Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Long and Winding Road to Best Sellerdom

As I ponder the outcomes of my two pending book proposals (both of which have been tentatively acquired by publishers although I still do not have a contract for either of them), I am reminded, once again why publishing is a struggling industry. I am also reminded that it has always been this way, especially when I read about Rebecca Skloot.

Skloot is the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the story of one unknown woman who became a medical hero. Lacks died in 1951 of cervical cancer but unknown to her family, her cells, which were sampled by her physicians at Johns Hopkins, continued to reproduce in the laboratory and became the basis for countless research projects that continue to advance our knowledge of disease.

Skloot tracked down the story of this woman which became her MFA thesis in creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. The book has just recently cracked the best seller list in nonfiction.

But the story of its publication demonstrates the pitfalls of the industry. To begin with, the book took ten years to write and then made its way through three publishing houses and four editors. The first publisher folded; she got out of her contract with the second because she disagreed with the editor's concept of the book. At that point the manuscript was auctioned and Crown won. But editorial trials remained as the book was "orphaned" twice more at Crown when editors there moved elsewhere.

The book, finally published under the Crown imprint, has generated a lot of excitement, including a spot on ABC Nightly News. O magazine has bought first serial rights and it is Barnes and Nobles Discover Great New Writers title for Spring 2010.

All of which is nice, and rewarding, but comes with the toll that a decade of being bounced around can take. Granted Skloot, who by now is an established medical writer and creative writing professor, had other projects to keep her occupied over the long haul, but the roller coaster ride, complete with stops and starts, is never easy.

All of which is both heartening and disheartening as I continue to put my projects into other people's hands.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Yet Another Snow Day

It's getting old around here--yet another snow event, this time a two day affair beginning with heavy wet snow and ending with fine stuff blowing and swirling in 35 mph winds.

These photos are from Day 1, when the park was indeed beautiful, quiet and very calm except for the cool runnings of my pack.

What is it about a stick that makes it all the more delectable in the snow?

Phoebe was after some scent and once again acted like half her almost nine years in the snow!

Acqueduct canceled its card for Friday and Saturday due to snow and high winds.

Will Spring ever come?

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Lessons of Free Willy

Did you ever see the movie Free Willy? I can't remember what year it was but I do remember taking my young kids to see it. I also remember my daughter, who couldn't have been much more than three or four, crying her eyes out before the opening title sequence was even over. This is going to be along movie, I remember thinking.

The titles were superimposed over the back story of how Willy was captured and brought to Sea World, or wherever he was supposed to have been performing. I remember lots of nets and lots of sniffles, which were allayed when she realized that the point of the movie was to return Willy from whence he came.

All of which explains my reaction to the death of a whale trainer at Sea World on Wednesday. Why is it that a three year old can figure out that the killer whale in question should never have been in captivity while the executives at Sea World are busy refining their safety procedures?

If you were a wild beast confined to a white tank, without the ability to hunt your own food, much less swim in open waters to find it, I guarantee you too would eventually bite the hand that fed you. Killer whales quite simply are not tourist attractions unless they are swimming in the open sea, at which point you might not want to get in their way.

I am sorry a trainer lost her life but even sorrier that the whale in question is going to be blamed for being aggressive. Trust me, even a three year old can figure out what's wrong with this picture.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Daddy the Pit Bull

While I am not a huge fan of Cesar Milan, I do give the man tremendous credit for creating his own "brand" of seemingly everything including himself. His work with dogs, especially pit bulls, has also done the breed a tremendous service by demonstrating the inaccuracy of their often maligned image.

It is with sadness then that I report on the death of Milan's most famous pit bull, Daddy, who passed away on February 19 at the age of 16. While 16 is indeed a long and wonderful life, it is never long enough for those who loved him.

For those of yo familiar with Milan, you will recognize Daddy as his "right hand man," the one who helped train and shape an entire generation of dogs who would model his behavior. A sweet, gently soul who demonstrated the true nature of the breed, Daddy will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him.

"A good dog never dies
He always stays. . . "
Mary Carolyn Davis

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Penn Vet Budget Slashed

The morale and the budget at the Univ. of Pa. Vet School are pretty much at the same place these days--low. As of last week, the state appropriation for the Vet School had been cut 30%, from nearly $43 million to $30 million. Historically, the vet school has received about 35% of its funding from the state. That difference of $13 million is huge and apparent every where you look.

For starters, the Vet School has had to eliminate the Center for Infectious Disease Research, the center that studies diseases that have the potential to move from animals to people and vice versa. The cut, is "huge," says Dean Joan Hendricks.

In addition, about 150 positions have been eliminated through layoffs and attrition and that includes vet techs and nurses, the worker bees of Penn's large and small animal hospitals. And the budget situation threatens the financial aid allowances of about half of the schools 500 students.

Also on the chopping block is the Moral Critical Care Center, under construction at New Bolton Center. The Center, which will feature an isolation unit for animals with contagious diseases, is expensive to operate--Hendricks estimates about $200,000 annually for utilities alone--and will probably not open on time this summer.

Construction costs are one thing, as the Vet School has already learned from the recent construction of the Hill Pavilion on the downtown campus. Operating these new facilities, in addition to servicing the debt required to build them, can often put an institution in a precarious financial situation.

The cut in some of the clinical programs has left many students with even more debt as they enroll in postgraduate programs to help plug the gaps they feel in their skill sets. And the weak economy has cut the revenues of the school's animal hospitals as even the most indulgent pet owners are reconsidering the costs associated with expensive treatments.

The bottom line is that the cuts are larger than anticipated and fell on an already overburdened institution. "This is dangerous," Hendricks said. "We're part of the public health system and the work we do protects people."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What Does Contented Sound Like?

I don't know about you, but car rides with three canine companions can be awfully challenging, not to mention noisy. En route to the dog park in the mornings, I usually drive to a unique symphony of Sam barking and Phoebe singing--both directly into my ears (at least it seems that way.)

Imagine my surprise when I recently decided to switch on the radio's classical music station and I heard something I haven't heard in what seems like a millennium: silence. In fact, it was content silence if there is such a thing. Amos was lulled into such a peaceful state that he practically fell off the seat!

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to those, like Lisa Spector, who have made a career out of calming music for dogs. And silly me--I actually have her CDs!! (Rest assured they are now loaded in my car CD player!)

Spector, a concert pianist with a Julliard degree, has created a series of CDs called Through a Dog's Ear, billed as the "only research-based auditory series that provides practical sound-based solutions to help your dog live a happier healthier life." I will not bore you with all the details but these CDs are based on science and Spector's performances are timed at around 50 beats per minute--which is exactly the tempo dogs like to hear. I guarantee you that whatever was playing on the radio the other day was the same tempo.

Curious? Have a look at her website and check out her interview on And trust me, I will not leave home without her CDs now that I have heard the sounds of silence!

Monday, February 22, 2010

What's For Dinner?

It's not Sam, but I wish I had thought of this!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Pug Shall Lead the Way!

Last week's New York Times Science section featured an interview with Princeton professor, Samuel Wang, author of Welcome to Your Brain, 2009 Young Adult Science Book of the Year. In it, he revealed that he is currently investigating the relationship between dog brain size and dog breed characteristics, a project that came about because he took his pug to the vet.

"At the vet's office, there were all these M.R.I.'s sitting around, hundreds of them, and it struck me: 'Hey, dogs aren't covered by Hipaa! Their records aren't confidential!"

Since then, Wang, with the cooperation of vets on Long Island and in Maryland, has compiled " a gold mine of data," and is working on deciphering the relationship between brain structure and behavior. "We're asking, Do we find a larger cortex--the part of the brain that's involved in problem solving and intelligence--in those breeds that are good at problem solving? Or, Could we find a larger amygdala, which is related to emotional responses, in dogs that are known to be high strung or nasty?"

Wang is not sure if there are implications for humans in this research since human brains do not differ that much in size from person to person, but it is another example of research across species that may hold some clues as to how brain size does effect characteristics in general.

And to think, it was all inspired by the professor's pug, who he describes as "very sweet, but not the brightest!"

Saturday, February 20, 2010

More on Lenny

Watch this video all the way through and you will see two interviews with Michael Matz both before and after Lentenor's last race. Can you see the disappointment on his face after his second place finish at Gulfstream earlier this week?

Or maybe it was frustration because looking back, the pieces just didn't seem to fall into place for Lenny early on. Remember, he couldn't get into a race when he was ready to break his maiden and had to wait until earlier this year.

Regardless, Lenny may need some time to mature but he also may need to try out the dirt. Chances are, given the look on Matz's face after the race, that he may go the conservative route and enter Lenny in another allowance race (same conditions as his last--non-winners of two) before moving him up in class to a grades stakes.

The playing catch up is the frustrating part because Lenny, had he been able to break his maiden in December when he couldn't get into a race, would be that much farther along. I think he can run with the big boys--the question is when.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thorn Song's Amazing Recovery

Huge news in the fight against laminitis comes in the form of the remarkable recovery made by seven year old Thorn Song, who was injured in his final start last summer at Del Mar. He was sent to Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos, California under the care of Dr. Doug Herthel.

Thorn Song's injuries included a partially ruptured deep digital flexor tendon and severe infections, including multiple abscesses. Herthel got the horse through those injuries only to have him develop laminitis. According to Bloodhorse, in October the prognosis for Thorn Song was so bleak that his vets recommended that he be put down.

Enter one distraught owner, Ahmed Zayat, who had called the equine hospital every day to check on his horse. "Mr. Zayat was devastated," said Herthel. "He was actually crying on the phone. I've had thousands of clients and you could tell he genuinely cared about this horse."

Zayat's mortality insurance claim for $2.75 million was paid off by the insurance company, North American Specialty Insurance Company, on October 19, 2009. But instead of putting the horse down, Herthel decided to try "a last ditch effort" to save the horse and injected him with stem cells grown from the horse's bone marrow. Though Herthel has been very successful with this technique for the treatment of joint, tendon and ligament issues, he has not had much luck with stem cell therapy on the handful of horses with laminitis, on which he has tried the technique.

But what did he have to lose? "I thought there would still be less than 10% chance for him even if we tried stem cell," said Herthel. "But within 48 hours we saw a turnaround. There was a dramatic decrease in pain and swelling, and within two weeks we started seeing amazing hoof growth. We were blown away. It went beyond our expectations. It may be the most exciting thing I have ever seen. Technology is moving forward."

Herthel emphasizes that Thorn Song, who is now owned by the insurance company, is not completely out of the woods, but he continues to make progress. He even gives the horse a 70% chance of becoming a stallion!

What an amazing breakthrough. I know that stem cell therapy has been tried in horses with laminitis before without success but the key question here is what was different about Thorn Song? Why did it work this time?

These are questions veterinarians and scientists will continue to ponder as science takes another giant leap forward.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lentenor A Game Second

I think it was a good race--Lentenor's that is and I think it's time to try him on the dirt. I'm not usually so definitive but I feel pretty strongly that this was an impressive show of character and Lentenor, assuming he came out of the race well, learned an awful lot.

In my humble opinion, I think it's time to try him on the dirt. At this point, even if he is not a Derby horse, what have they got to lose? If he wins, well that opens up a world of possibilities. If he doesn't, well then he's a turf horse and now we know.

As for the Preakness or the Belmont, well he's never run that far, not that he can't. Regardless, he has got to race on the dirt before we can even look or think that far ahead.

In the meantime, Lentenor is an awfully nice horse--maybe not a Derby horse but he has NEVER been out of the money in his four starts. That in itself is an impressive feat--granted not as impressive as Barbaro's Triple Crown campaign, but honorable and significant just the same.

Yes, the pace was slow. Yes, I believe the turf course was deep and yes, there was an awful lot of bumping going on. If I was the owner of St. Eligius, I would actually be pretty angry. Doubles Partner really cut off that horse and Lentenor just got the residual effect of the impact.

If you look at the replay head one, you can see a very important thing as the horses turn for home--especially in the head on shot. Lentenor is the only horse who is properly positioned at the top of the stretch--exactly where he is supposed to be which means he made the turn perfectly. Doubles Partner is all over the place, which is probably why he bumped coming through on the rail.

The point of this observation is that Lentenor has learned a lot--no more looking around going down the stretch. He is focused on the finish line and to me, that means its time to try the dirt and see just where he stands.

The Florida Derby was a significant race for Barbaro. I think it could be for his brother and I'd love to see him run.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Give Them The Coat Off Your Back

Do you have an old fur coat or fur blanket lying around? Regardless of how you came by it, the Humane Society has an alternative use for it: donate it to help other animals.

In a program dubbed Coats for Cubs, the Humane Society transforms unwanted fur items into nests and beds for orphaned, injured or sick wildlife. According to an article in the Inquirer, 2687 fur items were donated in 2009. Hats are especially prized because they are round, the shape of natural nests.

"We use the discarded furs as bedding to give the animals comfort and reduce stress," says Michael Markarian, Chief Operating Officer. "The fur garments act as a surrogate mother. It is a warm and furry substitute." The bunnies above certainly look warm and cozy.

The coats are always needed, but especially in the winter, and especially in the northeast, where, in case you haven't heard, we are being bombarded by blizzards. The current drive technically ends on Earth Day, April 22, but the Humane Society will accept donations any day of the year.

You can send them to any group affiliated with the Humane Society--check local wildlife shelters for example--or turn them in to any Buffalo Exchange Store.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Business of Sport

It was a tough choice last night--what to watch Westminster or the Olympics? In the end, I chose the Olympics and TIVO-ed Westminster and can't help wonder if the article in Sunday's NY Times, about the hype, dough (as in money) and public relations campaign it takes to win a coveted Best in Show, clouded my judgment.

In case you missed it, I offer the following quote and see if it reminds you of some other sport:

"[In] the most prestigious event on the thoroughbred canine calendar, money will quietly play a role in determining the winner, just as money quietly shaped the filed of contenders--and just as money shapes almost every nook and cranny of the dog show business."

Did you catch that word "thoroughbred?" I think the writer may have confused dogs with horses, but the sentiment is valid for either sport. Money talks and just as few dogs have won Westminster without the deep pockets of their owners (and a media pr campaign that includes spreads in the trade publications), few horses have won an Eclipse without a similar well crafted campaign.

All those ads in Bloodhorse for stud farms tell the tale. Its all about wins, losses and black typeface and it costs a pretty penny to campaign a horse in the Big Time. You're up against a lot of deep pockets that may not be as deep as they once were, but know how to play the game.

In the end, is Westminster any different that horse racing? An elite sport to be sure, that has built an entire industry around taking care of its own. And what happens when that barrier begins to crumble just a little bit? Well instead of opening up the gates to the masses, they close ranks even tighter to plug the hole.

To be sure, horse racing is much less subjective--a horse either wins or loses, regardless of how he looks, but for those who think the sport is not for the insiders, well think again. It takes a long time to crack the code and just when you think you've got it, they change the combination.

Don't get me wrong. I love both sports for what they are, but wonder how long they can continue to play to themselves.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lenny Races Again

All eyes are on Gulfstream this Wednesday for Lentenor's race, the 8th, (an Allowance) on the turf. As of this writing, he is the favorite and probably will go off as such.

As Michael Matz has indicated, he is listening to the horse (I believe he is one trainer who usually does) and will be paying close attention as to whether or not Lenny is ready to make a run at the big time. A lot is riding on this race.

I would say that Lentenor has to make a very impressive showing. Ideally he should win but that is not the only indicator of success. He needs to demonstrate that he "gets it"--that he knows that the object of a race is to win by getting to the lead and staying there and that he can respond to different race conditions.

Johnny Velasquez is up once again so look for a textbook ride. He will try to rate the horse and get him to relax under a firm hold along the backstretch--easier said than done. Then look for an indication that Lenny has a second and even third gear--that he will accelerate when asked and then perhaps even accelerate again.

And pay attention to his demeanor down the stretch. Ideally he should be looking straight ahead not at the crowd--all indications that he is growing into the shoes of a horse on the Derby trail. Yes, he may still be green, but the general idea is that he is not going to make the same mistakes twice.

Say a prayer. Light a candle and let's root him home way out in front. I think Lenny is ready for the big time but it's up to him to prove it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

From the Dog's Mouth to Your Heart

Sometimes you just have to hear it from the horse's (or in this case dog's) mouth: talking dogs express their love on Valentine's Day and every day!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Girls Will Meet

And so it will happen--what will certainly be billed as the Meeting of the Mares-- Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will go head to head in the revised Apple Blossom, now scheduled to be run on April 9.

The $5 million still holds; it is only the date that has changed, especially after Jess Jackson, owner of Rachel said she would not run on the original date of April 3. Instead Jackson proposed a three race series.

Charles Cella, President of Oaklawn would not be deterred. He cajoled both owners into the new date and is now exuberant about the event. "I feel like we've been through the ringer on this thing. Now, we're really excited about it," he told USA Today. "This is truly a race for the ages."

Both horses will run one prep race before the big day and of course, both have to remain healthy. So keep your fingers crossed!!!

April 9 should be a day to remember!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Winter of Our Discontent

In case you haven't heard, we here in the Middle Atlantic States have been under a blizzard seige since the month of February started. On Wednesday, we got hit on top of the 28" inches we already had on the ground. This is my road early Thursday morning, which you can see had been plowed but was still snow covered and very slippery, but beautiful.

Not everyone is unhappy. Sam just loves it, although it is so cold that these snow piles are crusted over and he does not even sink in.

It is hard to show you what 44 inches of snow looks like but let's just say that this fence, around our property, is five feet tall. Yes, you read that first number correctly. According to the radio yesterday morning, we here in the Philadelphia area have had 44 inches of snow in the first ten days of February--to put that in perspective that is over 10% of the amount that Philadelphia has ever received in the history of the city.

We have had to dig trenches for the dogs to be able to go out in the backyard. Needless to say, our backs are sore, and we are beginning to wonder what is going to happen when it all begins to melt. Did anyone say mud?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Home Away From Home For Military Pets

My state senator, Robert P. Casey, Jr., sends an monthly email newsletter to his constituents. This month's version features a wonderful organization Paw Prints/Canine Corps in Landisburg, Pa that is doing exemplary work.

The organization, which was founded three years ago, is a nonprofit that houses, free of charge, the pet dogs of Pennsylvania military personnel who are deployed overseas. The founders, Kevin McCartin, a former marine, and Mrs. Laurie Lyon saw a need and created a "home away from home" for the dogs whose owners are defending and protecting our country.

The facility consists of a large Amish-built barn, divided into 200 to 400 square foot rooms the pets share with "compatible roommates." The rooms are "furnished" with couches, blankets and chew toys and each opens to an outdoor fenced in play area. The pets are allowed to roam between indoors and out at will.

The grounds include five acres of walking trails where volunteers exercise the pets faithfully. In addition, Paw Prints/Canine Corps also adopts older dogs from shelters, many of whom would be euthanized, and have many for adoption on their website.

There are currently 19 military dogs in residence at the facility and their website features photos of many pets reunited with their owners when they come home.

What a wonderful idea and what a generous concept! It underlines once again the many sacrifices our military personnel make to defend our nation and gives them one less thing to worry about while they are doing so.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Second Chances

I recently finished an article about religion, specifically Judaism, behind prison walls. It was fascinating and actually reinforced the importance of volunteers in the lives of prisoners. Their visits, which are often religious in nature, give the prisoners a welcome respite from the regiment of their days.

Many of the volunteers that I spoke with talked about the concept of not abandoning someone just because he/she had made a mistake. All of which reinforced the notion of giving people second chances, which brings me, in a very round-about way to Michael Vick. (You knew I was going somewhere with this. . . )

Anyway, the Philadelphia Inquirer recently ran a story about the future of the Philadelphia Eagles' commitment to animal welfare issues since Michael Vick's future with the team is uncertain. "Plans to have Eagles players appear at animal related fund raisers, issue player and pet trading cards, and release pet-friendly public service announcements have not yet materialized."

Many are wondering whether all of this talk was just designed to appease the public until Vick could make his mark on the playing field. He did see limited action; he did throw for at least one touchdown that I remember and he also made his share of errors. No decision yet on whether or not his contract will be extended but I do believe he proved his worth on the playing field by literally getting himself back in the game.

As for whether or not he proved that he had mended his ways, I do believe that remains to be seen. And so the issue here seems not to be about second chances but arenas in which those chances occur. Do the Eagles deserve credit for believing enough in Vick as a player to afford him the opportunity to return to the field? Absolutely.

But do they deserve credit for helping him make amends for what he did to animals? That remains to be seen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Potential Showdown at Oaklawn

We'll know long before April 3 if that will be the day that superstars Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta finally meet, but if Charles Cella, Oaklawn president, has his druthers, the day will go down in sports history. A recent announcement by Cella sweetened the pot for the Grade I Apple Blossom to $5 million, "provided that champions Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both start."

According to Cella, both owners are "enthusiastic" about the prospect, provided of course that their horses are "ready." The distance of the race, traditionally one mile and a sixteenth, will be extended to a mile and an eighth and if both superstars enter, the race will become an "invitational" with other leaders in the filly and mare division invited to compete. One would also assume they would all carry the same weight, since it is not a handicap.

We know both horses have begun light training. Whether or not they each need a race prior to the April 3 Apple Blossom is up their respective trainers but I would think they would each like a prep on dirt at the same distance. What is interesting is that both Rachel and Zenyatta like the track at Oaklawn, having each won significant races there, Zenyatta as a four year old and Rachel last year.

So look for some action, entry wise, from each "camp" and hope that the horses remain sound and in training. This could potentially be one of the most exciting races in thoroughbred history if and when it happens.

If it doesn't, the race will revert to its original status (as of Feb.4), with a purse of $500,000 guaranteed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

So Now We Know....

Talk about "from the horse's mouth." Saturday's New York Times carries the following quote from Michael Matz, referring to Lentenor: "I do think he is good enough [for the Kentucky Derby]. I don't want to do too much with him now because I don't want to be out of horse if we do get to one of the classic races. We'll see with his next race. He'll tell us from race to race where's he going to go."

Wow. Lenny is officially on the Derby Trail and we heard it from none other that his trainer. Matz also let it be known that Lenny's next race would be Feb. 17--an allowance race at Gulfstream and from there, perhaps the Florida Derby.

As for the turf/dirt thing. Well he is going to stick with the turf for the next race and if all goes well, then move him to dirt for the Florida Derby. If it sounds familiar it is because that is exactly what Matz did with Barbaro. Switch slowly, when the time seemed right.

I truly do not believe the turf/dirt question is one to lose sleep over. Lentenor has been training nicely on dirt and seems to move fairly effortlessly between the two surfaces. If anything, the early races on turf are kinder and gentler to his still growing legs.

Some other good news. Lentenor, according to Matz, "came out of [his last] race terrific," which shows that he is hale, hearty and sound. And he also expects big things from Nicanor some this Spring.

Sounds like a lot to look forward to beginning with February 17 when all eyes will be on Gulfstream.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Puppy Bowl VI!!!

Yes its Super Bowl Sunday but that means only one thing: Puppy Bowl VI, on Animal Planet from 3:00 P.M.

Check your local listings and if anyone is wondering I'm rooting for the Saints. Peyton Manning has enough rings.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Luke and the Boys on Today Show!

Luke and the boys, Hudson and Murphy, were on the Today Show yesterday and they got a lot of air time! Please click on the link above to watch the video of their appearance and learn about their new initiative, Two Million Dogs.

"I figure if I can walk 2000 miles with two dogs, two million dogs can walk two miles and raise money and awareness for canine cancer," is what Luke was going to say when they had to break for commercial. You can sign up and pledge a dog at their website.

While there, you can also read about the big plans underway for the Boston celebration the weekend of June 18th including a day long conference on comparative oncology, and pledge your support.

Puppy up!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Paige, the Wonder Dog!

Now I have all the incentive I need to lobby for a side loading washer and dryer--the dogs could load the washer, or at the very least unload the dryer! Think I'm kidding? Watch the video of Paige the border collie doing the laundry.

Quoted on Pawnation, Paige's owner, Lauren Girard of Washington, D. C. says she showed two year old Paige "the laundry trick; she figured it out" and then Lauren filmed it.

Could Sammy do this? I think so, if you don't mind a little slobber on your socks along with the possibility that some clean clothing might end up on the floor. The trick, as I see it, would be to reward him with a treat each time he pulled something out of the dryer and put it in the basket and vice versa.

Now, can anybody teach a dog to vacuum?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Temple Grandin Film on HBO

TIVO alert!! The HBO original docu-drama about Temple Grandin, noted animal activist and autistic will air Saturday, Feb. 6 at 8:00 PM. The film stars Claire Danes as the scholar who pretty much revolutionized the way we view and treat large animals, especially those bound for slaughter.

She claims that her autism allows her to see what animals see and she truly has turned what might be viewed as a liability (autism) into an asset in her profession.

Whatever you think of her methods, the film looks amazing. I, for one, am looking forward to watching it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Six More Weeks of Winter

Since I live in Pennsylvania, albeit a distance from the infamous Gobbler's Knob, I feel some loyalty to Punxsutawney Phil and his yearly predictions. Unfortunately, they have proven to be correct only about 75% of the time.

As my husband says, "It's always six more weeks of winter." And he's probably right since Punxsutawney is hardly the one doing the predicting as you will see in the video. It's all in the hands of the handlers--literally and figuratively.

So burrow in and just be glad that Phoebe wasn't the one who chased old Phil from his hibernation. Then we might have had never had spring.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Unlikely Animal Friends

This wonderful National Geographic video is about a most unusual friendship that I think you will find heartwarming.


Monday, February 1, 2010

There Were Three in the Bed.....

So we are three days away from our new bed--and yes, it is all because of Sam! Well, not actually, but he had a lot to do with it. There simply is not enough room in a Queen sized bed for animals and people to co-exist. We have known this for a while but Sam was the tipping point!

I had to laugh when I read a recent Wall Street Journal article, headlined "When it's Time to Kick the Dog Out of the Bed" about how dogs have often come between spouses. There are tales of new boyfriends being awakened at night by growling German Shepherds and mothers feeding their dogs better than their kids. All of which may indeed be true, but I am here to report that while Sam may literally come between my husband and me, it is because he is equally loved by both of us!

"In my experience, pets do fine with relationships as long as the relationship is doing well," says Katherine Brodsky, a clinical social worker in New Hampshire. "But when the couple is having problems, often the pets are used as weapons for one partner against the other, jut as children are."

Not everyone lets their pets onto the bed but we have always done so. Not everyone takes us up on our generosity--Phoebe prefers to sleep elsewhere and Amos is usually on the floor. But Sam has found his spot and he's not budging!

By the way, the photo is how he looked after a recent romp in the park and a roll in something very smelly. You can bet he got a bath before he was allowed anywhere near any piece of furniture!