battle in a foreign country, dogs provide a comforting presence. According to the Wall Street Journal, there are over 2,700 canines deployed abroad. When commemorating our troops, let’s not forget the dogs that help our heroes and are heroes themselves!

What’s Really in a Wag?

November 8, 2013 at 12:15 am

Shake it to the left! Shake it to the right! Dogs wag their tails all over to express just how happy they are. But what’s really in a wag?

A recent article in the Toronto Star investigated how different wags mean different emotions.

Shake it to the left!

A left swish of the tail indicates that a dog is actually feeling a negative emotion. The left wag is accompanied by a faster heartbeat. This often happens when someone raises their voice at a dog or if an unfamiliar dominant dog approaches them. These emotional tail movements tend to be small and quick. A study in the journal, Current Biology, found that dog’s emotions, parts of the brain used and actual physical movement are all connected! This is true for humans as well.

Shake it to the right!

Right waggers tend to be the happiest of dogs! When it’s dinner time, cuddle time or walk time, watch your furry buddy’s tail wiggle to the right. Right wags tend to be massive movements with a near-dangerous swing range! This is when your dog’s tail smacks you hard when you sit next to them as they wag happily. We suggest sitting on their left side to avoid this?

Do dogs know the difference in tail wags?

They sure do! Other dogs are aware of when another dog is feeling apprehension or fear and notice when the new dog is wagging their tail mainly towards the left. It lets the new dog know how other dogs will react to them. Natural right waggers tend to be dominant dogs whereas natural left waggers tend to be on the submissive side.

Do dogs pick which way their tail wags?

Scientists believe the difference in tail wagging direction actually comes from different emotional cues using different parts of the brain. Just as Spot can’t help feeling scared when a bigger, unfamiliar dog approaches him, he can’t keep his tail from wagging to the left!

Want to know if your dog is a happy dog? Look to see which way he naturally wags his tail. If it’s to the right – he’s perfectly content! If it’s to the left – maybe it’s time to investigate what’s bothering your furry best friend.

Dogs Feel…Just Like We Do!

October 16, 2013 at 12:40 am

Dog lovers have been saying for centuries that our canine friends feel just as we do. According to scientists, there’s more truth in this thinking than originally thought.

Dogs can feel?

Turns out, our loyal sidekicks use the same part of their brain to feel as humans do. After a recent study, scientists have concluded that dogs feel at the same capacity as small children. Dogs function similarly to small children and even share a similar awareness according to an article featured in the New York Times.


Twelve dogs were led into a room and trained to sit still. Scientists used MRIs to measure the dog’s waking behavior and brain activity. Just as in small children, the function of the caudate nucleus controls the dog’s emotions and awareness. One way that was easy for scientists to see the correlation was presenting a hungry pup with food – and just like hungry people, the dogs’ caudate lit up. Before, scientist didn’t think dogs’ behavior could be assessed in an MRI because an untrained dog must be sedated to sit still enough to be analyzed in the machine.

What is the caudate?

The caudate is the area of the brain between the brainstem and the cortex. This is where most of our dopamine receptors, our happy hormones, are located. In humans, these often light up when we think of money, food, friends, family or love. This is similar for pooches – their caudates light up when shown food, affection and people that they know.

Do all dogs feel?

You bet! Ben’s mixed breed, purebred dogs, old dogs, skinny dogs, all dogs have feelings! The participating dogs were all different breeds and ages. The researchers used a wide variety to get the best results possible. Training the dogs to calmly walk into the MRI scanner and sit took the researchers a year. Gregory Burns, the leading scientist in the experiment, began by testing his own dog – Callie, a black terrier mix adopted from a rescue shelter.

What do dogs feel?

Dogs are able to feel positive emotions. The main emotions picked up are love, attachment and happiness. Emotions such as anger, jealousy or embarrassment aren’t picked up in the dogs. These emotions aren’t picked up in small children either! And wouldn’t it be great if adults didn’t have them either? I guess the saying is “lucky dogs” for a reason.

While we dog lovers (including myself and the Rescue Ben crew) are scoffing at the fact that scientists are just now accepting something we’ve known all along, it’s nice to have some proof to back our furry friends and their feelings up.

Rescue Dog Novel Author Opens Up in Newspaper Interview

October 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Stepping beyond just being a dog-lover, Rosemarie Smith, pulled at the heartstrings of all dog lovers with her new internationally-acclaimed book, Rescue Ben.

“I shed a lot of tears while writing it, which was the craziest thing.” Smith commented during a recent interview with the Alliston Herald. Smith spoke candidly on the emotional journey she experienced while penning the tale of the lovable mutt who loses his way home.

Rescue Ben follows Ben on his adventure as he tries to make his way home, meeting several helpful (and unfortunately unhelpful as well) strangers and even a few new furry friends along the way. His family moves to a new house and Ben loses sight of his new home after inevitably chasing a cat that was teasing him.

Smith gained the inspiration for the novel from a combination of things she’s seen and of course, her imagination. She also wanted to show that animals have feelings just as humans do. The novel is intended to make the readers feel something and feel something specifically for animals.

“I just wanted (people) to understand even animals have feelings, they hurt, they feel,” she said during her interview with the Alliston Herald.

Writing this book caused Smith to go through her own emotional experience as she was very involved in her writing. When Ben would leave a new companion, tears would stream down Smith’s face as she continued writing the story.

Smith discovered her passion for writing after taking a creative writing course in California during a holiday. That was nearly 15 years ago, and now after publishing her first book, Smith can’t wait to continue writing. Smith is currently in the works of writing a sequel to Rescue Ben with several appearances of many of the beloved characters from the first book.

The Alliston and District Humane Society is holding a Rescue Ben reading with Smith on October 10 at 6:30 pm. Come by to meet the author and make a donation to the local shelter.

You can purchase Rescue Ben at A Novel Idea in downtown Alliston or online through Amazon, Chapters Indigo and Barnes & Noble.

Read the Herald’s feature on Rosemarie online, here: http://www.simcoe.com/community-story/4086175-author-pens-tale-about-rescue-dog/

How to Help Your Newly-Adopted Pet Feel at Home

September 19, 2013 at 1:12 am

Those big puppy dog eyes had you at first sight – and now you’ve brought the pooch attached to those eyes to your home and increased the size of your family. It’s a day you will look back on and remember forever.

Bringing a newly-adopted pet home is a momentous day – for both you and your new dog. When adopting a new dog, it’s important to help them adjust into your family. This is a brand new environment for them and can be overwhelming. Prevent unnecessary heartache and drama by following these classic tips!

Put yourself in their paws!

Remember, your new dog doesn’t know your home is now their home. They do know that they are in a new and strange environment. Imagine that you’ve been removed from what you’re used to (in many rescue dog cases this can be an unhealthy environment) and replanted somewhere you don’t know anyone or anything! It can be unsettling.

Not everything should change

Make sure you ask what your new pet was eating before they moved into their new home. It’s important not to change their diet at first unless what they were eating before was making them ill. Your new pooch doesn’t need extra stress of adjusting to a new food as well as a new home. Make changes slowly! You can do this by first feeding them a little bit of new food mixed in with their old food, slowly using less and less of the old food until your dog is weaned off what they were used to.

Create a safe space for your adopted pet

It’s really important that your pet has a space where they feel entirely comfortable. Set aside a corner or quiet area and put down a bed with some soft blankets for your new buddy. Give them a treat in their area and make sure you show them by patting the area that it is for them. Do not bother your pet or even pet them in this area. It’s important they have their own space just as it’s important for people to have their own space.

Don’t get too excited!

Acting excited can overwhelm your new pet. Use a calm demeanor and voice. If you behave calmly this will help your pet feel calm. If you are jumping around or talking in a high voice it will make them uneasy. If you have children make sure you practice calm behavior with them before your new pet moves in. Wait a few days before introducing your dog to people outside of the family. Focus on getting them adjusted to you first. Also make sure you approach your dog slowly and don’t raise your hand over their head – you don’t know all the details of their past and they could have an abusive history.

The past is in the past?

Many adopted dogs – especially rescue dogs – come from unhappy environments. They often don’t trust people as someone has broken their trust through abuse. This abuse can range from physical abuse to neglect. Often times dogs will want to even attack someone who resembles their abuser. This can be overcome with time, patience and through building trust. Sometimes even shelters can be traumatizing – filled with barking dogs and strangers coming in and out. Try to keep noise and visitors at a minimum for the first couple weeks your dog is adjusting.

Was your dog abused?

Wait a few days before you begin training your dog. You want them to realize that their new home is permanent. Don’t raise your voice at your dog – instead use a stern voice and positive reinforcement. Establish a routine (wake up, go out, breakfast, afternoon walk, evening dinner) so your dog feels a sense of stability.

Time heals all

After your dog has been living with you for about a month they really begin to feel a sense of security. After establishing a routine, designating a safe private area, and developing trust with your new pet – they will feel like one of the family!

Remembering 9/11’s Silent Heroes: Rescue dogs

September 13, 2013 at 2:44 am

Firefighters, police officers, ambulance workers, office workers and even those just passing by became heroes through their actions 12 years ago during the tragic, world-changing 9/11 terrorist attacks.

There’s one silent hero that is often forgotten.

It’s important to remember the heroes that do not have a voice – the over 300 rescue dogs that aided in rescue and relief efforts. Dogs are gifted with an incredible sense of smell. This ability enabled rescue dogs to actually locate people buried beneath the rubble after the explosions. The dogs worked non-stop for days after the towers collapsed to locate the victims underneath the destruction. They were also able to recover many family heirlooms and bodies of those who didn’t make it. These victims were able to be returned to their families and provide closure.

Guzman-McMillan tells her story in Animal Planet’s documentary, Hero Dogs of 9/11. She was working in her office all the way on the 64th floor of the North Tower when the first tower was struck. She was the last person alive pulled from the rubble by a rescue dog a full 27 hours after the building crumbled. While doctors told Guzman-McMillan she would never walk again – she’s back running now, all thanks to a rescue dog that was able to track her scent below cement and steel.State_Department_Images_WTC_9-11_Officer_with_the_Canine_Rescue_Team

One rescue dog led its blind owner all the way to safety – taking nearly 1,500 steps even as rubble came crashing down on the pair. The yellow lab remained calm the entire journey-passing the calmness onto her owner and other people attempting to escape down the crumbling staircase as the building collapsed.

Many rescue dogs were able to provide emotional comfort and support to those present at Ground Zero. They were on the scene bringing injured victims to ER specialists. Many rescue dogs were used as a source of unconditional love in a moment of panic and mayhem. The dogs were able to provide many workers and victims with a soothing presence. Therapy dogs are continuing to provide condolence to those suffering from traumatic events.

These heroes know nothing of terrorism or the human violence that exists in the world. Yet they still come to aid and rescue those who need it. This kind of loyalty, bravery and unquestioned affection can only come from a dog.

An estimated 100 search and rescue dogs were lost in the aftermath at Ground Zero.

As 12 years have passed, most of the four-legged heroes have passed on. But let’s take a moment to remember all the rescue dogs that serve the human population on a daily basis and in crisis situations.