Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lessons and Blessings from Mac, A Deaf Pit Bull

Mac was brought into this world from a backyard breeder and spent two years of his life chained. He was eventually surrendered to the Castaic Animal Shelter where it was discovered that he had been physically abused, neglected and was deaf. A group rescued him in 2005, and kenneled him at a training facility where he spent most of his days confined in a cage for almost two years.

I was looking to rescue a pit bull and when I saw his picture on the internet, I knew he was coming home with me. I had no knowledge of deaf dogs but Mac instantly captured my heart. My first visit with Mac was heartbreaking when he was released from his cage. He continuously spun in circles, let out high pitched "pig squeals" and chewed his back legs. The trainer's vet put Mac on Prednisone and he received occasional injections of Dexasone. Mac and I were sent home with a training CD which proved to be nothing more than harsh techniques using a prong collar.

I realized that training a deaf dog is the same as training a hearing dog
with the exception of using hand signals, facial expressions, and body posture to communicate rather than spoken words. In fact, most dogs respond to facial and body expressions so it was a matter of studying the ASL handbook, although there were times that I couldn't remember the signal even though they were posted on the refrigerator! So, I decided to mix ASL with whatever simple gestures that I knew I would remember, particularly the ones that came naturally to me, and invented my own. Mac taught me that facial expressions and body language counted the most. Deaf dogs pay close attention but pitties have a way of awakening the things inside of you that you didn't know existed. Mac caught on quickly to my hand signals and started to blossom. Even though Mac couldn't hear me, he responded beautifully when I spoke or sang to him. Love transcends all boundaries and limits and our bond was solid.

Since deaf dogs are not distracted, their other senses are much more acute. Mac could see everything from small insects to flashes of light that would go unnoticed by a hearing dog. Vibrations, sound waves and changes in air pressure are all things to which a hearing dog may pay little or no attention. He was visually stimulated outside and loved to walk in the rain. He would oftentimes stand still and take everything in with his senses. He taught me the importance of living in the present moment and was truly one of my greatest teachers.

At the end of the day it was always important to remember that deaf dogs don't know they are deaf; they are dogs first.

~ Nikola

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Julia Szabo - Life on Crypton

Crypton umbrella plays key role in delightful “Draw the Dog” cartoon

Crypton umbrella plays key role in delightful “Draw the Dog” cartoon

Cartoons about dogs are a real draw for dog lovers – the proof is in The New Yorker’s archive and popular cartoon-anthology books. Now, a new Web site called Draw the Dog aims to out-New Yorker The New Yorker.


Not only does Draw the Dog offer a new canine cartoon every single day (except Sunday), but the captioned doggie drawings are animated, so they appear to draw themselves – and color themselves in – before your astonished eyes. Each K9 cartoon is inspired by a real-life dog, and all dogs get an “inspired by” credit.

Today’s inspiration, I’m honored to report, happens to be my dog Lazarus. This friendly rescued pit bull is short, stout, and brave. Only one thing puts my little guy’s tail between his legs: wet weather. When it’s raining cats and dogs, Laz doesn’t love wearing a raincoat, but he’s happy to have me follow him around with a protective umbrella. And here’s where the fabulous, generously-proportioned Crypton umbrella comes in handy: it’s big enough to shelter both of us!


From time to time, Laz, a.k.a. Lazzmtazz, is very lucky to have two very good friends making sure he feels safe and comfortably dry: Jack, 5, and Reeve, 3, my neighbor Pam’s two handsome sons. A photo taken this summer of the three boys and their Crypton umbrella wound up inspiring today’s delightful Draw the Dog cartoon. Here it is in its still form; to watch the animated version “draw itself,” go here.


Julia Szabo - Life on Crypton

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Where Pit Bulls Are Banned, Dog Bites Rise

by Steve Dale

Breed Specific Bans have done nothing to lessen dog bites in Norfolk, England. In fact, the number of people requiring hospital treatment for dog bites has increased by almost a third since the breed bans went into affect. Clearly, the breed bans didn't do what they were supposed to.

One public official described the situation concerning dog bites
"astonishing." Chris Huhne, a Democratic home secretary, added that the dangerous dog act is one of the most ineffective pieces of legislation of recent years - costing millions and is completely unworkable.

The Dangerous Dogs Act in Norfolk defines a dangerous dog as Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa or any other dog that appears to have been bred for fighting (including all the other Bull Terrier breeds). The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, also banned because it is considered a dangerous breed, was ironically once called 'the Nanny Dog' in the UK because the breed tends be so incredibly good with kids.

The Pit Bull issue is a complex problem in the U.S. because SO
many bad guys have been breeding erratic temperaments for so long...Yes, I said it, the sad reality is that some Pit Bulls do have questionable genetic personality defects, but then again so do all breeds - even Chihuahuas. (I realized that larger, stronger dogs can do more damage).

Public officials have historically liked to implement breed bans, they're far easier to legislate than people bans. Unable to do anything about gangs and social problems, it's politically expedient to blame the dogs - and for a time, the public was buying it. But breed bans don't work. And
meanwhile, a light bulb went on as the Michael Vick's dogfighting story unraveled. Most people now understand that dogs are victims. Deal with the dangerous people and idiotically irresponsible dog owners, and the "Pit Bull problem," which was never really a problem because of Pit Bulls, will magically go away.