Monday, February 28, 2011

When Pigs Paint

Over the weekend I went to the Pet Expo in my neck of the woods. I think it may have been Pet Expo weekend all over the country and if any of the other ones were like the one I attended, well I imagine the Pet Expo people made a lot of money.

I have never seen so many people with their DOGS wandering the aisles of this pet lover's extravaganza. In other words, I think I came face to face with the people who might buy my book and it was eye opening!! If only because there were so many other things that were competing for their attention and their wallets.

By far my favorite attraction was Smithfield, the painting pig, as seen above. Yes, he really does pick up the paintbrush and paint on the canvas. And yes, he does seem to enjoy it and yes, he does get covered with paint and every time he picks up one paint brush and puts down another, the crowd applauds!

Smithfield has quite the resume having appeared on the Oprah Show and the Today Show among other A-List accomplishments. He drew quite a crowd, as I imagine he always does, and yes, he does seem to like getting his picture taken!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Move Over Babe!

No your eyes are not deceiving you. That is indeed a pig walking on a leash with other members of his canine agility team. Yes, Louie the pig has earned his spot on a canine agility team and regularly competes in agricultural and talent shows in his native England.

Owned by one animal behaviorist, Sue Williams, even she was amazed at the pig's "smarts." Louie is one of her eight pigs but since he was so much smaller than the others he was kept separately and given free range of her grounds.

"One day when I was training my dogs, I was trying to get one to run through a tunnel," she said. "Louie decided to zoom through the tunnel instead. I was really taken aback. I thought,'Hold on a minute--the pig's doing a better job than the dog.'"

"It just shows dog and animal owners that if you use the right type of training and reinforce good behaviour through reward you can do anything with any animal," she notes.

Sam, are you listening?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Horse Feed Recalled

Manna Pro Products, LLC, is voluntarily recalling a single lot (1006) of Family Farm Complete Horse 10 horse feed, UPC 0 95668 90151 6, packaged in 40 lb. bags. The product in question may contain monesin sodium, also known as Rumensin, and is predominantly sold in Oregon.

Monesin sodium is a medication approved for use in some livestock and poultry species but can be fatal to horses if consumed in high doses. The feed was sold January 11, 2011 through January 21, 2011 to retailers in California, Nevada and Oregon. Retailers who have received the product in question, have removed it from their shelves.

Initial testing has indicated the presence of a potentially harmful level of the substance in this single lot. At this time the limited recall only applies to this product and as of this writing, no illnesses or deaths have been reported.

We need oversight in human and animal feed and we needed it yesterday.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Title Search

So after the Amazon debut of the book formerly known as Lick Your Plate! we went to New York to take some photos for the real cover. It was a good excursion--the traffic cooperated and so did the chien de jour, an adorable Maltese named Henry.

He posed. He ran. He nibbled off a fork. He kissed the chef. He smiled. He genuinely looked adorable and I think we got some good shots. All of this remains to be seen since Sabina will have a big job ahead of her sorting through the outtakes and polishing up the good ones, but somewhere in there I predict is a cover shot.

And the most amazing thing about Henry is that despite his tiny stature--and he is tiny--he photographs about three times the size. Something about that dog--perhaps his personality--makes him look much bigger than he actually is. All of which is great because he has more universal appeal.

So now for the title. We have managed to convince the publisher that their choice, Bone Appetit, is overdone. In fact, if you search it on Amazon, there are at least twelve other titles by that name. Which makes it hard when you are searching for ours.

They have agreed to let us submit a list of names--as many as we want--for further consideration. So we are asking everyone--the butcher, the baker and the candle stick maker--to help us come up with a title that conveys chefs, dogs and food without a photo or a tag. The tag, by the way, is Great Chefs Cook for Their Dogs and Yours, which took me a while to craft, but with which I am very happy.

So put on your thinking caps. Sharpen those brain cells and unleash your inner genius. We are offering an autographed copy of the unnamed classic, formerly known as Lick your Plate! as well as our undying gratitude and who knows what else we will come up with!

No limit to the number of submissions so go for it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On the Trail in the U.K.

It seems that more and more people are using dogs to aid them in their daily life and in their work. In the U.K., dogs are now being used to sniff out endangered species, based on evidence of their signs of existence such as nests, carcasses or droppings. The program is called Conservation Dogs and it is all based on the dogs' incredible sense of smell.

"Some estimates suggest that [the dogs'] sense of smell is at least 100,000 times more sensitive than ours. As a result, scat detection dogs have been able to determine greater success at locating scats than human search teams using visual detection," notes Louise Wilson, director of the organization. "Each animal's scat contains DNA specific to it. By collecting scat samples, we can help get a population count for a location. This allows conservationists to formulate an estimate for a larger area."

Working on a zig-zag pattern, a dog like a Labrador or a spaniel, two of the more popular breeds used for this work, can work six to eight hours with regular breaks. To train them to find specific types of droppings, trainers rely on zoos to supply them. Dogs are rewarded for finding these samples.

Scat training has proved useful for other commercial organizations in Britain. One pest control company uses dogs to pinpoint the entry and exit point of mice! Hotels may soon use them to detect bed bugs.

Best of all, dogs love to have a job, especially one that feels like a walk in the park!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover

Lick Your Plate is now, despite all of our better efforts, Bone Appetit and is now listed for pre-sale on Amazon. Hence the link above. Also note that Sabina's name is listed as Sabrina.

Dare I say we are not happy campers.

But this should not discourage you from pre-ordering the book. As they say, you can't judge a book. . .

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Social Media 101

Loyal readers of this blog might notice a subtle name change: from Something About Barbaro to Something About Barbaro and Other Animals. Told you it was subtle. The general idea is to keep those loyal readers who know me from the Barbaro days and to encourage others who might not know me to join the fun.

You guessed the motive: building a larger following for the book and gradually getting to the point where all my communications are somehow linked. How this happens is beyond me for the time being, but I have been told that there are programs that can link everything you say with everywhere you say it, as in twitter with facebook with blog with website. I have to assess whether or not I am ready to jump into the Twitter stream so for now I am watching and deciding. In the meantime, encourage those who might not stop here because of the horse thing, to try it for a while.

I like all animals, horses included.

This entire social media craze is quite the rage in publishing these days and writer who write exclusively for the web are basically required to have a following before most editors will hire them. I don't know what takes more time--pitching stories, writing stories or building a following.

I do know, however, that social media is pretty crucial when it comes to marketing a book so stay tuned. I am just getting my feet wet.

Monday, February 21, 2011

All the Presidents' Dogs and Other Pets

In honor of the holiday, a glimpse through the archives of presidential pet keeping--although there is a shot of Teddy Kennedy in there that doesn't quite fit the bill.

You get the general idea. There have been lots of tails in the White House!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Veterinary Medicine

In case you didn't know it, 2011 has been designated as World Veterinary Year in recognition of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the first veterinary school in Lyon, France. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) considers this the beginning of the profession and has planned a year of festivities!

Well, we missed the opening ceremony, which was in January in Versailles, France but the closing ceremony will be in Cape Town, South Africa in October. In between, are a bunch of celebrations including a big one planned for the AVMA Convention in July in St. Louis. No word yet on whether or not I will be attending that but I am thinking about it, in conjunction with a project I am hatching.

Let's just say I am particularly intrigued by a day long symposium on July 17 entitled, World Veterinary Year: 250 years of Improving Animal and Human Health.

As for February, well this month is National Pet Dental Health month so make sure your pets teeth are clean and shining! By the age of two, about eighty percent of dogs and seventy percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease.

Log onto for more updates on the year long festivities!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Alas Poor Borders, I Knew You Well

I remember when the first Borders store opened in my neighborhood. What a buzz! The parking lot was huge; the store was huge and even bigger was the concept that a store this large could be filled entirely with books. Yes, books.

And you could sit and read the books, in comfortable chairs, with a cup of coffee, and not even buy them. What a concept. It was hard to fathom but it was immediately the new place to be. You could wander in there at almost any time of day or night (another great concept: late hours) and run into someone you knew, or not.

You could hide away in the stacks or catch up with a friend over coffee. I know someone who wrote his first book there, on a laptop, in the middle of the day when he could sneak away from the office for an hour or so.

I did the research on competing pet titles for my first and second book proposals at Borders (and then on line). The point being that I needed to see a real live book store and how they categorized their books, in order to know where my book belonged.

That same principle still applies, by the way. An agent or publisher will always ask you how you categorize your book and where a book store would shelve it. Too bad, the bookstore now will almost certainly be virtual. Alas poor Borders, I knew you well.

My local Borders, by the way, is not one of the 200 stores to close in its recent "reorganization" strategy. But the one at the Mall is. Which means that there may be some decent bargains to be had at the one that is closing and that they may, perhaps, restock the shelves of the one in my neighborhood that looks like it is about to.

Am I guilty of buying books from Amazon? Of course. Especially when the bookstore down the street doesn't have what I want when I want it. But am I sad to see the demise of Borders? Yes.

Because, in my neck of the woods, there doesn't seem to be anything to fill the void.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Smarty to Uruguay

This just in: Smarty Jones will be shuttling to Uruguay at the end of July to perform his studly duties during that hemisphere's breeding season. The general reaction of those in his "camp" is one of delight and opportunity, not only for the income, but also for the introduction of high quality mares into his line.

"We could not be happier," said Ricardo Colombo, who along with ghost Ridge Farm manager, Carl McEntee, helped broker the deal. "Smarty Jones was an exceptional racehorse. Bringing him here will thrust the Uruguayan breeding program into the international market."

"The opportunity for his base of mare again be increased and diversified can only continue to prove the quality that this sensational horse possesses," Carl McEntee said.

Pat Chapman, owner of Smarty Jones, was instrumental in having the colt relocated to Pennsylvania from Kentucky and also has been adamant about not selling him to any overseas interests. "The Japanese really, really want him," she told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We've turned down some nice offers from Japan. I keep saying, 'No, he's not leaving the country.' I'm happy to allow Smarty the opportunity to shuttle."

I am not up on the level of horse racing in Uruguay but my guess is that Smarty Jones will be treated like the visiting dignitary he will be. The best thing would be if some of those babies eventually raced in the United States so we could see them in person.

In the meantime, Smarty's 3 year old son, Rouge Romance, is the favorite in the Risen Star Stakes, to be run at Fair Grounds on Saturday.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Life is Ruff

In thinking about our cover photo for the book, we are aiming for a dog, sitting at a restaurant table (or bar), complete with place setting and a chef (perhaps) in the background. We are going to use one of the dogs in the book in an undisclosed location--for the time being. The point here is that we may have to use a lot of positive reinforcement to get this dog to cooperate.

Click on the above video to see how one man has used positive reinforcement to save the life of some Chicago dogs. A great idea and a great cause.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who Do You Like in the Derby?

I know it is only February but that means May is breathing down our necks--oh how I wish! In any event, the Derby Trail has begun and my personal pick--and probably the pick of everyone who watched the Breeder's Cup Juvenile (see above) is Uncle Mo, who is currently undefeated and the favorite.

I know, few favorites ever win the run for the roses, but I love this horse and I also love the owner, who is now writing a blog on How can you not love the following: "My goal is to make Uncle Mo as accommodating and accessible as possible to the fans..."

Can it be that the precedents set by the Jacksons with Barbaro and the Moss's with Zenyatta have started to become de rigeur? That is, the voice of the people holds sway. Just ask Secretariat.

Gotta love this horse.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Dog Who Knows 1000 Words

OK, I will confess that Sam has a huge collection of toys. There are two toy baskets--one upstairs, one downstairs--stuffed with his collection and yes, every toy has a name. But if you ask Sam to find Ducky, chances are you will get Snake or Chipmunk or even a tennis ball.

Not so with this amazing dog who brings the right toy on command--and has a choice of 1,000!!!!

Wonder if he gives lessons?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pug Love

In honor of Valentines Day, my favorite Super Bowl commercial. Did I ever tell you I love pugs? But stay out of their way if they are hungry.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It's A Dog Eat Dog World

If you are ever in New York City the weekend before the Westminster Kennel Club Show, do yourself a favor and spend some time in the lobby of the Hotel Pennsylvania which is directly across Seventh Avenue from Penn Station and the Garden. There, I promise you, you will literally run into every breed of dog represented at the show and every type of dog owner that accompanies these breeds. A mini Best in Show, the movie, if you will and so worth a side trip. The cell phone conversations alone are priceless!

I left the excellent Pet Writer's .
Conference yesterday to cross the street and catch a train home and shared the elevator with a Boston Terrier and a Portygese Water Dog sporting a poodle cut. The most magnificent Golden Retriever was going through the revolving doors to check in as I was checking out and walked into the lobby like he owned it.

Overheard on cell phones were all matters of feeding and eliminating details. The lobby was filled with pet carriers of every size and shape and dogs trailing behind the obliging bellman who moved them.

Our speaker at lunch yesterday was David Frei, the voice of Westminster and I came home with bags of goodies for my pooches!
And that's not even including all the great contacts and information I gathered from the Conference! A great day,

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Going to the Dogs!

HUGE weekend for dog lovers is fast approaching and no, I am not talking about Valentine's Day. (Although your dog would probably love a valentine). I am talking about the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show which takes place Monday (Feb 14th) and Tuesday in the Big Apple.

The Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups will be judged on Monday. Sporting, Working and Terrier groups plus Best in Show will be judged Tuesday. TV coverage is from 8-9 PM Monday on USA Network and 8-11 PM on Tuesday on the same network. Live updates are available on the Westminster Web site throughout the day.

Yours truly is not going to the actual dog show, but I will be attending a Pet Writer's conference in New York today that is being held in the Hotel Pennsylvania, directly across the street from Madison Square Garden. Who knows? I might see a few competitors who have checked in early.

The tower of the Empire State Building is even going to be decked out in purple and gold (the colors of Westminster) in honor of the event!! 2,500 dogs are expected and one will be named Best in Show. Maybe this year, a golden retriever will be so honored?

By the way, a rough collie, named Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, who was Best in Show in 1929, has the distinction of being the youngest dog to ever win the coveted title. Do you remember who won last year? Sadie, that adorable Scottish terrier!

Have fun watching!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vox Populi Award

From Santa Anita, February 1, from one popular hero to another. Zenyatta wins the first Secreatariat Vox Populi Award and her connections accept from the legendary Penny Chenery.

Enjoy--including footage of Zenyatta romping at Lane's End. Retirement becomes her!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bits and Pieces

My life is a bit fragmented these days--that seems to be what happens when one has too many irons in the fire simultaneously--so I thought I'd give you an update, in no particular order, of the projects whirring in my brain, all at warp speed. Hold on to your hats!

Project 1: Finish a proposal for a book about comparative oncology with Dr. Gerry Post, DVM and Board certified oncologist, in time for a meeting of Pet Writers in NYC on the 12th. Status: in progress

Project 2: Finish an article for a local magazine on autism and inclusion in the community. Status: in progress

Project 3: Copy edit the manuscript of the book. Due in a week. Status: waiting for manuscript. Prediction: A major pain in the rear turn around is in store.

Project 4: Communicate with PR person from publisher to get moving on launch parties and press since we now have a publication date of SEPT 6!!!!! ACK!!! It seems like tomorrow!

Project 5: Set up and coordinate cover shoot. Status: waiting for direction from publisher but due by Feb 14 at the latest.

Project 6: Prepare for major snowstorm rumored to be heading up the coast imminently. Status: We need more salt but we have edibles.

Welcome to my world. Now back to work.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Michael Vick Being Michael Vick

A reporter approached Michael Vick, who recently received the key to the city of Dallas, to tell him that he had adopted one of his dogs and show him a picture. Watch the video for his response.

But you can probably guess what it was.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Helping Shelter Pets with a Click

I heard a radio program earlier in the week about the prevalence of shelter dogs and the inspiring people who are helping them find new homes. These include Dr. Mike Moyer, Director of Penn Vet's Shelter Medicine program. An elective course, Dr. Moyer takes fourth year students into the trenches of real live animal shelters to let them see (and practice) first hand the type of medicine required by animals in shelters.

In any event, the overall message was one of need on the part of the animals. Which led me to the video above by Dr. Marty Becker, Good Morning America's vet. If you follow the instructions in the video, which basically entail clicking the Like on his Facebook page, Dr. Becker will donate $1 for every click toward a fund that helps shelter animals get the veterinary care they need.

The American Animal Hospital Association Helping Pets Fund works with AAHA-accredited practices to assist animals in need.

A win-win situation for all, especially the animals.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Like Mother Like Son

Son Number Two recently returned from a Mexican vacation minus a dog--it was a close call, he informed me--but with a new admiration for an ex-Pat who is doing amazing work rescuing an adopting out the many dogs of Mexico.

He and his friend, who traveled to Mexico with collars, leashes and chew treats for the dogs in the shelter, visited her facility and reported that there were many, many dogs, especially puppies, in need of homes.

According to her website, shipping the dogs anywhere does not seem to be a problem and they have done so many, many times. If you are in the market for a puppy, check out her offerings and let me know how it goes. To me, Boris and Natasha, the Bassets, are calling my name, but I have my hands full with my gimpy golden and her "siblings."

I wonder if they are bi-lingual?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Puppy Bowl!!!

Don't forget the event of the season--today on Animal Planet. Check your local listings!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl Prediction

So even though the Packers blew the Eagles out of contention for the Super Bowl (aside from the entire Michael Vick controversy, the Eagles, in my opinion, were never good enough to be Super Bowl worthy, but that is another story), I do think that they are going to win the Super Bowl. And apparently so does VPI, the pet insurance company.

And their prediction has nothing to do with football. It is entirely based on their unique system of picking a winning team based on the names of pets listed on their database of insured pets. Yes, you heard that correctly. Whichever team has the most pets named for players, team symbols, mascots, etc. wins.

Drum roll, please. As you can see from the above chart, Packers win. But it is close. And lest you doubt, this system has correctly picked the winners of Super Bowls for the past two years.

Who am I to mess with success??!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Crunchy Bubbles!

OK. So it has been the winter of our discontent in this part of the planet--snow, ice, freezing rain, cold temperatures--you name it, we've had it. But leave it to the meteorologists at Mt. Washington in New Hampshire to put a positive spin on the situation.

Watch this video of soap bubbles freezing mid-flight. Very cool--literally and figuratively!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Beagle Freedom Project

I thought that it was no longer legal to do experimental research on dogs, but I guess it depends on the lab and the bioethical philosophy of the people who are running it. In any event, it must still be legal in California since there is a new group dedicated to rescue beagles used in animal experimentation in research laboratories.

It is called the Beagle Freedom Project, and it is a project of Animal Rescue Media & Education.

The above video documents their first rescue. Warning, it will break your heart.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rest in Peace

It is hard to believe that is has been four years since Barbaro left this planet. January 29th was the four year anniversary of his passing and one of the best reflections on the Kentucky Derby winner was posted here and written by Bob Lazzari.

Short of copying the entire thing, I will urge you to read it for yourselves and leave with with this quote: "'Only' a horse? Hardly. Barbaro is a hero because he unknowingly united an adoring public while making the improbable seem possible: that's what genuine heroes do."

Alex's Brown book on the champion horse will be out this spring and will go a long way to preserving and protecting Barbaro's legacy

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Metal Bands May Harm Penguins

Sometimes those tracking devices that scientists use to band animals in the wild can be harmful to the animals' health. At least it appears to be that way when it comes to King Penguins who are often banded to keep track of their migratory and reproductive habits. The theory is that the metal, which is either aluminum or stainless steel, can be a drag on the penguins when they swim, making them work doubly hard. In addition, the metal may be interfering with the birds' reproductive cycles.

These findings, by Yvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg in France, were recently reported in the journal Nature. In this study, the researchers followed 100 penguins total for ten years: 50 had bands and 50 did not. Le Maho said the penguins who were banded looked more haggard and older than the non banded penguins. In addition, the survival rate of penguins with metal bands on their flippers was 44% lower than those without. In addition banded penguins are producing fewer chicks.

It is a very interesting observation since these bands were originally believed not to interfere with the penguins' lifestyle or routine. These bands are useful for scientists to track the progress (or lack thereof) of colonies from one mating season to the next and to track the effects of lots of factors on their survival.

It may be that the particular type of flipper bands used on these penguins was more problematic that some others but it seems that the less invasive types of studies, i. e. those that are based upon direct observation of animals in the wild, may be more accurate than those that rely on instruments to generate data.