About Those Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog.

by Anna Cooke

The annual Festival of Reading took place over a recent weekend on the St. Petersburg campus of USF. A pre-arranged 15 minute interview with author and journalist Dave Barry had been set up by his publicist, Larry Hughes, and the Festival’s Author Coordinator Lori Gaudreau. Our meeting was scheduled 45 minutes before Dave was to take the stage in front of what would be a standing room only crowd.

Having read Lessons From Lucy to review in The New Barker, my one takeaway from Dave’s book about his dog was this quote from him, which appears in the book: “I have a black belt in instantly hating strangers.”

I sort of get that. While I don’t instantly hate strangers, if I were to meet Dave and his dog Lucy at the same time, it’s a pretty good bet my arms would end up around Lucy, not Dave.

Photographer Jacqui Silla and I arrived a solid 45 minutes before Dave was set to meet us in the green room, which is actually called the Coral Room, on the second floor of the University Student Center. We rearranged the seating, looking for the best possible lighting for the photos. I reviewed my notes and Jacqui had to keep reminding me to breathe. 

Outside the room, a crowd was already beginning to wind around the lobby in front of the auditorium like a haphazard queue at a tourist attraction. At 12:05, 10 minutes before Dave was to arrive for our scheduled interview, Jacqui suggested I make a call to Lori to make sure everything was okay. 

There’s been a slight change in plans, said Lori, and would I mind coming to where they were? She had Dave right next to her, she said, in the writer’s lounge. “We’re just across the street from where you are,” she said. 

Just across the street on a college campus from the second floor of another building was not as easy as it sounded. I had just stopped profusely perspiring from our trek here, and the jitters were still trying to take over my stomach. Blisters had already formed on my toes from the high-heel boots I decided to put on that morning after not having worn them for more than a year. What was I thinking?

We would never make it on time. I imagined us arriving at the writer’s lounge only to see Dave being whisked away for his talk back at the University Student Center, where Jacqui and I already were. Seriously, the scenario played out in my head like the screen from a Super Mario Brothers game.

Lori patiently listened as I told her that a photographer was with me and we were all set up in the location we were originally instructed to meet: the green room, which is actually the Coral Room, and, by the way, there is a large crowd for Dave already forming outside the auditorium.  Lori answered, “Oh. Most of the journalists just come by themselves, not with a photographer.”

“Wow,” I thought to myself, “She just referred to me as a journalist.” My second thought was, well maybe most journalists don’t find themselves in a position where they’re about to meet and interview one of their favorite writers for the first and, very likely, last time.

Dave Barry wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for the Miami Herald for 22 years. He’s won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary (1988) and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism (2005). In addition to his book, Lessons from Lucy, he’s written 50+ other books, including I’m Mature When I’m Dead and  Boogers are My Beat: More Lies, But Some Actual Journalism. Yes, literary masterpieces. He is also part of the Greatest Rock Band Ever (of authors). 

Besides, I politely argued into my phone, isn’t Dave scheduled to give his talk in the building we’re in now? “Yes,” Lori answered. “But, before that he has another meeting scheduled back in this building, where we are now.”

Poor Dave. He was being tossed around the St. Petersburg campus of USF like a freshly-opened bag of Cheetos in a college dorm room.

Quickly, I thought: If I make Dave trek across campus to meet me, I’ll have made a person, who is already loathsome of strangers, hate me even more for having made him run across campus – twice. He probably won’t even look at me much less talk to me. This will be the worst interview ever. 

Then I heard Lori say into my phone: I’ll bring him to you. That did not make me feel any better.

Breathe, Jacqui reminded me again. “Here, drink some water. You’re gonna do great.”

Yes, I thought to myself. This will all be over very fast. As he walks into the room, Dave will zap me instantly with his death glare, and that will be that. He’ll go on stage to an adoring, unknowing crowd, while I lay crumpled under a heap of clothing, only my high-heel boots peeking out. Much like that scene from the Wizard of Oz when the house drops on the Wicked Witch of the West.

Dave arrived, just a bit disoriented from his back and forth traversing, not a hair out of place. As he walked through the door, he straightened out his blue blazer and began to compose himself for what was to come next. He was gracious, adorable, as nervous as I was, and genuine.

Probably my most disingenuous question was to ask how Lucy, his dog, was doing. I thought it would be the best way to quickly ease into what would be a fast-paced interview. 

“Lucy is doing great,” said Dave, his eyes darting around the room. “First of all, we have to agree how much better dogs are than people,” he went on. Now, he was beginning to make a little eye contact. “They’re always looking up at you with those eyes. No matter what, they’re happy to see you; to be with you. And, that’s just great, especially with the way things are now in the world.” 

On being a grandparent, Dave said, “It’s great. We just had a new one. Five months old. First of all, they’re not my kids. They’re grandkids. So, I can love them, then hand them back to their parents. I look at my son and daughter-in-law and wonder how they do it. How do they keep up mentally and physically with these kids? Lucy loves the grandkids. She thinks it’s her job to protect them.”

On fame. “Oh, Lucy is more famous than me now. When we go for walks or go anywhere in public together, people always remark, ‘Look, there’s Lucy.’ They don’t even notice me anymore. Which is fine.”

On helping shelter dogs during his book tours to promote Lessons From Lucy. “I’ve been able to do quite a bit of fundraising for rescue groups and shelters in Miami, thanks to my good friend [Miami philanthropist, pet rescue and child advocate] Yolanda Berkowitz. I don’t take Lucy to these events, though, because I really want the spotlight to be on the rescue dogs.”

Lessons From Lucy devotes seven chapters to showcase seven lessons Dave (who thinks he’s an old guy) has learned from Lucy, the aging family dog. As is Dave’s often self-deprecating, sarcastic writing style, the lessons are humorously presented. Every dog lover will recognize themselves and appreciate the lessons.

After Dave completed the book’s manuscript and sent it off to his editor, his daughter Sophie was getting ready to start her freshman year at Duke. “We had plans. Life was orderly. Life was good,” wrote Dave. “On Saturday, August 18, two days before we were going to take Sophie to Duke, she woke up paralyzed from the waist down.” 

In the final chapter “One Last Lesson,” added after the book was completed, Dave drops the humor, but not his honesty, to recount every parent’s worst nightmare. He shares one more lesson with the reader. It’s one we already know, but need reminding of every day: Gratitude and appreciating the goodness in our lives. 

It’s been a little over a year since Sophie’s illness, and she is thriving at Duke. “We couldn’t be happier,” said Dave.

We touched on the book’s last chapter, and I wondered aloud, “Now that everything in life is back in order, and life is good, it’s easy to fall back into old routines. Do you remember to practice gratitude?” 

“I think about that every minute of every single day,” Dave said, looking right at me.

Dave Barry, author of the book Lessons From Lucy and Anna Cooke, editor of The New Barker dog magazine.

I asked Dave to sign a copy for my life partner, husband, and publisher of The New Barker, Steve Cooke. I said absolutely nothing of Steve’s age. Nothing. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Dougie-approved reading.

The Silent Language of Communication.

by Jo Maldonado for The New Barker Dog Magazine.

Shelter Silence
How was it that 100 hundred shelter dogs at Seminole County Animal Shelter stopped barking, and laid down calmly as I slowly walked down the aisle between the kennels? My body language was non-threatening and neutral. My energy, using my training in QiGong and Reiki, was directed toward a calm and favorable outcome to them, and lastly, my mental thoughts were those of calmness. The dogs read all this. Watch as Jo Maldonado, using body language and thoughts, calms stressed shelter dogs in a few minutes at Seminole County Animal Shelter.

Time and Time Again
My theory of using body language, energy control and mental imagery was again proven recently, with a group of animal communicators and dog trainers at the Pet Rescue by Judy Shelter. I worked with a group of people and instructed them on how to communicate with the dogs using the aforementioned techniques. The results were the same: outstanding. Here is the video of the group of animal communicators and dog trainers.

Body Language
Body language is the most primitive and significant form of human communication. It came into existence even before our ancestors developed speech and language. The study of body language is called kinesics and has been studied since the early Greeks.
Research studies suggest that your body is the reflection of your mind, and the way you control your body will have an impact on your mental processes. It is a mutual process. Your body posture adapts to your thoughts, so if for example, you are depressed your shoulders may slump, your head may drop, you may shift weight onto one leg vs. standing equal weight on both legs If you’re nervous, your gestures may be more jerky, not smooth and controlled; you may pace.

Power Poses
My studies with body language originated with studying Professor Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist and Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, known world-wide for her Power Pose study. Her studies showed that we send messages of leadership to people through “Power Poses.”
Each posture or pose, gives off a certain and very different energy signal. Each body position carries with it an emotion which is triggered by our thoughts and the memories our cells have stored within our body. There are power poses and submissive poses, each respectively affecting the people and animals around us in a different manner.

Power Poses and Animals
I went one step further after following Prof. Cuddy’s poses with humans, and applied it to animals, specifically horses and dogs. Dogs are predators, and responded in a subservient manner, recognizing the human as pack leader; horses the prey, responded in a threatened manner, in flight mode.
My conclusion supports what we should already realize: use caution when approaching unfamiliar dogs. Communicate clearly what it is you want the dog to know or do. Some dogs are leaders, and others are pack followers. If we are to apply strong forceful body language upon a follower type dog, it may create adverse reactions in a now fearful dog. On the other hand, if we apply a power pose to a dog who clearly wants to be in charge, we would get a response more in our favor, and you win the pack leader role.

Body Language & Energy
Animals measure their trust in you, their communication with you, and their understanding of you by the energy that you send when you are in their presence. It’s not complicated. The fascinating thing is, that we ALL send messages to other species, all the time. All beings share their energy with others. The thoughts that you have, create a vibration, a specific frequency which is then perceived by others around you.
This is also why you are able to detect if someone is being genuine and authentic in the words they speak, you instinctually pick up on the thoughts and vibrations which the other person is giving off. When a person’s words and their thoughts do not match, you can perceive this through their body language. This intricate process of translation is all done subconsciously.
Dogs’ proficiency in reading body language should come as no surprise since, as pack members, dogs have to communicate with each other without the benefit of a verbal language. Instead they communicate through conscious and subliminal signing or gesturing, and watch for the actions and reactions of the other individual.

Body Posture
Your body posture: head carriage position, shoulders, hip stance, position of arms, behind you vs. in front of you, send the same messages to animals as they do to people, just more intensified. Each posture or pose gives off a certain and very different energy signal. Each body position carries with it an emotion which is triggered by our thoughts and the memories our cells have stored within our body.

So, how did we get all those dogs to stop barking, and relax?
1) Posture: Shoulders Back
Did you know that more testosterone is emitted when your shoulders are back, vs. when they are in a slumped-over position? Dogs’ senses are keen. When you emit more testosterone in dog language you are saying that you are in charge; in a dog pack, the dog with the highest level of testosterone is in charge; shoulders slumped to the front is submissive, signaling that you don’t want to be in charge.
Higher testosterone is associated with confidence, power, and higher risk tolerance. This combination is linked with effective leadership. Contracted body language (closed) is linked to feelings of lower status and worth, and is exemplified by hunched shoulders, head lowered, crossed arms and legs, and not smiling, says social psychologist Amy Cuddy.

2) Knees Locked vs. Knees Relaxed
Knees should be unlocked, or in a relaxed position if standing, legs equally apart at a stance, and grounded “like a tree” is most optimal. When you lock your knees, your muscles tighten. Tight muscles are typically a response to either severe cold temperatures, excitability, heightened emotions, or unbalanced energy, and can deliver an unfavorable response to dogs. They may also be viewed as threatening. Example: a fearful person tends to tense up and stare. Dogs may tend to misread a fearful person’s behavior as a “challenge” posture, like that of a dominant dog squaring up to an opponent. This immediately puts a dog on the defensive.

3) Legs Apart Stance: A neutral pose to be assumed with equal weight distributed on each leg as you stand, as opposed to shifting your weight to one or other leg which sends a message of uncertainty. When you are standing equally, you are more in control of your dog and are sending messages of strength and confidence to your animal.

4) Head Position: Very significant in body language. A person’s head, due to a very flexible neck structure, can turn, thrust forward, withdraw, tilt sideways, forwards and backwards. All of these movements have meanings, which given some thought about other signals can be understood.
The best position to work with animals is a high head position which signifies attentive listening, usually with an open or undecided mind, or lack of bias.

5) Gait: All participants were instructed to stand sideways, in front of one or two dog kennels. No gait was incorporated.

6) Facial Expressions: Neutral. No eye contact. Each participant stool parallel, sideways, not facing the dogs. Relaxed facial muscle.

7) Tone: No words were used.

8) Thoughts: All were instructed to think of the dogs in a neutral, relaxed position. Begin with slow relaxed breathing, deep sigh, then seeing the dogs in your mind’s eye sitting, then laying down. The goal was to think relaxing thoughts about the dog.

Our Emotions Are Showing
Did someone ever tell you that you “wear your emotions on your sleeve?” Take that a step further. Animals are keen observers of our intentions and emotions, and can read us with an objective eye – even those movements and positions that you may not be aware of.
Practice your body language as though the whole world were watching. Animals (and your dogs) will let you know if you have it right.

About the author: Jo Maldonado is an animal communicator, and has been an advisor and contributor to The New Barker since 2010. She is the founder and owner of Gryphons’ Claw The School of Practical Magic, and is department head of the Animal Communication Division. Jo is available as a lecturer, instructor and consultant for private clients and animal shelters. She may be reached via email at Jo@AnimalReader.com

Florida: A Dog State of Mind.

There are so many events to cover, we decided to make a blog out of our favorite events. This weekend is one of the busiest of the whole year for #FloridaDogLovers. What better way to get it started than with the Key West Pet Masquerade, an event that’s been around since 1987? The Lower Keys Friends of Animals, Inc., a low cost spay/neuter non-profit, is the evening’s beneficiary.

Tomorrow/Thursday (October 24, 2019) in St. Pete, the SPCA Tampa Bay partners with Great Explorations Children’s Museum to unveil a new exhibit, #ForAllAnimals. The exhibit officially opens at 9:30 with the ribbon cutting at 10a.

Dog Bar St. Pete is gonna a be a doggone busy place, this weekend. On Friday, October 25, 2019, the 4th Annual Spooky Pooch Costume Paw-ty will benefit Maxx & Me Pet Rescue. The fun starts at 7p. Then, Saturday, Party for the Paws (which had to be cancelled last week due to weather) is back on at Dog Bar St. Pete, an annual benefit for Pet Pal Animal Shelter.

SATURDAY events: Madeira Beach Recreation along with Bark Life Doggie Day Care & Resort and THE NEW BARKER are co-hosting Wag-O-Ween from 10a-4p. There will be a dog costume contest, food trucks, live music, raffle prizes, and rescue groups. Proceeds will benefit the pet kennel at CASA St. Petersburg, a domestic violence shelter in Pinellas County.

Also on Saturday from noon-4p, community partners, including Pet Food Warehouse and THE NEW BARKER, will be hosting the 4th Annual Howl-O-Ween Pet Fest & Parade at Green Bench Brewing Co. in St. Pete. There will be vendors, games, food, rescue groups, demonstrations and the famous Paw-rade Float & Costume Contest. Proceeds will benefit Humane Education Connection, a 501c3 non-profit that strives to reduce the abuse of children and animals through educational programs.

#OrlandoDogLovers will be up early on Saturday for the Franklin’s Friends Howl-O-Ween Walk-A-Thon & Canine Costume Contest at Secret Lake Park in Casselberry.

#CocoaBeachDogLovers, your fun is happening at Myrt Tharpe Square between 10:30a-1:30p. During the Howl-O-Ween Petacular, there will be prizes for the Best decorated wagon or stroller; Best dressed owner/pet combo. Best dressed large and small pet. Hosted by Tails at The Barkery, proceeds will benefit Mid Florida Sheltie Rescue and SPCA of Brevard Adoption Center.

#MiamiDogLovers, head on over to the beautiful Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden between noon and 3p for the Pup Up Halloween Pawty. There will be a Costume Chic Puppy Parade and Best Dressed Contest. Bring your yoga mat and dogs for a 30 minute DOGA class. Take a tram ride and stroll the Garden with your dogs. Grab a swag bag on the way out which will include a complimentary copy of #TheNewBarkerDogMagazine

#JacksonvilleDogLovers – it’s time for Strut Your Mutt Jacksonville with Best Friends Animal Society, local area rescue groups and shelters including Clay Humane, Inc.

#GainesvilleDogLovers, the 38th Annual Dog Days Run, hosted by the University of Florida chapter of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association. The event includes a 5K race, one-mile fun run, raffle, contests – including a doggie costume contest. All proceeds go to Created Gainesville.

SUNDAY: What would October be for #TampaBayDogLovers without Woofstock 2019? The annual event pulls together the rescue community to present a day of fun including dog demos, live music, dog games, #CorgiRaces, raffle prizes, a very big Doggie Costume Contest and The Ohana Dog Show. Produced by TampaPets!org—No More Homeless Pets Hillsborough County. From 11a-3p at Original Carrollwood Park, 11430 Orange Grove Dr., Tampa. Don’t miss this one.

Also on Sunday, between 3p and 5p on the beautiful grounds at the Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando, we’re co-hosting the 3rd Annual Howl O’ Woof. Humans and their dogs are encouraged to dress in costume for the occasion and trick-or-treat along the lakeside Sculpture Garden. Pet-centric vendors, including Pawsitively Pure Dog Food, will be on-paw for the fun.

Upcoming events looking for businesses and rescue groups to participate include: Barks, Bags N’ Brews – a benefit for Golden Ears Sanctuary and Dog Hospice, Tampa on November 2, 2019.

Doxapalooza in Lakeland, November 2. November 9 – the 10th Annual Tampa VegFest. The 16th Annual FurBall Gala for the Humane Society of the Nature Coast is November 9 in Spring Hill. Le Marche Bohemien in Sarasota has booth space available for this artisans’ event on Saturday, November 9. Call Christine at 727.542.3000.

7th Annual Trinity Dog Days will be on November 16. Booth space is free for rescue groups and shelters wishing to participate. Call Annette at 727.809.2769.

Thanksgiving Day, join us for the 5th Annual Goody Goody Turkey Gobble. The New Barker is co-sponsoring the Dog Walk/Run. Register here as the capacity for dogs will be 150.

The New Barker Interview with W. Bruce Cameron, Author of A Dog’s Journey.

by Anna Cooke, Editor, The New Barker Dog Magazine.

What’s the message people are conveying to Hollywood when the theatre-release film about a dog outscores the billed-as-blockbuster movies in one weekend? Earlier this year, when A Dog’s Journey, the sequel to A Dog’s Purpose, was released, audiences gave it a 95% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie was up against John Wick 3 and Avengers.Those are convincing numbers. Movie goers enjoy a good love story, especially one that involves dogs.

Centered on the premise that the soul of a dog continues to be reincarnated into subsequent dogs, the film picks up just a bit in the future of where A Dog’s Purpose left off. Bailey is now living in the body of a Great Pyrenees Bernese/Mountain Dog mix. Going into the film, especially if you’ve read the series of books by W. Bruce Cameron, you know the dog dies. Actually, it’s four dogs who die in A Dog’s Journey.  Knowing that, you prepare yourself, and of course, you still cry, as does the big strong guy watching the film with you.

The screenplay was co-written by Cameron with his wife Cathryn Michon, Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky. The film will be released on BluRay and DVD August 20, and The New Barker will be giving away copies. Be sure to follow The New Barker on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

After watching the film, I had the pleasure of interviewing W. Bruce Cameron by phone. His dog Tucker was in the room with him. Our dogs Rita, Dougie and Angel were in the office with me. The dogs must’ve known the importance of the phone call. They remained silently alert.

Bruce and Tucker.

For a writer who’s seen several books hit the small and big screen, did you like the way A Dog’s Journey turned out on film? I loved the film. The director, Gail Mancuso, had the right heart. When Cathryn and I showed up on the set, Gail stopped shooting and ran over to show us pictures of her five dogs. I knew right then, we’d picked the right director for the job.

How much time did you spend on the set? We spent quite a bit of time – maybe four weeks. Then, they flew us out to New York City to do a cameo.

Wait, you did a cameo? How did I miss that? Yep, with Cathryn and Tucker, walking through Central Park. You’ll have to go back and watch the film. The performance is award-winning (laughing).

At what point in time in production or pre-production, did you meet the actor dogs who would play Bailey/Buddy, Molly, Big Dog, and Max? Right away. And each time we were on set, all I was doing was rolling around on the ground with the dogs. The dogs were the main reason I wanted to be on-set, to be able to roll around on the ground with them.

The first two films in the series, A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Way Home, were both surrounded in controversy. Did that have an affect at all in writing A Dog’s JourneyNo impact whatsoever. I cannot allow myself to be distracted by these things when writing. We live in an age where there is always going to be controversy. I must stay focused on what’s in front of me. Writing this series of books has been rewarding for me spiritually. It’s easy for me to feel good about that.

What was the one scene in the film that took your breath away? Ahh, that has less to do with dogs and more to do with people. It’s when CJ and Trent show up at the farm, after many years. It dawns on Hannah and Ethan who these two people are, standing on their porch. I’m always drawn to the theme of reunion and redemption. It’s about finding our way back to where we belong. That moment in the film is so poignant to me because it’s taken CJ a lifetime to see her grandmother. I return to the scene over and over in my mind. You can go home again.

Describe what it was like to watch the film, for the first time with an audience. I had seen the film many times before it was released. So, when I was in a theater for the first time with an audience, I spent time watching the audience more than the film. I was obsessing on how other people reacted to different scenes. I know people are going to read the book. But, when I can participate in the making of a movie, then watch a whole family react the same way at the same moment to the same scene, well that has a big impact on me. It’s an amazing experience as a writer.

As a writer, you’ve described yourself  as being “a bystander to the magnificent dance. We record our witness.” What have you witnessed, over your lifetime, that inspired Bailey’s story to continue in A Dog’s Journey? When I wrote A Dog’s Purpose, I heard from so many people who told me the story gave them hope. It gave them a reason to adopt another dog. My message for the series is about moving on, and that finding the same kind of love you had, comes from having a dog in your life. There’s a continuum to a dog’s love. When we say the final goodbye, it’s important to know that the dog is most concerned with what you’re feeling at that moment. The dog wants to know that you’ll be taken care of, that you will be able to move on, and hopes to encourage you to find another dog to love and be loved.

Your next book, A Dog’s Promise, will be released this October. Are you able to say how you’ve kept the continuation of Bailey’s story fresh without revealing too much about the new book? In A Dog’s Journey, we say goodbye and watch Bailey crossing the Rainbow Bridge to meet Ethan. It occurred to me, right then, that there might be an important mission for Bailey: A boy with special needs and a family that has been torn apart. I had the idea that Bailey would return as an angel dog.

Growing up and throughout your adult life, have you had a heart dog? I will always have a dog in my life, and whatever dog I have with me, at that moment, will be my special dog. Right now, that dog is Tucker, and this is definitely his first trip with me (laughing). I have to say, though, that the first dog I ever had was as a boy. Cammie, a black Lab, was the one who had the most impact on me. Growing up with a dog, for me, meant that we influenced each other’s lives. That’s something that can never be duplicated. We’d lost Cammie after I’d gone off to college.

Over the years, I have met certain dogs, other people’s dogs, that I’ve felt some connection to, and it’s those moments, when I’ve looked into a dog’s eyes and asked, “Are you Cammie?”

Bruce and Cammie.

***

Meet The Actor Dogs

Boss Dog Buddy was played by three lookalike dogs. Odin was the main Buddy, a Great Pyrenees/Bernese Mountain Dog mix. He was tasked with dying in Ethan’s lap, early in the movie. When Odin lifted his head for a final, soulful look into actor Dennis Quaid’s eyes, director Gail Mancuso described the moment as pure magic. “That moment resonated with me,” said Gail. “I have experienced my own dog looking at me during our goodbye. It’s a special bond.” Odin is shown here with young actress Emma Volk, who plays CJ as a toddler, and Marg Helgenberger, who plays Hannah.
Molly was played by Lemy, a Beaglier (Beagle/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel). Lemy/Molly is shown in this scene with the actress Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays a young CJ in the film.
Big Dog was played by Phil, an African Boerboel.
Max was CJ’s adulthood dog, played by four Biewer Terriers. Belle is the character’s primary actor.

Why Was the PAWS Act of 2019 Denied? Again?

During the week of July 22, the House Veterans Affairs Committee denied support of the PAWS Act of 2019, HB3103. Again. This is another blow to service members getting the PTSD treatment that some of them desperately need: a service dog. For years, K9s For Warriors, a Ponte Vedra organization, has pushed to get the PAWS (Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members) Act passed. There is published scientific research that proves service dogs work. We are losing 20 veterans a day to suicide. What are you waiting for, members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee?
K9s For Warriors CEO, Rory Diamond, said, in response to the latest news: “For the last three years we’ve been pushing PAWS because the VA refuses to acknowledge what we all know: Service Dogs are dramatically improving the lives of disabled veterans suffering from PTSD. Most importantly, these dogs are helping keep our heroes alive. Yet, each year we go and meet with the House Veterans Affairs Committee staff, and each year they find a new way to say “No.” This past week, we sat down with the Majority and Minority staff and, again, they said “No.” No to Service Dogs for veterans with PTSD. No to our mountain of evidence that these dogs are saving lives. Instead, they told us to wait. Wait until 2020 or 2021 until after the VA completes a study to tell us what we already know. The VA has spent tens of millions of dollars and over ten years “studying” what one of the 550 K9s For Warrior graduates can tell you in ten seconds: the dogs work. We can’t afford to wait any longer. We are losing at least 20 veterans a day to suicide.”

Joe and Lilly, K9s For Warriors Graduates.

Adam and Blaze, K9s For Warriors Graduates.

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, please look at these two photographs. Would you deny that Lily, a service dog, helped save Joe’s life? Would you deny the treatment that Blaze, a service dog, is providing for Adam? And, by the way, most of the dogs trained by K9s For Warriors as service dogs, were previously shelter dogs. Think about that.

The dogs are trained, then matched with a veteran in need. The team then goes through a training program. All of this is provided at no cost to the veteran. K9s For Warriors depends on corporate sponsorships and donations from the caring public.
THE NEW BARKER is asking its readers to please contact your local state representatives. Type in your zip code and your representatives will be displayed. Here is a sample letter you may want to consider sending to you representatives:
Hello Mr./Mrs. (representative’s name),

I’m writing to voice my support of the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) Act, H.B. 3103.

It was introduced by Congressman John Rutherford on June 5th, but was halted by the House Veterans Affairs Committee. With more than 20 veterans a day dying by suicide, it simply doesn’t make sense that the committee tasked with protecting them denies what is now proven to be a life-saving option to mitigate their PTSD: service dogs. Service dog organizations like K9s For Warriors have already scientifically proven that service dogs are highly successful in recovery of PTSD and Military Sexual Trauma, yet the VA healthcare system still refuses to recognize this. We must do more to save the lives and honor the sacrifice of our military heroes.

Service dogs help veterans heal. When they heal, their families heal, and they return to their communities as productive citizens, pursuing higher education and re-entering the workforce, rather than living in isolation, or worse, seeing suicide as the only way out. However, high quality service dogs come at a high price, one which most veterans could never afford on their own. The average cost of a service dog is $27,000.

Medication is not always the answer. The servicemen and women who voluntarily fought for our freedom should not have to suffer even more after their service because they can’t afford the treatment that is best for them. Please support this life-saving initiative that will give veterans the option of choosing a service dog to heal from their invisible wounds. Please vote “Yes.” Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

(Your name)

Addressing The Dog Food Issue.

This week, we’re in receipt of and reviewing another round of press releases about the possible correlation between feeding our dogs a grain-free diet and dilated cariomyopathy (DCM). In this set of press releases, the FDA released a cautionary list of grain free diets – based on their initial, inconclusive findings, thus far. The FDA report states that currently they cannot find a link between diet and DCM, but they wanted the public to know which grain-free foods the dogs diagnosed with DCM were eating. Important to note: the list is not a recall.

I am not a dietician or nutritionist. We have worked with our family veterinarian and with guidance, have experimented with various brands of dog food to find the right combination for our dogs. If you are concerned about the latest FDA reports, please consult first with your veterinarian before making any diet changes.

Many small, independent pet supply businesses research the products they sell before stocking the items. Naturally, this latest information is a great cause of concern for them as well, not only for the health and well-being of their customers’ pets (and their own, for that matter), but also for their bottom line . In this day of the internet and the massive amount of information we’re able to retrieve, be sure you read with an open mind. Be sure you read beyond the headlines; read the entire article. Discuss your concerns and findings with your veterinarian.

There have been some good points made from owners of independent pet supply businesses and we’d like to share some of them with you, here in one spot, The New Barker blog. Each post is long, however, each one includes some good food for thought (pun intended).

An excerpt from HealthePets Market, out of Jupiter, FL: “Out of the 77,000,000+ registered dogs in the United States a total of 524 dogs diagnosed with DCM ate grain-free diets. Of the 524 cases, a large percentage of the dogs diagnosed with DCM were breeds geneticially predisposed to the illness.”

Here is the link to the full post response from HealthePets Market. Here is the link to the full post response from Dog Krazy, Fredericksburg, VA. Here is the link to the full post response from The Green Spot, Omaha, NE. Here is the link to the full post response from All For The Pet, Severna Park, MD. And here is a 10 minute video from Tammy Sue Vasquez, co-owner of BarkLife Market and More, Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg, FL.

Is your dog healthy and doing well on his/her current diet? Don’t panic, but do consult with your veterinarian with any concerns.

 

 

In Dogs, Diabetes Is A Lifelong Condition.

by Anna Bannon, DVM for The New Barker dog magazine. Spring 2019.

As a veterinarian, there are two things I see on a daily basis that I wish I could change – that pet owners can change – obesity and dental disease. Obesity and dental disease are the silent killers of millions of pets across the US. In this article, I want to focus a little on obesity, and also one of the life threatening illnesses that often occurs secondary to obesity: diabetes.

Obesity is the leading health threat to our nation’s pet population. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) conducted research in 2016 concluding that over 50% of dogs and cats are overweight, and that obesity rates are rising annually. Not only does obesity shorten the lifespan of your pet, but it can lead to a plethora of illnesses that are not only expensive and painful to your pet, but can be fatal, including urinary tract disease, heart failure, liver disease, asthma, painful joint disease or disc disease, diabetes and more.

To determine if your pet is overweight, the best thing to do is ask your veterinarian, who will be very familiar with a scoring system called the Body Condition Score. This is something that you can learn as well. The animal Body Condition Score consists of three main factors: Ribs, Waist, and Hips. Can you feel (but not see) your pet’s ribs? Does your pet have a waistline? Can you feel the hip bones? Some breeds have slight variations on this, and sometimes it can be difficult to judge your own pet, but most veterinarians will make a note of this during every physical exam, so if you aren’t sure, just call your vet.

If your pet is overweight, then the remedy for that is actually quite straightforward: reduce the calories they get, and increase the exercise they receive. This means that you should take note of how much food they are regularly getting. Is it 1 cup twice daily? Is it a solo cup scoop that you fill part way? Is it a bowl of food that you fill every few days?

Step one is to actually figure out how much food they are eating per day and cut it back by at least one third. Step two is get out and move. Take your pet for a few extra walks per week, or throw the ball in the back yard for 15 minutes a day. Just get them moving and burning calories.

Now, the hard part: treats. I know, I know, it’s hard not to feed your pet treats. My Doberman just has to have some pizza crust everytime we get pizza, and you know what? I give it to her (gasp!). But I also have her on a set amount of kibble and I weigh her regularly to make sure she is maintaining a healthy weight. You are always welcome to bring your pet into your vet’s office to get weighed.

Some people are surprised to learn that animals can get diabetes. In fact, animals get many of the same illnesses that people get. Diabetes is a little different in animals, since there’s not really a “type 1” and “type 2” diabetes, like there are in people. In animals, when they become diabetic, they all need insulin replacement (with rare exception in some cats). This can be a difficult lifestyle change for a pet owner, and it can be expensive.

When an animal is diagnosed with diabetes, the treatment isn’t as straightforward as an injection twice a day. The difficult part is finding out how much of the injection to be given twice a day. Every animal is different, and if you give too much, you can cause them to go into a hypoglycemic shock (which can be fatal), but if you give too little, it’s not going to work well.

The body needs approximately a week to adjust to every change in insulin dose, so one of the reasons diabetes is expensive is because every time there is a dose change, a blood glucose curve needs to be performed. This is not as simple as one pin prick to get a blood sample, this is a full 12-24 hour curve, which means we need multiple samples taken throughout the day. This is not easy to do as a pet owner (though some owners learn how to get blood samples at home), and as a vet, keeping an animal in the hospital all day to get multiple blood samples can stress them out and even alter the results of the blood sugar.

With the exponential growth of technology and medicine, there are almost always new avenues to explore. There is a human medical device, called the FreeStyle Libre, that is being used to help regulate diabetes in animals. This product is a small round flat sensor that can stick to skin and has a tiny stylet that pokes just under the skin into the subcutaneous fat. This little painless sensor can read and record the glucose in the body, and is fairly accurate in animals. This device replaces the need to pull blood every hour and spend the day in the hospital. As an owner, all you have to do is scan the sensor with the FreeStyle Libre Reader every eight hours to record all the data from the previous eight hours. This sensor can last up to 10 days on your pet, and will give your veterinarian valuable information regarding the days and nights glucose curves. Plus, this is less expensive than having a blood glucose curve performed in the hospital. And it gives you up to 10 days worth of information. It’s a win-win. A lot of vets and pet owners aren’t aware of this new technology, but it can be lifesaving for pets who are difficult to regulate or for pets who don’t tolerate blood draw. If your pet is diabetic, ask your vet about using the FreeStyle Libre to get glucose curves.

Family Animal Hospital is located at 13141 Kings Lake Drive in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Dr. Anna Bannon and her Shih Tzu Mauve.

Dr. Anna Bannon graduated from the University of South Florida in 2007 and Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011. She worked in a private practice in the Tampa area for five years before opening her own practice, Family Animal Hospital.  She may be reached at 813.512.7336.