Thursday, March 31, 2011

Horses in Japan

For those of you worried about animals' exposure to radiation in Japan, word from two leading equine vets is reassuring, at least with regard to horses. The reports that unless the horses are within a radiation zone of high activity, within close proximity to the nuclear plants, they should not experience radiation sickness.

Dr. Nathan L. Dykes, senior lecturer from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, notes: "I don't believe that the radioactive exposure levels are high enough outside the reactor buildings to cause either early or delayed 'radiation sickness.' The horses would have to be within the exclusion zone of highest radioactivity to be affected directly."

Dr. Rachel Pollard, associate professor of diagnostic imaging at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, added: "The long-term effects are unknown, but I would suspect (exposed) horses would be more prone to cancer despite the relatively low incidence of cancer in horses."

The amount of radiation that the horses are exposed to depends on their proximity to the nuclear plants, the air they breathe--being housed indoors or outdoors--and the food they eat. Special care should be taken to feed horses food gathered before the disaster and to limit their grazing to areas within a safe distance from the plant.

"Unless they (the horses) are within a zone of extremely high radioactivity, these animals would not get radiation sickness," she concurred.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Three is a Family

Here's a great story courtesy of AOL. The man in the photo above is named Graham Waspe and he is partially blind. He counted on a guide dog, named Edward, to help him navigate. Fast forward six years, Edward develops cataracts and is unable to fulfill his guide dog duties.

Not to worry--Waspe adopts another guide dog, named Opal, to help them both. "They've become quite good friends and get on happily together," said Waspe. "There are certain times I'm sure where Opal will help and Edward is happier having another dog around."

Sounds like quite a devoted pack, especially since Waspe told the Daily Mail in London (he lives in England) that the family is going to stay together, no matter what.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Miracle for Midnight

A miracle for Midnight. Kind of makes you wonder why they don't try this more often...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pants on Fire, with red hot Rosie Napravnik (remember her from Nicanor's Delaware Park wins?) won the Louisiana Derby and earned him enough to be eligible for the other Derby--you know that one they run the first Saturday in May.

He beat some impressive horses, including the highly touted Mucho Macho Man who lost a shoe at the start. The stretch drive was intense and Pants on Fire out dueled Nehro, another Derby contender.

Napravnik, by the way, became the first woman to win this race in all of its ninety eight runnings and is also the leading rider at the Fair Grounds meet. Not too shabby that she also had a total of five wins on the day's card. This was the first time Napravnik had ridden Pants on Fire, who hopefully will become her Derby mount.

"He had a lot of heart," she told "They said he was best on the lead. And when Liondrive went out in front of us, I said if he's stuck outside, hopefully he's still well off. But he ran with as much heart as a horse can run with down the land. Much Macho man came up next to us and he just dug in and he really finished with all heart."

Here's hoping these two will get to stick together for a run at those roses.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Famous Babies On the Way!

Even NPR is covering the high profile foals due next winter to Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. Click on the above link to hear Andrew Beyer (Washington Post and the infamous Beyer number) speculate on the offspring of two of horse racing's greatest dames.

Hint: There are no guarantees in this most precarious sport.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Born Free

Some good news coming out of Japan, courtesy of the Today Show. A baby dolphin has been rescued from a flooded rice field, apparently after having been washed ashore in the tsunami.

Ryo Taira, a pet shop owner, who has been rescuing animals abandoned after the disaster, spotted the dolphin in the rice field. He was unable to net it, so he waded into the water and rescued the dolphin with his arms.

"It was pretty weak by then, which was probably the only reason we could catch it," he said. He and some friends wrapped the dolphin in wet towels and drove it to the sea. They set it free in the Pacific and reported that it seemed to perk up when it hit the ocean.

"I don't know if it will live, but it's certainly a lot better than dying in a rice paddy," Taira said.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Would You Do?

This is an old episode but the one last Friday night featured a similar scenario, only a woman was dining in a restaurant with her service dog when the owner of the restaurant asked the woman if he could tie the dog outside until she was finished eating. The restaurant owner and the woman (and the dog) were all actors but the people in the restaurant who got very angry at the restaurant owner were not.

Interesting commentary that everybody came to the aid of the service dog but not that many came to the aid of the dog in a hot car.

What would you do?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

By the Numbers

It seems to be a good time to have a dog book coming out. According to the February 28, 2011 Fortune magazine pet spending is on the increase. As they say, let's take a look at the numbers:

--$47.7 billion That's the estimated total U. S. pet industry expenditures in 2010. That's up from $45.5 billion in 2009, which is up from $36.3 billion in 2005

--40% That's the percentage of U. S. households that own a dog. 62% of homes have at least one pet of some kind. Some things never change and that is one figure that has not changed in years

----22,000 That's the number of events sanctioned by the American Kennel Club in the U. S every year

And here's one more for the road: pet owners buy, on average of 9.3 tennis balls a year and, we hope, a great pet cookbook!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pursuit of Joy

Five years after Barbaro's death, his influence is still being felt. Take the story of Linda Rae Joy, pictured above closest to the horse, who decided to pursue her passion, art, at the age of 60. It was then she began to combine her paintings with poetry and graphic design, tapping into all the elements of her inner muse.

For her 65th birthday, Linda and her daughter wandered through France, taking their time to stop and explore museums, gardens, whatever they discovered on their way. When she returned home, Linda decided she needed another adventure.

And so she gave up her apartment, donated her furniture and packed her van for a cross country excursion. "I decided to travel across the country, painting, experiencing and writing," said Linda. "And I decided that because I love to drive, and because I can drive 10 hours straight, I needed a reason to slow down."

That reason came straight from the horse's mouth, in this case Barbaro's. Inspired by the documentary on the horse's life, she decided to stop for horses and the people who take care of them. It wasn't long before she realized painting the horses was not enough. She began to interview their caretakers.

"Every farm has a story," said Linda . "And I wanted to get the connection and see why people would keep horses in this economy. I wanted to see the connection between the horse and the people."

And so her journey was born and who knows where it will end. You can follow her progress on her blog. The goal?

"Hopefully, when I am finished I will have a show of paintings and a coffee table book with photos, stories and paintings. I don't know how it will turn out, whether it will be seven months or ten months. Or whether I will finish it in one trip. But however it turns out, it'll be perfect. It's really bigger than me," Linda remarked.

Like I said, Barbaro's spirit lives on.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Iditarod Results

Make that 3 in a row for Lance Mackey who won the 2011 Iditarod. Whatever you think about the race, please know that these dogs are treated very well and truly do love to run. And like he says, not just anybody can jump on a sled and make them run.

There is something to be said for preserving a sport that is so tied to a state's cultural history.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Philly Youth Polo Team Goes the Distance

It has been a while since Philly could boast a national champion (Phillies, a few years ago), but now it can not only lay claim to a national champion but a groundbreaking one at that. Last Sunday, the Philadelphia based, Cowtown/Work to Ride program polo team won the 42nd annual USPA National Interscholastic Championship tournament in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Cowtown/WTR became the first all African American team to win the title, beating Baltimore in the final, 24-17. The Work to Ride program was started by team coach Leslie Hiner in 1994. The concept was to give underprivileged children from the Philadelphia area free riding lessons in exchange for work around the barn.

The team star, Kareem Rosser, who attends Valley Forge Military Academy (where they also field a polo team) is hoping to attend Cornell University next year.

It is a remarkable accomplishment for Hiner and her team who have demonstrated that there are few barriers left, even in the world of privileged and elite sports, for those who are up to the challenge of breaking them.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Needs No Translation

This video breaks my heart but you should know it has a happy ending. Both dogs were rescued by Japan Earthquake Rescue and Support and are in the care of a local shelter. Both dogs are OK and are together, which seems to be the most important thing at the moment.

How amazing that we don't even need to understand what the men are saying to know they are as touched as we are.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scratching at the Gate

It continues to amaze me how some stories just never go away. Barbaro is back in the news, this time courtesy of Alan Shuback, who posted a blog on the Daily Racing Form site about the steward's responsibility.

OK, so he was primarily talking about L'Affaire Life At Ten, the overwhelming favorite who failed to contend in the Breeder's Cup Classic way back in November, and about whom there had been speculation that she should have been scratched based on her demeanor and appearance in the paddock. A report has recently been released by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that suggests some of blame rests with John Veitch, Chief Steward for the State.

Apparently, one of the other stewards suggested that the veterinarian be summoned to take a look at the horse after both jockey and trainer mentioned they didn't like the way she looked. Veitch denies hearing the suggestion as well as making his alleged response: "If we do that, we might a well scratch the horse."

I am not about to get into the politics of this situation but what is most interesting is that Mr. Shuback compares this situation to that of Barbaro, after he broke through the starting gates at Pimlico in the Preakness. "Was Barbaro trying to tell us something, as horses frequently attempt to do when they are not right? Was he in distress, being asked to do something, i.e. run on just 14 days notice, and perhaps not fully recovered from his Kentucky Derby exertions? . . .Was there pressure on keeping the Derby winner in the race in front of 100,000 people and a national television audience? Or did trainer, rider, stewards and vets really believe that all was right with Barbaro that day?" he wonders.

Of course, we will never know the true answers but we do know what we were told. Regardless, I think Mr. Shuback is commenting more on the "pressure" to compete in big races, supposedly felt by trainers, jockeys and, he suggests, stewards, not to disqualify the favorites from big races at the last moment.

One would like to believe he is wrong. That the concept of doing right by and for the horse prevails no matter what the circumstance and if that is not the case, then the sport should cease to exist. And I seriously cannot believe that trainers like Matz and Pletcher would still be in business if they did not do what was in the best interest of their horses.

What I do think is going on here is indeed the lack of communication that Mr. Shuback mentions but I don't think it is between people because of glitches in communication channels. I think it is between horses and people and it exists at the very center of their relationship. Until horses can talk, or until trainers can speak "horse," it remains part of both the allure and the downside of the sport, and in fact, I would argue, is one of the aspects of the sport that makes it intriguing.

I would hate to think that Barbaro would become a "poster child" for every incidence of failure to perform that could have been averted had someone acted differently. If he should not have been in the race, one would like to think that he would not have been entered rather than scratched at the gate to save face.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Print on Demand is Truly Here!

If only it was that easy to write it!

This print on demand book machine made its New York debut recently at McNally Jackson Bookstore. Just imagine a bound copy in about 3 minutes.

No more inventory. No more returns. No more shelves of books?

Not sure how I feel about it but its probably one of the biggest things to hit publishing since the original printing press.

I'm also not sure if it does color photos justice but what a concept! It is definitely going to change the way booksellers do business.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Two Dogs Dining

Dogs dining on the brain? Perhaps. But this might make a great video cover for The Culinary Canine if it is ever released as an e-book!

No plans for that at the moment. Just saying...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Uncle Mo Still the Derby Favorite

Uncle Mo made his 2011 debut in impressive style on Saturday as he coasted to victory in the Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream park. Granted it wasn't much of a field, but that is exactly what you want for the first time back on the track in four months.

The only horse to challenge him was Rattlesnake Bridge at the top of the stretch but Uncle Mo easily pulled away under a hand ride from jockey John Velazquez.

"It was pretty simple," said Velazquez. "I wanted to keep him out of trouble and slow the pace down as much as possible. We were able to do that. He was doing it so easily. In the stretch, I let him run a little and made sure he galloped out an extra eighth of a mile to make sure he got something out of the race."

The only trouble came at the break, when Uncle Mo, breaking from the one post, moved inward and bumped Gallant Dreams. It turned out to be a non-event.

Next up for the Derby favorite is either the Wood Memorial April 9 or the Florida Derby, April 3. Trainer Todd Pletcher seemed to indicate they were headed for the Wood, but time will tell.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

God's Dogs Up Close and Personal

In case you missed it, I am sharing the segment from last week's 60 Minutes on the spy cams used to film polar bears in the arctic. It is an amazing story both for the technology required to capture these bears up close and personal and also for the images that this technology filmed.

Basically it comes down to something called "spy cams" which are embedded in the natural environment of the bears and which operate automatically. The images are fabulous especially of a twelve day old cub venturing out of the den with his mom for the first time. And what do they do? Come over and pose for the camera!

The best line of the entire piece: Polar bears are God's dogs.

Love that.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Introducing. . .

It is official: Lick Your Plate! has become The Culinary Canine and we are thrilled. The new name reflects more of an upscale brand--something we hope to become. Think The Culinary Canine Goes Organic, The Culinary Canine Lightens Up...You get the general idea.

Official launch date is September 27 and keep haunting Amazon because soon we should be available for pre-order!

And please join our Facebook page where you can follow all the action!

Yes, it is REALLY happening!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ride Zenyatta!

Ever wonder what it was like to ride Zenyatta? Well hop aboard as she goes for one of her last gallops around the track before retiring to motherhood. The camera is mounted on the helmet of the rider so it is truly an interesting view and ride!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Alex Brown's Book is OUT!!!

This is the cover of Alex Brown's definitive book on Barbaro which is currently on sale here. If you go to Alex's home page, you can scroll down to find all things pertinent about "The Book" under the category of that name, including his book-signing schedule.

I have had the privilege of seeing the photo section of the book and it really is good enough to stand alone. Alex tells the Barbaro story in words and then again in photos, many contributed by the loyal Fans of Barbaro.

It is an extremely well researched book on a great horse that should be on every fan's book shelf!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Long Shot

Those who have spent any time around horses can vouch for their healing power. Horses have been used to tame the tantrums of autistic children and their rhythmic movement has proved to be soothing and settling for those who suffer from movement disorders like cerebral palsy. Prisoners are transformed by grooming and caring for horses. Many are inspired by their strength and wisdom.

Now comes the story of Sylvia Harris who credits horses with saving her life. And what a life it is. From the very bottom of the barrel--suffering from bipolar disorder and homeless--she regains control of her life by working with horses. First in Ocala, as a groom/hotwalker and eventually as a jockey.

"Against all odds," she writes, "at forty years old, I became the first African American woman in Chicago racing history to win a race and only the second in U. S. history."

Harris was interviewed on NPR on March 7 by Michelle Martin and her story is nothing short of amazing. Sounds like an inspirational read to say the least.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wrap It Up!

I am not a cat person but I will confess that my dogs have "participated" in my gift wrapping activities in a very similar fashion. What is it about scotch tape and ribbon that they find so appealing?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dog, Inc.

So you've probably thought about it--cloning a beloved pet. Well, apparently so have a lot of other people, many of whom have forked over the big bucks involved to actually do it, and not with the results that you might expect.

All is revealed in the new book, Dog, Inc., by John Woestendiek, a Pulitzer Prize winner and veteran reporter. A recent review in the Inquirer, where Woestendiek worked when he won that Pulitzer, calls the book "a science book that's highly entertaining."

The entertaining part is generated by the characters who are willing to spare no expense to clone their pets. One is a former beauty queen, Bernann McKinney, who invests in five clones of her beloved pitbull Booger and is determined to fly them all home from Hong Kong in the cabin of the plane. There is also the founder of Phoenix University, John Sperling, who actually creates a company to clone his girlfriend Missy's dog, at Texas A & M. They practice by cloning a bull named chance (the clone is Second Chance) who turns out to be not nearly as docile as his namesake.

Even more remarkable is the face that Missy, in the end, does not want the replica of her dog. In fact, that seems to be the general message. Dog cloning may not be the panacea it is purported to be.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Anmals in the Aftermath, Once Again

The earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand has brought familiar scenes of destruction to our television screens and now news that pet owners are frantically breaking through cordoned off areas to search for their pets. I have been to Christchurch and it is a beautiful city, with a beautiful cathedral at its center, that is surrounded by a lovely, cobble-stoned public square, with lovely shops.

No more, I'm afraid. And no more to many of the cats and dogs that shared the city with their owners. New Zealanders love their animals so it was no surprise to hear that the SPCA Animal Rescue Unit, headquartered in nearby Wellington was being dispatched to help deal with this situation.

SPCA manger, Blair Hillyard, noted that the conditions for animals has been "deteriorating because of time issues," and understands why pet owners have become frantic enough to invade roped off areas. "That is really one of the common problems of why people break the cordon," he said. "It's not to go and do burglaries; its to go and retrieve their pets. We will now be providing that critical service."

According to SPCA national chief, Robyn Kippenberger, the majority of the pets gone missing are cats, and she is expecting a lot of strays. Proving the uneven pattern of most natural disasters, a wild animal park near the Chirstchurch airport was expected to be open this week and reported no damage from the quake.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

And What Service Does Your Dog Perform?

Admit it, you've thought about it. Purchasing a Therapy Dog vest for your pooch so you can take him on the plane with you. Well, it turns out that it is pretty easy to do just that.

The Wall Street Journal has the story of one Maxx, a West Highland terrier, whose owner purchased his working wear on line--no questions asked--and who happily takes her companion everywhere she goes.

And the practice is not limited to dogs. Reptiles have been spotted wearing service attire and even entered into the internet-based National Service Animal Registry.

All of this is about to change, however. Starting March 15, the Americans With Disabilities Act will only recognize dogs as service animals. The Department of Transportation also has tried to crack down on passengers who prefer to travel with their pets as service animals rather than in carriers or in cargo, which has generated backlash from metal health advocates.

"We are forced to disclose we are mentally ill in order to fly. It's un-American," says the president of the Psychiatric Dog Service Society. "Everybody with a service dog should be treated the same."

In the meantime, Maxx still goes everywhere but even his owner knows she may be pushing the limits. She recently held a meeting with her lawyer and since his building did not allow dogs, they held the meeting outside.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dolphins Save Dog's Life

The splashing of the dolphins in the Marco Island lagoon alerted neighbors to the presence of a dog who was paddling for his life. Watch this amazing story!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Red Hawk Down

The Philadelphia Inquirer had the story last weekend about our fair city's latest pastime--filming hawks killing their prey. All of which is happening in broad daylight, often on the top of parked cars.

It seems as if the once endangered hawk has made a huge comeback and moved into metropolitan areas where the pigeon, squirrel and rat populations makes for some satisfying meals. Apparently the sight of a red tailed hawk swooping down on its prey within the city limits has become a staple of You Tube and, as the Inquirer notes, "practically constitute a genre."

"We have a pretty good view of Logan Square and we see them hunting all the time," said Dan Thomas, who manages the bird collection for the nearby Academy of Natural Sciences. At the nearby Franklin Institute, a pair of red hawks nested on a window ledge and the science museum installed a web cam to monitor their comings and goings. New York City also boasts a pair nicknamed Pale Male and Lola, who have made their roost a tony fifth Avenue condo.

Hawks, it seems, have become urban birds, and although they have not abandoned their hunting/gathering tendencies, they do not seem frazzled or frightened by the paparazzi. In fact, the hawk that chowed down on a pigeon atop a car roof in center city Philadelphia, did so in front of a gaggle of cell-phone armed spectators who recorded every morsel.

Get used to it, seems to be the message from those study birds. "We're now recovering from the worst trashing of wildlife this continent has ever seen," notes Kevin McGowan, a scientist at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. "You see more wildlife on a daily basis than your grandparents ever did."

And in the meantime, keep an eye on your outdoor cats. They look just as tasty to hawks as rodents.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Saving Pets, Saving People, Beating Breast Cancer

It is always amazing to see where my work ends up. My recent story about the Double Reward implicit in the Penn Vet study about mammary tumors in shelter dogs for both the canine and human population, was picked up by the where they ran a nice recap.

The link is here: or you can read about it on the Penn vet website.

This is more evidence that the public is interested in hearing about this type of research and will help my efforts to get the comparative oncology book published.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

May I Show You My House?

This is Waggles, an adorable Cavalier King Charles spaniel who has proved to be quite the real estate broker. In fact, while conventional wisdom suggests that prospective buyers prefer seeing a property without evidence of its current owners, pets included, some New York real estate brokers have found that the presence of a well behaved pet can make all the difference.

Take Waggles, for example. Usually a dogwalker would take Waggles for a walk when the apartment he lived in was being shown. One day, however, the dog walker was late. Waggles curled up in a chair, next to a window in the living room to wait, and ultimately proved to be an important part of the sale.

"The person who bought the apartment told me that with the dog on the chaise lounge and the fire in the fireplace, it felt like a real home." said the successful broker. Not to mention that a pet makes the space more memorable. "I must have seen 20 apartments but this one stood out," said one buyer who remembered meeting the owner's golden retriever."If you like animals you'll remember the apartment with the animal."

It can work both ways, however, notes the broker who counsels against a whimpering dog in a crate or the presence of too many pets underfoot.

Use your own judgment when it comes to showing your space with or without your pets, but if one strategy hasn't been working, there's no reason not to try the other. "When there's an animal in an environment," said one buyer, " a warm, living, breathing thing, you feel a sense of love."