Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mom on a Mission

If you have ever doubted the strength of the maternal bond, play this video through to about 2 minutes, 13 seconds and you will see the mother hummingbird feed her baby in the hands of the man who rescued her baby and rehabbed it. It is unbelievable to think and then see the mother return to her offspring in the hands of a person!!

Moral of the story: Never mess with a mom on a mission that involves her kids!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Leading By Example

The Devon Horse Show has come and gone in my neck of the woods but a recent headline in the local Horse newspaper caught my eye: "Barbaro Half Brother Resurfaces in Show Ring."

It turns out that Man in Havana, half brother to Barbaro (and formerly owned by the Jacksons) has found a new career in the show ring. He recently competed at Devon as part of the Horse Hunt Team named Fat Chance Followers. His new owner is Joy Slater who rode him and said he was "a star." Horse Hunt Team is an event in which four horses jump the same course, one after the other, to simulate a fox hunt.

And how did she get this wonderful mount? "He was a give-away," she said. "Aren't I lucky to be able to play with a horse like that. What fun." The givers in this situation, are none other than Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who also owned Man in Havana's ill-fated brother, Barbaro.

It's funny. I remember interviewing the Jacksons a while back when Man in Havana was still in training with Michael Matz and hopes were high for his career as a race horse. But something happened and as Roy Jackson said, "He just didn't seem to want to run at all. We didn't see the point in pushing him." And so they gave him away to their neighbor Joy Slater for a pleasure horse.

Leave it to former Olympian Michael Matz to know a good pleasure horse when he sees one. He knew that Man in Havana was going to need time to mature and with age (he is now 6), he has indeed turned into an impressive competitor. He has racked up quite a few ribbons on the show circuit including some in Florida this past winter and his recent appearance at Devon shows he is indeed in the right place.

What a wonderful story that shows how deeply the Jacksons care about the animals in their charge. Man in Havana has found a new career that is bringing pride and pleasure to his new owner. "He's a really good guy," said Slater of her new mount. "His heart's in the right place. He just took a while to grow up. But aren't I really lucky to have him."

Works both ways, Joy. And aren't the Jacksons continuing to set an example for all horse owners as to how to do right by their horses.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ipad Review

Apple announced earlier this week that it had sold 3 million ipads in just 80 days. One of those is mine and while I truthfully have been too busy to play with it in earnest (other than downloading a bunch of apps), I know enough to tell you that it is an awesome piece of technology.

In the beginning, I did not need the 3G function because I seemed to be surrounded by Wi-Fi. However, I took the ipad on our latest photo shoot last week and quickly discovered that while on the road, 3G is a necessity. What is great is that you activate the service directly from the ipad and receive a nice email that explains when your service expires and what to do if you don't want to roll it over. That's right--unless you cancel, you get charged for the next month once the first month expires. Note to self: remember to cancel 3G unless it is needed in July.

Photos are amazing although it is a bit annoying not to be able to delete a photo directly on the ipad--you need to do this on the desktop and then resynch the ipad--which I did by the way and it worked perfectly. Watching video and TV (yes the ABC app is FREE) is also fabulous and movies equally astounding. The screen in short is impressive.

This is perhaps the greatest machine ever known for reading email, although that alone would not make me buy it. What sold me was the fact that it cold be used as lap top and truly , with the addition of an external keyboard, it can. the word processing app (pages) is impressive in its own right and lets you email a document in word. I don't think you can print from the ipad--I'm sure you soon will be able to--so the concept of exporting everything to the desktop is critical.

I do love it but not for reading books--at least not yet. To me it feels too much like a computer while the Kindle feels more like a paperback. This is probably because I am used to the Kindle but there is a bit of a glare on the ipad that is not there on the Kindle. I will say, however, that for traveling, it is hard to beat the ipad. It basically does everything you need while on the road and is lightweight and easy to carry.

I know the second generation will be worth waiting for for those of you who are waiting but if you can't hold out, you won't be sorry. It is just the beginning of the next revolution.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

So here in Siberia a funny thing happened when all
systems shut down: it was quiet. No buzz from routers or
rings from telephones or background noise from TVs. Dare
I say it was pure bliss?

Maybe because the technology blackout coincided with the
departure of some adult children who came home to roost for
a while, but the sounds of an empty house were music to my ears.

I got lots of real work done without the temptation to respond to every
email. I finished reading two newspapers. And I actually could hear
myself think.

Not that I relish typing this blog on my iPhone--my daughter had absconded
with my ipad to a conference in Boston--but I did savor true quiet.

Try it sometime. Declare a personal blackout and see if you remember what
silence sounds like.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Technical Difficulties

We have had a bout of wild and crazy storms in the area resulting
in loss of most things electronic. Hence I am taking a short break
until consistent power is restored. Sorry for the inconvenience but
spotty coverage is often more frustrating than no coverage.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Technical Difficulties

We have had a bout of wild and crazy storms in the area resulting
in loss of most things electronic. Hence I am taking a short break
until consistent power is restored. Sorry for the inconvenience but
spotty coverage is often more frustrating than no coverage.
Chill! I'll be back soon!

Newest Craze or Just Plain Crazy?

An alarming new trend courtesy of the recent ad on the classified page of the Philadelphia Inquirer, with the headline, "Pigs as Pets?" got me thinking about the tendency to breed all things small. The article, which is basically an advertisement, talks about the new penchant for "teacup" pigs, a recent pet craze.

Teacup anything has become popular courtesy of the Paris Hilton types who are photographed toting their small charges on the streets of Beverly Hills and Manhattan, usually tucked into a designer purse with a strand of pearls around their petite necks. These miniature breeds are so inbred that they usually come with large problems that often necessitate huge amounts of cash to fix.

And now, apparently, we have teacup pigs, a blend of three varieties, that actually grow to be between 40 to 65 pounds, the equivalent of medium sized dogs. They can be litter box trained and seem suitable for those with allergies to dog dander, but beware, especially if you take pride in your housekeeping abilities and/or your lawn. And I quote: "Pigs need owners who can look on the bright side when their pet digs into the trash or escapes from its pen...Owners should fence of areas of their yards that they do not want to be destroyed by pigs 'rooting' or digging with their snouts."

Bottom line here is that pigs will be pigs and if you live on a farm and want to keep them for pets in suitable pig enclosures, more power to you. They are bright, love attention and the mud. But please do not stuff one into a chic tote and strut down the streets of New York no matter how adorable you might think you or they are.

You are doing a disservice to yourself and more importantly to the pig.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Scenes From a Photo Shoot

This pretty lady is Cornelia Guest, she of the famed Churchill and Guest families and back in the day, Debutante of the year. She is now making vegan cookies, a.k.a. known as Cornelia's cookies, and raising nine rescued dogs and a donkey on her beautiful family estate on Long Island.She is one of the "chefs" featured in our new book Lick Your Plate, due out in Fall 2011.

Sabina Pierce, photographer (you might know her as Barbaro's photographer) and I went to Cornelia's estate on Saturday to do her photo shoot for the book. Well Sabina was shooting and I was interviewing, in between playing with dogs, oogling at antiques and holding the light disk for Sabina.

Cornelia, who is about as honest and genuine as they come, was raised with animals and is a true animal lover. Her latest charge is one small 3 month old chihuahua she named Oscar because she rescued him from a dumpster. He follows her everywhere.

We had a beautiful day last Saturday at her estate, falling in love with the dogs (and even the donkey) and wandering the magnificent gardens. And yes she sent us home with the cookies to sample and they were delicious.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Congratulations to Luke, Hudson and Murphy who last weekend completed their historic trek from Austin to Boston to raise awareness for canine cancer. Over 800 days and 2000 miles and the boys arrived to quite the event in Boston! Read all about it here.

Back in February when Luke and the boys passed through Philadelphia we walked with them over the Ben Franklin bridge--crossing into New Jersey--and were invited to attend the festivities in Boston. Alas a photo shoot for the book took me in the other direction but I was most definitely there in spirit. Luke is doing amazing things to raise awareness for this awful disease and he is going to continue his life's mission by enlisting the help of as many dogs as possible. More to come as the plans evolve.

Meanwhile I am not sure whether this is Hudson or Murphy but most definitely priceless!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Beach Party!

In honor of the first day of summer, which was yesterday, what could be better, dogs on the beach!


Monday, June 21, 2010

As Thin as an Elephant?

Out in Fresno, California, zookeepers are touting the newly svelte physiques of their elephants, Shaunzi and Kara. Together the pair have lost a ton (that's 2, 175 pounds) of weight!

Shaunzi now tips the scales at 9,135 lbs. (down from 10,245) and Kara is a lithesome 8,735 (down from 9,800). So how did they do it? The same way we do: by cutting calories and increasing exercise.

Zookeepers cut down their food intake and began hiding some of their food in their enclosures so they had to exercise to find them, much as they would if they were in the wild. The extra scavenging has had the added benefit of making the elephants more spry. They were also allowed to wander in their enclosures at night instead of being confined to their stalls, a move that you know engendered contentment as well as weight loss.

It all started when the zookeepers at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo actually purchased an elephant scale so they could weigh the pachyderms on a regular basis. Before that, they were relying on episodic weigh ins with a truck scale. When they realized how heavy the elephants really were, they kicked their "Biggest Loser" program into high gear.

Now they are adopting the plan for other animals in the zoo. All of which is a sea change from the former method of keeping animals in captivity. According to Harry Peachey, curator of mainland Asia animals at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, in the "old days," "If you had an 800 pound gorilla in your collection you would brag about it. Now you would be embarrassed to say that in front of your peers."

It turns out that thinner animals are healthier, happier animals. "The less weight that older people carry around, the healthier they usually are, and that goes for elephants too," said Harold Mountain, Fresno Chaffee Zoo assistant animal curator.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Beware of Dog!

In the truth is stranger than fiction category, I bring you the following new trend of dog owners in China:dying their dogs to resemble wild animals. This one would be a major hit at Princeton in the P-rade!

These are small dogs--perhaps bichon or maltese-- dyed to resemble pandas. You have to admit the resemblance is striking, if bizarre.

The photos are courtesy of The Daily Mail and there are more. According to the article, the dogs don't seem to mind the primping and the grooming parlors are obviously making a fortune!

I am assuming everything eventually washes out but it seems to me that it might just be easier to purchase a costume or two!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Follow Those Blue and Green Silks

These are the entries for today's Colonial Turf Cup (Grade II) at Colonial Downs featuring two Kentucky Derby entries, Paddy O'Prado and Dean's Kitten as well as Lael Stable's Kindergarden Kid, trained by Barclay Tagg. Looks to be a great race and the Jacksons have won this race before, back in 2006 with Showing Up, whose photo is above.

Heat could certainly be a factor as the forecast is for hot, steamy conditions but the race should go off, as planned, on the turf, barring any pop up thunderstorms.

Could be a great week for Lael if they bring home another win!

Colonial Downs - June 19, 2010

Race 10 - 5:19 PM Exacta, Fifty-Cent Trifecta & Ten-Cent Superfecta, 1st Leg Pick 3, 4th Leg Pick 4

Colonial Turf Cup S. (Grade II)

Purse $500,000. For Three-Year-Olds. One And Three Sixteenth Miles. (Outer turf)
P# PP Horse Virtual
Stable A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1 Paddy O'Prado (KY) 3/C L* K J Desormeaux 121 D L Romans 9/5
2 2 Workin for Hops (KY) 3/G L E T Baird 119 M Stidham 9/2
3 3 Kindergarden Kid (KY) 3/C L C H Velasquez 117 B Tagg 5/1
4 4 Vamos a Ver (PA) 3/C L E S Prado 119 H G Motion 20/1
5 5 Doubles Partner (FL) 3/C L* G K Gomez 121 T A Pletcher 5/2
6 6 Dean's Kitten (KY) 3/C L* A Garcia 117 M J Maker 8/1
7 7 Two Notch Road (VA) 3/G L S Russell 119 G R Thompson 10/1

Owners: 1 - Donegal Racing; 2 - Estorace, LLC; 3 - Lael Stables; 4 - Augustin Stable; 5 - WinStar Farm, LLC; 6 - Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey; 7 - James Hackman and Glenn R. Thompson

Breeders: 1 - Winchell Thoroughbreds, LLC; 2 - Amy Bondon & Tom McNally; 3 - Alexander Groves Matz, LLC; 4 - George Strawbridge Jr.; 5 - Arthur I. Appleton; 6 - Kenneth L. Ramsey & Sarah K. Ramsey; 7 - James M. Hackman

Friday, June 18, 2010

It Just Keeps Getting Worse and Worse

This is an image of the oil spill that you won't see, according to The New York Daily News, that reported on BP's cover-up of negative images. According to a BP contract worker who took the Daily News reporter on a hush-hush tour of some of the wildlife disaster, "There is a lot of cover up for BP. They specifically informed us that they don't want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence."

This worker, who didn't feel "right" about covering up the horrific images that he confronts on a daily basis. "Those pelicans are supposed to have while heads," he pointed out. "The black is from the oil. Most of them won't survive. They keep trying to clean themselves. They try, but they can't do it."

He also described a dead dolphin they found rotting in the weeds. "Oil was just pouring out of it. It was the saddest darn thing to look at," he told the reporter. "When you see some of the things I've seen, it would make you sick. No living creature should endure that kind of suffering."

What BP did is just plain negligent. What they are covering up is the extent of that negligence. Please do not believe anything they are saying. The deaths of all these animals is oil related, never mind the damage that will be done to them from the chemical dispersant shot in there to help clean it up.

Its time for someone other than BP to try and clean up their mess because only then will we know just how extensive it really is.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Nice Win!

Nicanor remains undefeated on the turf at Delaware park as he goes wire to wire to win by 2 1/2 lengths in the fourth race, an optional $35,000 Claiming contest yesterday. He truly was the class of the field and did not disappoint.

Hopefullly the win should give him confidence to try for bigger and better things this summer!

Way to go Nicky!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nicanor Runs today at Delaware Park

Nicanor is entered in the fourth race on the turf at Delaware Park today. It is a drop down in class for him to an optional claiming race (the "optional" means one has to indicate whether or not your horse is eligible to be claimed and Nicanor is not) and he looks to be the class of the field. The big question is whether or not the rain will hold off--forecast is for 60% chance of thunderstorms--and if it doesn't whether Nicky will run on soggy turf or a muddy track.

Michael Matz is having a phenomenal meet at Delaware Park thus far so let's hope his luck holds out. Barring extreme circumstances, this looks like a walk in the park for Nicky and should point him in the right direction for a more strenuous summer campaign.

Here are the entries:

4th (2:36)

About 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) | Open | 3 Year Olds And Up Allowance Optional Claiming ($35,000) | Purse: $38,000

Post # Horse Jockey Weight Claim Price Equip. Med.
1 Followmyfootstep Rocco J S Jr 124 LA
2 Nicanor Valdivia J Jr 118 LA
3 Doctor Cal Sellers S J 118 $35,000 LA
4 Crew Boyce F 117 L
MTO No Mesa With Me Rose J 121 LA
MTO Luna Park Rosendo I J 124 $35,000 LA
7 Toccet's Charm Rocco J 115 L
8 Today's Man Saez G 124 $35,000 LA
MTO Critical Acclaim Rocco J S Jr 124 $35,000 L

The MTO designation indicates the horse will run only if the race is contested on the main track, that is, taken off the turf because of weather.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Stamp This Day in Your Minds!"

Well Rachel may be back, but Zenyatta still rules with her incredible victory in the Vanity Handicap. Do yourself a favor and play that video-you will be watching racing history as Zenyatta wins her 17th consecutive race, a new record that surpasses both Citation and Cigar's 16 wins.

She does it in her trademark style, flying from last to first as she rounds the final turn, going six wide and carrying 129 pounds! Incredible!!

Her stablemate, Zardana, was third.

The standing room only crowd was not disappointed as they saw history being made. The charismatic Zenyatta is said to be aiming for the Breeder's Cup Classic in October and a possible showdown with Rachel.

We can only hope. . .

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sheeee's Back!

Sheeeee's back! Rachel Alexandra ran away with the Fleur de Lis Handicap on Saturday by 10 1/2 lengths. There were no doubts about her abilities or her fitness level although she clearly was the class of the field.

Calvin Borel was aboard and Rachel took the lead at the top of the stretch and never looked back. She pulled away from the field easily and covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.78 on a fast track.

Rachel went off as the dominant favorite at 1 to 10 (why would you even bother betting?) and truly had little competition, although she hung behind Jessica is Back until the quarter pole. Then Borel notched her into second gear with a shake of his reins, and she left her competition in the literal dust.

"She did everything right today," said Borel. "She showed up today. I don't think she was ready before, but Steve (Asmussen) knows what he is doing."

"I'm very proud for everybody that she won," Asmussen said. "We are all grateful that Mr. Jackson and Barbara Banke put a Horse of the Year back in training and take all the advice and criticism."

No word yet as to future plans, but Rachel looks like she's still got a lot left in the tank.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Luke Reaches Boston!

June 19th is fast approaching and while I won't be able to join him in Boston (we have a photo shoot scheduled on Long Island), Luke and his boys Murphy and Hudson are going to arrive in Boston to much hoopla and you are cordially invited to take part!

There will be a Puppy Up Festival with all sorts of vendors, a dinner at the Fairmont Hotel featuring live and silent auction, a memorial service for all dogs lost to cancer and the Kick off of his next project, which will continue the journey.

Check out for up to the minute details. I promise a good time will be had by all. And don't forget--your dog is invited as well!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dog Park Makeover

If you had $500,000 what kind of dog park would you design? That is the question that Beneful dog food is asking and they want you to submit your ideas on video.

More details are available at but the general idea is to film your existing dog park and demonstrate how it could be improved. Originality counts, so I guess thinking outside the box is highly encouraged.

Let's see. Phoebe's dream dog park would include water, water everywhere that was always heated to about 75 degrees and a few lounge chairs in which to dry off and catch some rays. Amos' would have to include lots of shady areas and a sheep herding pen, in which he could corral all wayward friends, canine and otherwise. And Sam's? Well how about a bunny farm, so he could chase rabbits to his heart's content--with plenty of escape holes for the rabbits, of course, cleverly designed so that Sam could not fit in them!

For all of them--an occasional deer encounter and for me, a showering and drying area so that what they did in the park or tracked through in the park, stayed in the park.

What about you?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Photo Shoot in New York

Scenes from a photo shoot earlier this week.

You might recongnize this chef as Carmen Gonzalez, who is in the finals of Top Chef Master, Season 2, currently on television. That is her dog Jeeter on her lap.

This handsome guy is Eli Zabar of deli fame in New York City and we are on the roof of his fabulous food hall on 91st and First in New York City called The Vinegar Factory. Those are his adorable dogs, Toby and Minny.

This is the roof of the Vinegar Factory where Eli has a veritable farm--growing tomatoes, fig trees, grapes and many types of lettuce in raised beds and pots.

I won't even tell you what the dogs' reactions were to the raised beds of assorted greens like watercress and chicory. Let's just say they never experienced anything quite so soft and tasty!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Does the Dog Get a Degree as Well?

June 26 is Take Your Dog to Work Day but every day is Take Your Dog to College at several colleges highlighted by the New York Times on Sunday. One of these is Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania and another is Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.

At Stephens College, in fact, there are 30 incoming freshmen who are arriving on campus with their dogs--enough to prompt the College to renovate an entire dorm to be "pet friendly." This dorm will feature a "kennel" area on the first floor where students can board their pets when they go to class. This is an important part of the policy--pets are not welcome in classrooms or in common areas. They are strictly dorm dogs.

According to Dianne Lynch, president of Stephens, "It's harder and harder for students to leave home. Bringing this particular piece of home with them may make that separation easier." That said, there are also those worry that having a pet there, may in fact, prevent students from going out and interacting with their peers. Stephens College, which began admitting pets in 2003, does however report that their owners tend to be responsible and very organized.

Personally, I would find it incredibly challenging to go to college with a pet and I am not sure all pets will be able to make the transition to being cooped up without their owners all day, especially if they aren't used to it. There are noise policies in effect at these pet friendly schools that do clearly state that after a three week grace period at the beginning of the semester, if a dog continues to be disruptive, the pet may have to be sent home.

My three would never make it in academia but my son went to Graduate School with a classmate who smuggled in his dog to school every day. Apparently the dog was so well behaved that very few people even knew he was there. But that dog was not left alone in a dorm room; he got to go to class and yes, he even attended graduation.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Guess The Breed

We have a chef in our upcoming book who was so curious about his dog's genetic makeup that he bought a doggie DNA test kit, swabbed the inside of his dog's mouth and sent away the sample. The verdict: what he thought was a Viszla was actually part German short haired pointer, part Rottweiler, some collie and a bit of Australian cattle dog.

The same curiosity haunted Elizabeth Meister and Dan Collison, independent radio producers especially when the dog they were told was part Golden Retriever and part Labrador retriever, morphed before their eyes into what looked like a Giant Schnauzer/Irish Wolfhound/Bouvier/labrador mix. That's his picture above and you have to admit, he is fetching, whatever he is.

You can read their story on the npr website and submit your guess as to what kind of dog Dovekie (named after an unusual seabird with similar coloring) is as well.

I'm not going to spoil it but here are some clues:

57 pounds at 7 months
Giant webbed feet
A stately beard and mustache
A tuxedo white chest spot
Dashes of white on paws
An unusually long nose and body
Soft coat of fur around head and snout, but wiry from shoulder blades back
Big heavy ears

I think those are most definitely Golden retriever eyes and my guess is there is some Irish Wolfhound in him. And that part about half Golden/half Lab? Can I interest you in a piece of the Brooklyn Bridge?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Machine Got Your Tongue?

While I was waiting for Miss Phoebe to have her sutures removed last week, I paged through the June issue of Dog Fancy magazine. There was a story that caught my eye, if only because it came under the category of "gory but true."

It seems that a reader had written in with a caveat for owners of dogs and shredding machines. While this reader was actually on vacation, her curious dog managed to get his tongue caught in the blades of her shredding machine. It seems that when the dog licked it, the machine began to operate, thinking the tongue was a piece of paper.

Everything turned out all right for this dog but not without a fair amount of trauma, as you can well imagine. The dog actually bit through his tongue to release it from the blades and lived to tell the tale.

According to the article, encounters between dogs and shredding machines are more common than you might imagine and not all turn out as well as the one in the magazine. Moral of the story: unplug your shredding machine when it is not in use or place it high enough so that your dog cannot touch it. Dare I say this is obvious advice for homes with toddlers as well.

You can bet, I ran home an unplugged ours, even though my dogs are actually scared of the machine. You never know when Sam might decide he is actually courageous!

Miss Phoebe, by the way, is back to her beautiful self and none the worse for the wear. All lumps were benign and she is ready for swimming season!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Original Drosselmeyer

Do you know who Drosselmeyer is? Of course, you do. He won the Belmont on Saturday but I am talking about the original Drosselmeyer, the character in the Nutcracker for whom the horse is named? If my memory serves me correctly, he is the mysterious "uncle" who gives Clara the gift of the Nutcracker and then sweeps in to save the toy from being totally ruined by Clara's brother and his band of friends.

In the Pennsylvania ballet version, Drosselmeyer wears a sweeping black cape and eye patch and is very mysterious and a little spooky. He makes a cameo appearance during the scene when Clara first falls asleep and he wraps the clock with his cape to suggest that we are entering a world where time does not run in the traditional manner since the clock then appears to go backwards.

Anyway, my point here (aside from the fact that I clearly took my children to see the Nutcracker many, many times), is that Drosselmeyer, the horse, was the antithesis of the mysterious character in his race on Saturday. He never appeared out of nowhere--he ran a game fifth for most of the race, and he just wore down his opponents because he never stopped running. A strong, game and impressive victory for his classy trainer, Bill Mott and new jockey, Mike Smith, who demonstrated why he is one of the best.

In many ways, racing could have used some of the magic associated with the Nutcracker's character and it would have been exciting if Drosselmeyer closed with the intensity of an Ice Box (who never figured, most likely because of the heat and humidity), reminiscent of that sweeping cape, but we got a clean race, a somewhat plodding pace and a Triple Crown season without a breakdown on national television.

Perhaps that's as good as it is going to get without a superstar. After all the Nutcracker ballet is always great entertainment but with Baryshnikov, it is magical theater.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

One Health Initiative

You have to read pretty carefully to find it, but there is is, in the recent front page article of the Philadelphia Inquirer about groundbreaking research regarding the administration of oxygen to patients suffering cardiac arrest: "Studies in dogs and in premature infants have long shown that too much oxygen can be harmful."

The gist of the article is just that: that even though it may seem counter intuitive, too much oxygen after sudden cardiac arrest can actually do more harm than good. But my point is not about the information but rather about how they arrived at the information: from studies in dogs (and premature infants). And note the use of the wording "long shown;" in other words, these studies have been around for a while.

There is simply no getting around the fact that human health and animal health are inextricably linked. Which is why I was so delighted to learn that the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has joined the "One Health" initiative to advance research and knowledge of both human and animal health. "One health (formerly called One Medicine) is dedicated to improving the lives of all species--human and animal--through the integration of human medicine and veterinary medicine," reads the vision statement.

This can only be beneficial if schools like Penn continue to advance knowledge and research across species by encouraging and supporting collaboration between colleagues who might not always work together. Case in point. The genesis of some of the collaboration in oncology that is going on at Penn came about because a vet student happened to attend grand rounds presented by a human oncologist. He made the point that the Vet School has "patients" too that often presented with many of the same symptoms that doctors were seeing in their human cancer patients.

One of the oncologists I interviewed admitted that prior to that student telling him that the Vet School had patients, he never thought about the similarities, but once he did, it became so very obvious that the two professions had to work together.

The name of the game going forward for health advances has to be cooperation by professionals across species because we all share the same environment. Read more about the One Health Initiative on their web site and see if you don't start seeing more and more references to animal health in human medical research.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Belmont Day!

Here's the field for today's Belmont with the morning line odds, which probably have changed. It is an interesting race with Ice Box, the clear favorite because we know he can go the distance and close like lightening. The big question: can anyone else?

$1 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I, Belmont Park, June 5), 3YO 1 ½ Miles (Dirt)
Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1. Dave In Dixie Calvin Borel John Sadler 20-1
2. Spangled Star Garrett Gomez Richard Dutrow, Jr. 30-1
3. Uptowncharlybrown Rajiv Maragh Kiaran McLaughlin 10-1
4. Make Music for Me Joel Rosario Alexis Barba 10-1
5. Fly Down John Velazquez Nick Zito 9-2
6. Ice Box Jose Lezcano Nick Zito 3-1
7. Drosselmeyer Mike Smith Bill Mott 12-1
8. Game On Dude Martin Garcia Bob Baffert 10-1
9. Stately Victor Alan Garcia Mike Maker 15-1
10. Stay Put Jamie Theriot Steve Margolis 20-1
11. First Dude Ramon Dominguez Dale Romans 7-2
12. Interactif Javier Castellano Todd Pletcher 12-1

Try to rule out sentiment, like Uptowncharlybrown, (his original trainer suffered an untimely death right before the Derby) and obvious longshots, like Spangled Star and I think what you have left is the makings of a pretty good race.

I think I like a 6-7-11 Exacta Box, even though its very difficult to bet on a horse named First Dude. Don't rule out the other Dude, either. If I were to bet on one horse it would be Ice Box, even though the favorite has only won twice in the last ten Belmonts.

Here's to safe racing conditions and good racing luck!

Friday, June 4, 2010


I know it is the day before the Belmont but it is also opening day for Marmaduke, which was absolutely my father's favorite comic when I was growing up. He would actually snip the panels that he deemed the most hilarious--usually involving toilet humor or food--and post them on the refrigerator.

Today is my parent's anniversary--married 55 years--and I am taking them to see Marmaduke. What else could they possibly want?

By the way, I like Ice Box in the Belmont. Fitting don't you think since that's where we were treated to the best of Marmaduke?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Adopt a Military Dog

Have you always wanted a German Shepherd but aren't quite up to the demands of raising a puppy? In interviewing one of my chefs for the upcoming book, Lick Your Plate! Celebrity Chefs Cook For Their Dogs and Yours, I learned this this little-know fact: Thanks to H. R. 5314, civilians can now adopt a retiring military working dog.

I always thought that the soldiers actually owned their dogs but the fact is that the military does. A soldier returning home after a tour of duty may actually return to a war zone with a different dog. The dogs that are retired are the property of the U. S. military and prior to the passage of this law, only eligible to be adopted by military personnel. Now you too can own a perfectly trained, incredibly loyal, smart and beautiful working dog.

What a fabulous story. These dogs are heroes, the chef reminded me and how true. She actually grew up with a retired military dog and she told me the dog saved her brother's life.

Get thee on a list if this sound like something you might be interested in. The wait time is about a year.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Phoebe Needs This

This is retired racehorse Funny Cide outfitted with a grazing muzzle in his new home at the Kentucky Horse Park. He is still able to eat through a hole in the bottom of the device but he just eats more slowly and less.

The idea is to limit his caloric intake as well as to prevent laminitis which is sometimes caused by ingesting too much fresh spring grass.

Thanks to photographer Sarah K. Andrews for the photo and Fran Jurga for noticing it.

I wonder if they make a similar device for dogs? I think I know a golden retriever who could use it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Drug Free Triple Crown

The Belmont is this Saturday and without the Derby and Preakness winners, the race has lost some of its marketing appeal to casual fans of the sport. Once again, many blame the structure of the Triple Crown series for keeping the big names in the sport out of contention, but Bill Finley, over at has got it right. "Sorry," he writes. "But it's not the Triple Crown that needs fixing , but the horses that run in the Triple Crown."

It is the drugs ingested by these horses, Finley contends, that are weakening them, especially lasix, the diuretic, which was in the bloodstream of every horse that competed in the Preakness, Derby and most likely, the Belmont. Have you ever taken a diuretic? It depletes your body of excess water, but also of potassium and essential nutrients. Finley puts it this way: "Is it any wonder that a horse has a hard time bouncing back after competing when every time they race they race with a drug that dehydrates them? (How would you feel after running a mile-and-a-half while dehydrated?)"

Not to mention all the other things that get pumped into these horses that are still "legal" but hardly "safe." Finley quotes the trainer Ken McPeek, who doesn't believe that drugs belong in the top level events in the sport. "I strongly believe that Lasix is why horses can no longer make all three races," he says.

What a concept! Run the Triple Crown races, and for that matter all Grade I races, drug free. And this from the trainer of Noble's Promise, who ran on Lasix and was fifth in this year's Derby. At one time, Lasix was only used for bleeders; now it is used by everyone who feel it gives them an edge.

The point, according to Finley, is that McPeek and all trainers should not be given a choice to use the drug or not. "While everyone else gets by fine with hay, oats and water, the United States and Canada are the only major racing countries that allow a drug that every shred of common sense says has led to unhealthier horses making fewer starts," comments Finley.

Skeptics may tell you that the hay, oats and water in Europe are not as "pure" as many believe (they just don't get caught) but there is absolutely no denying the fact that the horses in Europe run longer distances for many more years than their American and Canadian counterparts.

I'd love to see the NTRA adopt a drug free policy for the Triple Crown and see if it trickles down. You have to start somewhere and there's no place like the top.