Saturday, October 31, 2009

Phoebe and Sam are Going as Vienna Fingers

Trick or Treat! reminds us that pets, like children,need to be supervised and safe on Halloween. Here are their excellent suggestions:

1. Don’t leave your dog outside. Even if you have a fenced yard, bring your dog inside where it is safe. If your dog is usually kept outside, bring him in a few times before the big night to get him used to being indoors. Your dog may be used to strangers, but so many little ghouls and goblins running about may be too much. Remember also that it is a natural instinct for dogs to protect the family from strangers, and on Halloween there will be no shortage of strangers.
2. Keep your dog restrained. If your dog is timid or scared, or if he tends to love people a little too much, it is best to put him in a separate room away from the front door to limit his excitability, aggression, and chance of running outside and becoming lost.
3. Reassure your dog. The best thing you can do for your dog when he is feeling unsettled by Halloween activities is to act as you normally would. By over-reassuring your dog or giving him an unusual amount of attention, you inadvertently can communicate to him that because you are acting differently, there must be something to worry about.
4. Have your dog get used to costumes. Your dog may see his family members as strangers once they don their Halloween costumes. Before the kids put them on, allow your dog to scent the costumes. If your costume has a mask, keep the mask off when you are with your dog because dogs can become confused when they can’t see our faces.
5. Check your dog’s ID tag. Be sure identification tags are secure on your dog’s collar-just in case.
6. Keep candy away from your dog. Many candies-especially chocolate-are toxic to dogs. The severity of the toxicity depends greatly on factors such as breed, age, size, and how much candy was ingested. Problems may range from a mild upset tummy to vomiting and diarrhea, or even death. If you have any concerns at all, consult with a veterinarian immediately. If you want to keep your dog safe, make certain that sweets, including their wrappers, are kept well away from your dog.
7. Protect dogs from candles and pumpkins. Excited or agitated dogs can easily knock over a lit candle or pumpkin. Be sure those items are away from your dog’s reach, or consider a battery-powered candle that does not burn
8. Think twice about dressing your dog in a costume. While some dogs might enjoy being dressed up, many don’t. Experiment first to see if your dog likes being in a costume. If so, fine-he’ll most likely enjoy himself and the extra attention it brings. However, if he shows any resistance, don’t do it. Dogs feel enough stress around Halloween without also having to endure the discomfort and peculiarity of wearing a strange costume.
9. Be prepared. If you take your dog with you while trick-or-treating, be prepared at all times. Do not let your dog approach the door of a house, and stay clear of possible gags or gangs of goblins who will gather at the door. Dogs do not understand that the person jumping out at you will not hurt you; they often think they can only help you by acting aggressively. Neither children nor adults in costumes should approach a dog without the owner’s consent.
10. Have fun but think of your dog’s safety. Finally, if you want your dog to be included in Halloween festivities, think about his safety much as you would the safety of a small child. Your dog does not understand Halloween, so he needs you to provide the guidance and safety that you always do.

Got all that? Heed their warnings and have a safe and fun Halloween adventure!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Debut for Lentenor

So the BIG news among Fans of Barbaro is the racing debut of Lentenor, Barbaro's youngest brother. Lenny, as he is affectionately know, is scheduled to make his first start on Saturday--Halloween and World Series Game 3, at Keeneland in the fifth race.

The race is 7 furlongs and is on the artificial surface. There are currently a dozen horses in the field--though some may scratch--and Lenny has drawn post position #2. Only one horse in the race has run before so Lenny is in like company. It is for all intents and purposes, a field of first time starters.

I wouldn't even try to handicap the race. There are too many unknowns, not the least of which is the artificial surface. Lenny has trained on a Tapeta track at Fair Hill so he has some experience but nothing prepares you for the real event like experience. In this field, anything can happen.

Rumor has it that Lenny has been ready to run for a while but his connections had a hard time finding a race to suit him. I have a feeling the Jacksons would have liked him to run a little closer to home--it is always easier NOT to ship a horse--but Delaware Park closed last weekend and there was nothing on the books at Laurel.

The thinking here may be that since he is on his way to Florida, he may as well stop in Kentucky for a few weeks. Depending on how he does, Lenny may stay in Kentucky--moving to Churchill Downs where a race may open up, or he just may go to Florida to Matz's operation at Palm Meadows.

One thing is for sure--the race is televised on TVG, the cable racing channel available via Direct TV, and I am sure a video will be up on You Tube before the day is over. It's a long anticipated event and here's hoping that Lenny has a safe and productive trip! It's hard to believe there are two Barbaro brothers of racing age. . .

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aint You Never Heard Of--2009 Version

My oldest son was the president of the Penn Glee Club for 2 years and currently serves on the Graduate Board, so excuse me for indulging one of my favorite singing groups. How could I resist since World Series Fever is sweeping the town!

According to my sources, this tribute was aired on ESPN radio the other day.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Daily Coyote

If your heart melted at the above photo of ten day old coyote, Charlie, who arrived on photographer Shreve Stockton's doorstep very unexpectedly over a year ago, then you are sure to want to read their story in her new book, The Daily Coyote A Story of Love, Survival and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming, out this week. Charlie was orphaned after his parents were shot for killing sheep and from the looks of things, he ended up with a great new family.

While you are waiting for your book to arrive, you can check out her blog by the same name and see her fabulous photos of what she calls her Farmily, including, Eli, a tomcat, Chloe a hound dog and a horse and hog. Charlie, by the way, gets along with everyone. An interesting case to be made for the nurture over nature folks.

Stockton is quite the business woman. You can sign up for a daily photo of Charlie delivered to your inbox as well as the Weekly Coyote. Stockton takes photographs of Charlie every day and notes tht he has the "it" factor when it comes to preening for the camera.

Who says I don't give you great ideas for holiday shopping? This one might be perfect for a lot of people on your list.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Caisson Platoon

ABC News did a wonderful story earlier this week about the Caisson Platoon--the troop of horses that is part of every military burial at Arlington National Cemetery. They have been doing this for 60 years.

It turns out that these dignified, slow moving horses are also giving wounded veterans a new lease on life. Injured soldiers, transported from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, participate in riding clinics aboard these horses once a week. The therapy has improved their minds as well as their bodies.

"The horses have done magic for them," Mary Jo Beckman, co founder of Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Programs, told ABC News' Bob Woodruff. "They tell me they look forward to Thursday morning. . . this is what makes life bearable for them."

The soldiers do not use saddles when they ride. They sit on saddle pads so that they can better feel the movement of the horse's muscles. "When a horse moves at the walk, their hip movement is the same as yours and mine," explained Larry Pence, Beckman's co-founder. "We want them to get in synch with the horse."

Therapeutic riding has long been known to benefit mentally and physically challenged children. How fitting that these dignified beasts are doing the same for our military heroes.

Go to com to see a video of the magic being worked.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Homes For Paragallo's Horses

In case you were wondering about the status of the 177 horses that were rescued from the training operation of Ernie Paragallo, Joe Drape had an excellent piece in the New York Times last Sunday that talked about their whereabouts.

For starters, 96 of the 177 horses have been re-homed, thanks to the hard work of rescue groups across the country and the Columbia-Greene Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This agency has spent over $80,000 feeding, caring and finding homes for these thoroughbreds. Unfortunately, six were euthanized because they were too sick.

Some have found new homes as hunters and jumpers; some have found their way to Michael Bowen's sanctuary, Old Friends, and some are being retrained for dressage. Meanwhile, Paragallo was indicted on 35 counts of animal cruelty by a Greene County grand jury. If he is found guilty, he will be fined $35,000 and faces up to two years in prison. He has denied that he starved and neglected the horses and is free on bail. No trial date has been set.

One of the best stories of adoption comes from a couple in New York who have never owned race horses in their lives. They met at the now defunct Claremont Riding Academy in Manhattan, and already own two rescued mares that they plan on breeding. When they saw the photos of Paragallo's horses, however, they knew they would rescue a few more.
The horses are currently being rehabilitated by Paula Turner, who broke Seattle Slew. The long term goal is ideally to return them to the racetrack.

In conjunction with their act of compassion, the couple formed the 5R Racehorse Trust, a non-profit with the mission of "rescue, rehabilitate, race, retrain and retire" horses. If they find horses in need of rescue, who are deemed fit to race, the Trust will place them with a trainer who has no violations for medications and who agrees to race them drug free. If they can be retrained for dressage or pleasure riding, then they will help find them a new home.

Quite a wonderful goal and quite an ambitious plan. And quite a fitting end to the neglect and misery that these horses faced under Paragallo's watch. Just proves that something good very often can come from something very bad.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Seen at the Philadelphia Zoo: Michael Vick sporting a Yankees cap in a town where the Phillies are headed to their second consecutive World Series.

Enough said.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Load Up on Ice Melt

Look closely. This is a photo of a very fuzzy caterpillar that I spotted making its way across the trail at Haverford College earlier this week. Fuzzy caterpillars, I am told, are sure harbingers of very cold winters.

Actually, I have it on good authority that we are in the middle of something called the Dalton Cycle, a weather cycle that can be traced back to at least 600 A. D. and is about 250 years long. This stage that we are currently in is especially deadly, began in earnest on November 2009, and will be here for good for 58 years, give or take a few pattern aberrations.

In other words, be prepared for a very cold winter, that starts earlier than usual, with lots of snow, ice, especially in New England. Look no farther than last Sunday's football game in New England where there was snow on the ground in October and you get the general idea.

And then prepare for another damp cool spring and wet summer.

Those of you with generators should plan accordingly--make sure your tanks are full--and those of you with livestock should make sure your barns are warm. And everyone should check their furnaces.

Just remember you heard it here. Make like the caterpillar and acquire an extra layer of protection!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Red October

Allow me to digress for a brief post because as you know I am a huge Phillies fan and they have just made history! They are going back to the World Series--2 years in a row--and have become the first team in the history of the franchise to win back to back pennants. Excuse me for gloating but we are feeling pretty good about our boys in red these days. Bring on the Yankees.

Anyway, what really drove home the power of baseball today was a chance encounter with a group of schoolchildren who were traipsing across the grounds at Haverford College today, obviously meant to be having a lesson on photosynthesis since the leaves are at their peak. The science teacher was in the lead, pointing out the variations in the colors of several different types of leaves, and her class was in various states of attentiveness.

Several were wearing Phillies tee shirts and looked a little tired--no doubt the result of staying up way past their bedtimes to soak in the win--but it was one little boy, off to the side of the group who was clearly somewhere else. You could see his mouth move (calling the play to himself and the throngs who were waiting with baited breath to see if he would come through) as he practiced his wind up in slow motion. There were surely two outs and the bases were loaded but he was not shaken. The movements were as picture perfect as the call in his head which revealed he had, of course, struck out the batter and won the championship for a second year.

All before his teacher called him back to earth and told him to pay attention. But in that split second he was living every little boy's dream of playing in the big leagues and coming through under pressure.

Not a bad dream--even if photosynthesis is on the back burner for a day or so.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bo, Can You Come to Ours?

So Sammy's second birthday is approaching--November 27th to be exact but we may celebrate the Sunday before Thanksgiving to make sure all interested (trust me, it was the social event of the year and many have asked to be included in round two!) can attend. And once again, it will be a joint affair with his sister, Lucy.

Dare we send an invite to the presidential pooch? We can promise turkey meatballs and lots of golden retriever types and maybe if the weather cooperates, bobbing for water toys. Do you think we rate?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


You tell me: fact or fiction.I heard on the radio the following factoid about the origin of the phrase sports upset:

It seems the concept dates back to the one horse race that Man O' War lost against, a horse named, you guessed it, Upset. Hence the concept of the underdog winning against the favorite has since then been called an upset.

The race, by the way, was the Sanford Memorial Stakes, run August 13, 1919 at Saratoga Race Course. There were seven horses in the race and the favorites were Man O' War and Golden Broom , who each carried 130 lbs. Upset, owned by Harry Payne Whitney, carried 115.

In those days, race fixing was a common practice and Upset, whose odds consistently hovered at 10-1, went off 8-1. He was the only starter whose odds dropped considerably the closer it got to post time. As Dorothy Ours writes in Man O' War, "More than one somebody--or one big-betting somebody--liked him."

In addition to the clue dropped by the big bettor, the jockeys aboard Golden Broom and Upset conspired to box Man O' War in during the race, and many say, the starter-- (in those days, horses lined up across the track and started when the starter decided they were ready to go) sent them off when Man O' War was actually facing in the opposite direction.

Regardless of conspiracy theories, Upset won the race and set a new track record in the process, beating the old one by eleven lengths at 1:11 1/5. However, Man O'War, in nearly catching Upset, "must have run his six furlongs, despite carrying 130 lbs. and being delayed in traffic, well under 1:11," according to Ours. Indeed as she reports, Man O' War's trainer's stopwatch, which "he clicked as he started and finished, said 1:10 and one."

So who was upset?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Decorating with Dogs

I have always thought that a business called Gardening with Dogs would do well. The idea is to provide gardening and landscaping services to people who have dogs that do what dogs love to do outside: run through flower beds, dig holes and generally be dogs.

Well I had the right idea just the wrong business. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, designers are now paying attention to demands from the clients with pooches who want chic and comfortable surroundings that stand up to pets and their lifestyles.

Standard procedure seems to be camouflaging pet crates, liter boxes and creating stylish pet beds. More creative ideas include the use of baby-proofing devices like safety corners for tables, to prevent puppies gnawing on them. Also baby gates are indispensable, as any puppy owner knows.

I have long used indoor outdoor fabrics and rugs in my family room--the one that seems to get the most use and the most dog presence. The indoor outdoor fabric resists stains and fading--these days you'd be hard pressed to know that it was specifically designed for outdoor use. And the indoor outdoor rugs are fabulous for pet paws since they can literally be hosed off.

It also helps to choose colors that blend with pet hair--you know this from your clothing. I would never, for example, get a car with a dark interior with three blond dogs. Also, leather is so much better than velvet when it comes to dog hair--velvet and velour, for that matter, seem to hold and attract pet hair like a magnet.

Fancy ideas include designing specific drawers to hold water dishes and pet gear that slide away when company rings your doorbell. Some pet bowl holders conceal food in the bottom but I always thought the smell would be too distracting for my dogs. Trust me, my dogs would find a way to eat through the wood.

In general, it seems that decorating for children is very similar to decorating for dogs--choose fabrics that wash easily, paint that is washable, and furniture that can either stand up to abuse or is expendable.

Gee, maybe I should start that business and do indoor/outdoor work!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Whatever you think about Cesar Millan, the self-proclaimed "Dog Whisperer," you have to hand it to him. He has created an empire out of training dogs. And even if you disagree with his tactics or techniques, you have to admit he is a genius at marketing himself. Walk into any pet food super store and you will find an entire new line of Cesar Millan products, from food to grooming supplies. Not bad for a once illegal Mexican immigrant.

Yes, you heard that right. According to a huge article in the New York Times last Sunday, Millan "crossed the border illegally 19 years ago with nothing in his pockets." He became a United States citizen this year--the article says nothing about whether or not he had a green card all this time, but we presume that was the case.

In any event, he spoke little to no English when he arrived in California, but was determined to make his living as a door-to-door dog trainer. Lucky for him, one of his first clients was Jada Pinkett (now married to Will Smith), who was also just starting out. She was so impressed with his abilities she not only referred him to her celebrity friends, she also took him under her wing and hired him an English tutor.

Slowly Millan gained a reputation for taming even the most difficult dogs. Word of mouth provided him with a steady stream of customers as well as some free PR courtesy of the LA Times. After that, it was just a matter of time before the photogenic dog trainer found the camera and the camera found him. The National Geographic Channel took a chance on him. The show premiered in 2004 and gained a cult following.

Millan is most definitely a star these days. He charges anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 for a private consultation and donates most of the money to his foundation. He maintains that his form of communication with dogs is indeed a gift conveyed through his body language, his physical presence and his voice. Whatever it is, there is no denying that it works.

Is it training by intimidation? Maybe, but there is the argument to be made that with certain large, powerful dogs, it is important for the owner to establish control. Or else you end up with dogs training you.

A few days ago in the park, I ran into the woman who walks my dogs when we are on vacation. She usually has anywhere between two and ten dogs following her around, with no leashes, and as we climbed a steep hill, she turned to me and asked if I smelled something. Now, I have a pretty good sense of smell and all I smelled was wet leaves. "Mold?" I ventured. "No, I'm, pretty sure it was raccoon," she countered. "I can sometimes smell the deer before I see them. I think it comes form hanging around with dogs all the time. I even shake when I get out of the shower!"

So maybe there is something to this dog communication thing and maybe if you hang around dogs all the time, they begin to share their secrets. One thing I do know is that dogs keep you honest. "The dogs wont' let me be unstable," Millan notes. "If I'm unstable, they won't follow me and then I'm in big trouble."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wild Horses

The song is Wild Horses and the singer is Susan Boyle. She does it justice, I think you will agree.

It's cold and rainy here and this suits the mood. Plus she is now represented by my ex-agent.

Ironic, don't you think. He got his horse deal in the end.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Only in California!!!

Last Sunday, about 1,500 people attended the Surf City Surf Dog Competition at Huntington Beach, California. As these wonderful pictures (there are more) from the LA Times attest, a good time was had by all!

There were surf boards and doggie life vests in all sizes for rent, prizes were given in various categories and rumor has it that the low to the ground breeds fared especially well.

Sort of makes me want to catch a wave with three dogs in tow. . .

Friday, October 16, 2009

Statuesque Amos

Although he is not quite as perfect as the bronze statue of Lassie that is in the garden of the James Michenor Art Museum in Doylestown, PA, Amos is looking quite happy these days because I finally did something about switching his anti-inflammatory medicine. Sam is hogging the photo, of course, but you can tell he is thrilled to have his playmate back in action!

Amos' daily walks in the park had become a struggle for him but it took my friends telling me that I should look into changing his drug to spur me on. Switching, of course, required a regiment of no aspirin-based products for four days to make sure he did not "bleed out" from a new drug, so it did require some vigilance on my part. In other words, it was not something I wanted to do when I couldn't be around to monitor his demeanor.

Well, I am happy to report that the entire procedure was so well worth it I am kicking myself for waiting so long. Amos managed beautifully on the straight painkillers for four days and as we gradually let the new drug kick in, I am reducing his pain killer dose.

Today, in the park, he galloped--yes galloped ahead of the goldens and even barked to let them know he was coming through!! To say he is feeling great is an understatement. He is feeling, well, like Lassie.

And the good news is that the new medicine is only once a day and the doctor says we may be able to reduce the dose to half of what he was taking before.

Moral of the story: if you are thinking your dog is in pain, he probably is and if there is something you can do about it, you should.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Spotted on Tour. . .

Attention parents of children of a certain age--between about five and ten, I'd say--who love animals. There is a new touring stage version of 101 Dalmatians that features live animals!!! Having been that mother who scoured all toy stores for every stuffed replica of all the dalmatians in the live action and cartoon version of the Disney classic for one very dog-crazy daughter, I'd suggest stocking up now.

The new musical features one dozen real dalmatians rescued from shelters around the country including one very real Rascal, the pup with a broken leg, who indeed has the same affliction in real life. The live dogs are not in all of the scenes; actors in costume portray most of the dogs in the same vein as the musical, "Cats," but it's safe to say that when the real ones scamper across the stage, they steal the show.

The show begins a national tour this month in Minneapolis so keep your eyes open for a run in your neck of the woods. Apparently the Finale, which features all the real dogs "dancing" to a specially composed tune, is "jaw-dropping."

Animal trainer Joel Slavens is in charge of the pooches and he knew all about the "run" on dalmatians that followed the release of the Disney movie. He also knew that most of those pooches ended up at shelters because the high strung breed is certainly not for everyone. He vowed that this time around, he would use the spotted pups as an opportunity to explain that dogs in the movies are trained to win your heart and that training is a lot of work.

For starters, these thespians are kept extremely busy, between grooming, training and just being dog sessions carefully scheduled into every day. They travel in a specially equipped bus (in kennels) with two full-time trainers. They have been carefully acclimated to the theater environment, including performing in front of a live orchestra, complete with drums.

And yes, they have been trained to handle media requests. When the show is over, these former shelter dogs all need to find homes and Slaven has agreed to adopt any that don't.

What lucky animals! Rescued from shelters, taught to be "stars" and promised retirement with all the perks. Maybe somebody should think of a way of taking retired horses on the road with music and lyrics. . .

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Animal Rights or Freedom of Speech?

Last week, the United States Supreme court heard oral arguments in an interesting case involving first amendment rights. On the surface, many might see United States v. Stevens as a case of animal rights, but it is really about the rights of humans to portray issues involving animals that may violate their rights. Got that? A case about our rights to film, speak about, write about, televise and generally publicize acts of animal cruelty.

Robert Stevens sold videos of dogfights that took place both in Japan and here in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, during which time most of the fights he filmed were legal. Dog fighting is legal in Japan. Stevens did not harm any animals to make the films or support the fighting. He simply made the videos and sold them. The federal statue forbids the buying or selling of any image of any animal being intentionally injured or killed if the recorded conduct would be illegal here and now.

Stevens went to jail for selling the videos and received a sentence that was longer than Michael Vick's. One federal appeals court has held that his sentence was unconstitutional.

In a sense Stevens is being punished for filming a crime and profiting from that film. I'm not sure that is illegal. Do we punish banks for having security cameras that film robberies? Or news broadcasts for showing us fires that might be arson or even drive-by shootings? Where do we draw the line for free speech and is that line somehow different because the beings in this film cannot speak for themselves?

I am fascinated by the dog fighting stigma attached to this crime. If he had filmed lions eating prey in Africa would he have gone to jail? It is every bit as violent and gruesome, but lions are not pets.

Yes, dog fights are now illegal, but are films about them? And even if they are, do we punish the filmmaker or the people who own and fight the dogs? In fact, do we even know if they were apprehended for their reprehensible behavior?

Stay tuned for the verdict. I am willing to bet, it will have nothing to do with being an animal lover but everything to do with protecting our right to display images associated with those who are not.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hot Potato Issue

Let me see if I got this right: the New York State Racing and Wagering Board (one powerful entity) has proposed that trainers, owners and veterinarians be able to produce, on demand, a horse's medical records for 45 days prior to racing in New York and everyone says it's too much work. It's too much paperwork to demonstrate that you are entering a horse that is sound and fit in a race on which the public is wagering? And what planet are we living on?

It is almost inconceivable to me that owners, trainers and vets wouldn't be clamoring for this legislation if only to indicate how well (and legally) they all do their jobs. After all, if there was nothing to hide, I sincerely doubt it would be too much work to produce these records.

I do understand the objection raised by the American Association of Equine Practitioners that veterinary records are considered confidential, but I believe that owners could overrule that privilege. And as for the objection that "it creates a nightmare of hundreds of thousands of work hours, will mean thousands of trees will have to be destroyed AND will not do one thing to curb any individuals that are set on breaking any jurisdictional rules, as they are certainly to going to enter information that would be self-incriminating," voiced by Dr. Stephen J. Selway, a New York veterinarian, well, I beg to differ. IF there was such a thing as a Veterinary Oversight/Ethics Board (and I am betting there is), falsification of records would seem to be grounds for stripping a vet of his right to practice. What Selway is really saying, I believe, is that it would be too much work for the vets to couch, in medical terms, what they are really doing and probably not keeping great records on.

Despite the objections, John Simoni, a member of the NYRW Board said they were committed to making the proposal a reality. "They don't want to be inconvenienced," he elaborated. "They don't want to look at the real problem, which is the drugging of horses. We keep getting reports of out-of-control vets out there. We need to know what they are giving them and when."

The objection on the part of the owners seems also to be related to this "paperwork" problem. I have no idea why since I would think that it would be in an owner's best interest to be racing sound and fit horses. Would it make it a little harder for trainers to enter a horse? Maybe, if the entry required the owner signing off on the medical records form. But what if the form was posted on line and the owner simply had to click a box to give approval. Or maybe there would be a way for an owner to "sign off" on a trainer for a season. The point is, I am sure details could be worked out.

What I am really hearing is that the problem is so prevalent that everyone wants to pass the blame, from owner, to trainer to vet. And until everyone steps up to the plate and takes responsibility for drugging horses, no one is going to want to watch racing, let alone bet on it. And that is as close to a sure thing as you'll ever get in this sport.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Deer Hunt Back on at Valley Forge Park

The deer hunt in Valley Forge National Park is back on and so are the protests. Officials at Valley Forge National Park announced they would begin shooting the large number of deer as soon as next month. The plan would reduce the herd 86% and there seems to be no going back.

Opponents say that Park officials have ignored other options--notably contraception. In fact, one Priscilla Cohn, a professor emeritus at Penn State University, runs the group Pity Not Cruelty and has offered to bankroll a containment and contraception plan to thwart the shoot.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Cohn "suggested fencing portions of the park so the deer couldn't eat saplings and plants, and dosing female deer with contraceptives so they would not reproduce. And she offered to pay for the whole thing--$125,000."

No go. "It's been clear to me that they wanted to kill the deer," Cohn said. "Unless we're capable of getting public opinion behind us, and getting politicians behind us, they'll go through with it."

To be sure, the herd is extremely large and needs culling, but it seems irresponsible to me not to give an alternative plan a try. Research has proven that contraception works, at least according to Allen Rutberg, an expert on contraception in wild deer from Tufts University Vet School. "It works," he said simply.

In fact, his latest study demonstrated that contraception caused a 27% drop in the deer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland as well as a dramatic drop in the population of the deer at Fire Island Seashore National park.

Stay tuned. I have a feeling this fight isn't over even though it seems that the powers that be at Valley Forge National Park have made up their collective minds to shoot when they see the whites of their eyes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The World According to Kids

Overheard at the White House:

"Congratulations Dad for winning the award and it's Bo's birthday and we have a three day weekend!"

We know those Obama girls have their priorities straight. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize ranks right up there with their dog's birthday and a holiday from school!

Never doubt the ability of children to keep your feet grounded...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

And Who Wants Revenge Now?

Nothing new in Joe Drape's fabulous article from the October 6 New York Times, other than the fact that when money enters the picture, veterinarians begin to spill the beans about just how much medication is really being used along the back stretches of North American race tracks.

In case you missed the piece, it is about the fact that IEAH Stables, which owns 50% of I Want Revenge (the horse that was scratched from the 2009 KY Derby the morning of the race) is suing the other 50% stakeholder, David Lanzman, for failing to disclose the extent of the horse's injury. Lanzman, of course, says the bad ligament was found the morning of the Derby.

It gets interesting when veterinarians who treated I Want Revenge prior to that fateful morning, reveal that the horse was given what Drape calls the equivalent of "new transmission fluid" two times well before the Derby. The Times reports that I Want Revenge was being treated with "antibiotics, synthetic joint fluid and corticosteroids" well before the first Saturday in May.

None of this is new, of course, but it points once again to the fact that horses are being asked to literally risk their lives, by running in compromised health, at the hands of their caretakers. Legal or not, as Drape reports, "there is a consensus among equine researchers and surgeons that legal medications and cortisone shots, over time, leave a horse vulnerable to a catastrophic breakdown."

Contrast the US figures for racehorse fatalities: 1.47 per 1,000 starts for synthetic tracks and 2.03 per 1,000 starts for dirt tracks, with those from England: .8 to .9 per 1,000 starts, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to make the connection. Medications for racehorses are all illegal in England; they race on the proverbial grass and oats.

It will never stop unilaterally until all medication is banned. And that will probably never happen because with gambling coming to racetracks, the purse money is just too good to pass up.

See what happens when money becomes part of the picture. . .

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hard Times at Conde Nast

We were out to dinner last weekend with some friends and the topic turned to magazines and newspapers. We compared subscriptions and were delighted to learn we were not the only ones still reading an enormous number of newspapers in print, on a daily basis. When it came to magazines, however, it seems that our habits are sadly reflective of many others. I admitted we were down to one or two subscription magazines--from the days of yesteryear when it seemed like we received and read at least a magazine a week. They were too.

I tell you this because on Monday, the venerable Conde Nast announced its plans to halt publication of Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, news that reverberated throughout the publishing community like a lead balloon. Certainly writers across the country will be impacted by this decision.

To be fair, two out of those four publications covered niches that could have probably been served by the other two, but it is never pleasant to hear of any publication closing its doors, whatever its circulation.

Gourmet's editor, Ruth Reichl, is something of a cult figure in the foodie world, as is the magazine, so it was no surprise to learn that they are maintaining their imprint on the web, in book publishing and on television. In other words, ad sales for the magazine just couldn't cut it.

No surprise there. Pick up any issue of any magazine and you'll find you can flip through it in about ten minutes. Time magazine, with its redesigned format, does not even beg to be purchased: you can literally read it while standing at the magazine kiosk in the airport. And yes, ad sales are too blame.

It is also the continual debate about who reads magazines anyway? Practically everything they contain can be found on line, for free. And if we, subscribers to three daily newspapers, have let our other print subscriptions slide, that must be telling you something.

There are those that believe a shift in the economy and habits of consumption is the perfect time to break into the market. Perhaps so, but my guess is that for magazines, the niches are probably growing smaller and smaller and one that does not rely on dated content--rather content that is "timeless"--just might make it.

In the meantime, four more printed records of consumer behavior bite the dust.....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coincidence? I Wonder...

So I know I am a few days off, but a thought just occurred to me about October 4. Two remarkable coincidences....or maybe not.

October 4, 1989 was the day that Secretariat (pictured above) was euthanized due to laminitis, the painful foot disease that also proved to be the demise of Barbaro. October 4, 2005 was also the day Barbaro broke his maiden at Delaware Park.

Yes, I know, sixteen years apart, but there is something remarkably consistent about that October day. I was ideally hoping that Lentenor would start racing on the same day, but apparently we are going to have to wait until the end of the month.

In the meantime, the laminitis battle is still being waged and a big conference is on tap November 4-6 in West Palm Beach about current research with vets reporting from all over the world. Penn will be well represented, and while lots of developments have been made, a cure is still out there.

Wouldn't that just be something if, not too far in the distant future, they announced a cure had been found on that same October day?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Geese Crossing!

Why did the geese cross the road?

To get to the other side of course!!

These are the geese that wander the ground of nearby Haverford College where I frequently walk. They are so tame that they do not move out of your way when you are walking in their path--in fact the other day I heard a car honking LOUDLY to get them to move so the driver could pass.

They frequently don't.

The geese are so embedded (literally and figuratively) in these grounds that it would be hard to imagine the beautiful surroundings without them. At the same time, it is clear that they have proliferated to the point of almost taking over.

They are not nasty, mind you. Just plentiful. In fact, they congregate around the duck pond on campus and take advantage of all the bread offerings that residents and toddlers toss to them. I wonder if they would be so plentiful if we stopped feeding them.

For now, the college has not done anything to encourage or discourage those who feed the geese, but I can't help but wonder if they may have to. To be honest, I have never seen or heard a goose get run over by a car but I am sure they have. To be sure, the first time a child gets nipped, the college may take action.

In the meantime, all seem to be dwelling in harmony and patience. For the time being....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bright Lights at Churchill Downs

News out of Churchill Downs is all about luminescence! After an experimental three days of racing under the lights last Spring, the Board of Directors has voted to install permanent lights at the track. Still unknown: how many races will actually be contested under the lights but its safe to say they will be a hit with the fans. The move is also designed to attract the working crowd to racing, a sport that is usually contested during the day.

There's another reason the spotlight is shining on Churchill Downs and that is because Disney was in town recently filming some scenes for the upcoming movie about Secretariat. They changed the banner between the twin spires to read "99th running, 1973" referring of course to the Kentucky Derby that Secretariat won. What a great time warp for the folks there--a return to the true glory days of racing!

Diane Lane portrays owner Penny Tweedy (Chenery) in the film and John Malkovich plays trainer Lucien Lauren. Journeyman rider Otto Thornwarth portrays jockey Ron Turcotte. Hundreds of extras were cast from locals who were told to appear at the track in 1970s attire!

With Disney behind it, we know the film will be professional and it certainly will shine a spotlight on the sport of racing. Secretariat remains one of the great horse heroes of all times and certainly made the leap from the sports pages to the front pages. This movie is long overdue, but you know what they say about a great story--that it is timeless.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dog Days at Local Universities

Before I discovered the off-leash dog park, I used to walk my dogs around the Bryn Mawr College campus. Truth be told, they caused quite a bit of excitement on the part of the students. So many of them would gravitate toward my wagging golden retrievers and ask to pet them and I heard the lament, "Oh, I miss my dog" on a fairly frequent basis. One professor used to say I should bring them regularly around 5:00PM when most freshmen were wandering about, because it would help them adjust to life without pets.

Well it turns out that Susquehanna University was a step ahead of that professor. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, on Tuesdays during the month of September, professors and other friends of the University bring their dogs to campus for an hour to interact with the students, specifically freshmen. The "Dog Days" program has proved to be a resounding success.

"The fact is that students miss their pet, sometimes more than they miss their families," said Anna Beth Payne, associate dean of student life and director of the university's counseling center.

Dog Days have been a part of the campus for the last five years and consistently draw a crowd of about a dozen dogs and lots of students on their way in and out of the dining hall. Most are delighted to pet, talk to and generally hang out with furry friends. And professors, it seems, are especially delighted to get a chance to interact with students on an informal basis.

"This gives them a chance to see me as a regular person with an old grumpy dog, whom I love dearly, that they can come love and pet, and they don't need to be afraid of me," said biology professor Jan Reichard-Brown. A bonus of the sessions is that many students have admitted to larger adjustment issues that have led then to the counseling center.

The idea has proved popular at other campuses as well. Nearby Gettysburg and Bucknell offer versions of Dog Days although some campuses prefer using certified therapy dogs. At Susquehanna the owners merely sign papers to say their pooches are up to date on shots and friendly.

From my informal wanderings, I know dogs can be great ice-breakers and those wagging tails do seem to put everyone at ease. My happy tails are ready and able to offer their service to whatever local universities need their affection!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lentenor Early Fan Favorite For the Derby

Yes, we are seven months away from that first Saturday in May but according to the folks at, it's never too early to start thinking about possible Derby contenders. Head on over to their blog, "You Make the Call" and see their list of suggestions that include Dublin and Back Talk, two year olds who have both seen their share of races this year.

But then scroll down through the comments and you'll find a name missing from the list that has somehow managed to garner the most votes: Lentenor. Amazing. The horse hasn't even broken his maiden and fans have him winning the Derby.

Stranger things have happened so I am not about to disagree with them but what truly astounds me is the sentimentality that surrounds Barbaro's second brother. The story continues with most fans crafting an incredible ending. Wouldn't that just be something if a brother of Barbaro challenged one of the sons of Smarty Jones (Backtalk) for the roses? Talk about made for Hollywood plots!!

I have reason to believe that Lentenor will make his first start this month at Delaware Park, on either the turf or the dirt, depending on which race comes up when Michael Matz deems him ready. Barbaro broke his maiden on October 2, so Matz has been here before.

There is no way this race will go off unnoticed, so keep your eye on your local papers. Rumors are flying that Lentenor is highly thought of by both his owner and trainer, but always remember that so many things can happen to a racehorse that just getting him to the track should be considered an accomplishment in itself. Let's pray for good health and a safe journey for Lenny when those starting gates open for him for the first time!

So many dreams are riding on his back.....

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Mysterious European Eel

The tiny eel completes a long and arduous journey in its lifetime, returning to its birthplace in the Sargasso Sea, near Bermuda, from points as far flung as Northern Africa. This fact is courtesy of a recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer that sheds light on the feats accomplished by this mysterious animal.

"It's one of the great riddles of biology," said researcher Kim Aarestrup of the University of Denmark. European eels, which are considered a culinary delicacy in Europe, are born in the Sargasso Sea, and drift, as larvae, to their eventual residences from North Africa to Norway. Sometime around the age of 30, each eel begins the remarkable journey back to their spawning ground, some tracking as many as 3,100 miles.

Aarestrup and his colleagues tracked some 21 eels over the first part of this journey (approximately 800 miles) and discovered that they hardly travel in a straight line. They travel predominantly near the surface by night and swim in much deeper water during the day. They also travel fairly slowly.

The problem is that researchers are running out of eels to study because the majority of them get eaten by Europeans. Overfishing has led to a significant drop in the eel population. It is likely that this animal's remarkable tracking abilities will remain unknown until they stop appearing grilled, fried or smoked in various recipes from France to Norway.

For now, we can only marvel at their feats of navigation and hope that enough of them to survive so that we can better understand this homing instinct.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Where in the World is Alex Brown?

Anyone wondering what happened to Alex Brown the webmaster of the original site, Tim Woolley Racing, home to all things Barbaro, need look no farther than this first of two videos produced by Woodbine Race Track and shown on the Canadian sports channel to find out what he is up to. As you will see, Alex is very much alive and well, dedicated to ending horse slaughter and exercising horses at Woodbine.

Part II below.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Century Young!

Anyone or thing that makes it to 100 years old must be doing something right! In my neck of the woods, Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, a beloved no-kill pet shelter, has reached the century mark and is facing its second century with a focus on getting it message and mission out to the general public.

Francisvale touts itself as the oldest, continuously operating no-kill shelter in the United States. As the legend goes, it was founded by Harriet McClellan in 1909 and named for their dog, Francis, a stray whom they adopted while on their way to the theater in Philadelphia on New Year's Eve, 1897. Their carriage happened to pass by a puppy shivering in a snowbank. They adopted it on the spot and named it Francis. He was such a fabulous dog that he inspired Harriet to open a shelter for other stray dogs. Francisvale was founded on the grounds it occupies now along Philadelphia's Main Line.

The property is tucked away on a hillside and is known predominantly for its pet cemetery with small tombstones marking the graves of beloved cats and dogs. There are a few horses buried there as well along with a monkey. Many do not realize that the property is also home to a small but well-run shelter for 25 dogs and 45 cats. The average stay for dogs is three days and new screening policies have resulted in fewer returns.

Within the last few years, a new generation of volunteers has brought Francisvale into the 21st century both in terms of visibility and improvements. Dogs are housed in air-conditioned kennels with outside runs, fed twice a day and tucked in with a blanket and toy at night. Cats are permitted to roam at will inside their white shingled cottage.

One of the most recent "converts" to the Francisvale bandwagon is Shana Bowa, the ex-wife of former Phillies first baseman, Larry Bowa, who loves animals and volunteers regularly at the shelter. She has helped lend a higher profile to the previously tucked away, gem, that was reluctant to tout its existence or its success since its capacity is so small.

Nonetheless, 100 years is a significant milestone so they clearly must be doing a lot of things rights. Happy Birthday Francisvale and here's to the next century!