Friday, April 29, 2011

Going Back

I'm heading to Princeton today for three days of what is being billed as a celebration of women at Princeton, aptly titled, She Roars. According to current Princeton president Shirley Tilghman, "It has been 50 years since Princeton admitted its first female degree candidate, a graduate student in the Department of Oriental Studies, followed by the introduction of undergraduate coeducation in 1969. Together these events paved the way for the inclusive institution that we know today."

Of course those of us who attended Princeton in the seventies find it hard to believe that it is truly inclusive, it was so non-inclusive back then, so I am truly looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, classmates and meeting some new incredible women.

Hence, with all this roaring, I will be back on Monday, probably hoarse and sick of orange and black, but definitely proud of my stripes!

Have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pets in the Family

Everything that you already know is true is in this video but note the expert opinion from my former thesis advisor, James Serpell!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Don't Mess With Mothers!

Thanks to a loyal reader who sent this my way.

Can you imagine being the photographer who caught this?

Lab has baby squirrel pinned down...
And Mother sees it (from above)!

Mom takes action!!

Dog gets it from Mom and baby gets away!

Mother consoles baby and...

Look at the dog's face... This has to be what he is thinking...
"What the world just happened?
Did I just get my rear kicked by a squirrel?"

Monday, April 25, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ball Bark

Pet owners in Boston have some great new options when it comes to leaving their four legged companions when they go out of town. And no, we are not talking about pet sitters or, perish the thought, kennels, but rather plush, lush, four-star pet resorts.

Take for instance the new Urban Hound, a boutique hotel and day care center for dogs or the Boston Red Dog Pet Resort and Spa. But my favorite--based solely on the name--Fenway Bark, which also happens to be the most expensive.

The suite at Urban Hound is $65/night while the room rates at Fenway Bark go up to $150/night. But who's quibbling? Only the best for our pets. According to a report by Packaged Facts, demand for luxury pet lodging is on the rise, which does not mean the run of the mill kennel.

"Their children are growing up and moving out," says Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association. "And as helicopter parents, they need to find something else to hover over." Guess who? The dog of course, who probably has never been without human contact!

I wonder if that Fenway Bark suite comes with a view of the stadium or a baseball to chew on? Probably just a hot dog or two but I can sense a trend. Citizens Bank Bark anyone?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stolen Parking Space

"Phoebe, I told you to gun it!," says Amos, ever the back seat driver.

Too funny!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Rat's Whiskers

Rats have whiskers. So do a lot of other mammals but not all whiskers whisk--that is, interpret the world for the owner of the whiskers.

To understand why this is important and how this works, click on the video above, courtesy of NPR, Science Friday.

Thought this went well with yesterday's "cat's meow."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Jess Jackson Dies at Age 81

A sad day in the horse racing world with the news of the passing of Jess Jackson, the dynamic owner of Rachel Alexandra and Curlin on April 21, 2011. Mr. Jackson was 81 and died after a lengthy battle with cancer.

I remember seeing him on television at several of Rachel's races, wearing a baseball cap to cover his head, which was bald after chemo treatments. His wife, Barbara Banke, was a guest of Gretchen Jackson two years ago at the Penn Vet luncheon at Saratoga. It was at the height of Rachel's fame and Barbara was gracious and very down to earth.

Mr. Jackson will be remembered for many horses that his Stonestreet Stables campaigned but few more glorious than Rachel Alexandra and Curlin, both Horses of the Year. Rachel, in fact is in foal to Curlin, presumably carrying the first of what Jackson called a new breed of racehorse: one that he beleived was being bred for the ability to run far as well as fast.

A true sportsman, Jackson was dedicated to the sport of racing and raced both Curlin and Rachel as older horses, giving the fans a chance to marvel at their skill and grace, rather than retire them to their respective breeding careers. It is a shame that he did not live to see that first foal.

Mr. Jackson was a founder of the Kendall Jackson Winery and the vineyard produced a limited edition Rachel Alexandra wine in 2009. He was a man of great integrity and vision and his leadership will be sorely missed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Greener Pastures

I was recently contact by an organization called A New Leash on Life that places shelter dogs with prison inmates for training and socialization and then adopts them out. It is a wonderful national program that is launching here in Philly in June and I suggested that they investigate a similar program that the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund has had in place for years with inmates at correctional institutions across the country.

The TRF program is extremely successful both in training the inmates to become skilled stable workers and in caring for the retired animals. Like all nonprofits it is facing difficult times, but the organization's track record (no pun intended) should go far to convince donors of the success of the program. A recent New York Times article apparently reported that some of the horses in TRF's care were too thin, but the organization has refuted these claims.

In the meantime, the plight of retired racehorses remains a blight on the industry as a whole. Not every owner pensions his animals, like A. P. Indy's, and not every race horse has a successful career at stud. Nonetheless, a horse is a lifelong investment and deserves to be cared for regardless of his/her success on the track or in the breeding shed.

Avalyn Hunter makes the point most eloquently here. Bravo to those who have stepped up to their responsibilities and shame on those who don't. Horse racing has enough strikes against it without irresponsible owners and trainers adding their own.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trixie of the Trade

Author Dean Koontz, who has written over 100 books, many of them best sellers, talks about his love for a golden retriever who changed his life.

Been there. Know that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Like I said, the Derby is anybody's race to win. Where did this guy come from?

Monday, April 18, 2011

In Honor of Tax Day and the Big Dog Refund

Taxes are due today since Friday, the 15th was a holiday in Washington, D.C. Hope you have a big dog refund coming your way!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jimmy Stewart had a Dog Named Beau

Now it isn't just because he went to Princeton (he did!) but also because I absolutely adore Jimmy Sewart, especially in Harvey the Rabbit and of course It's a Wonderful Life.

But nothing is more endearing than this clip of him reading a poem he had written about his dog named Beau.

Warning: get your tissues ready.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Sand Dancer

Nothing to do with animals. Nothing to do with writing. But everything to do with art.

Watch and be amazed.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Uncle Mo's Health Status

So the answer to Uncle Mo's lackluster performance in the Wood Memorial seems to be a gastrointestinal infection. Results from blood work confirmed the presence of a GI bug for which he is being treated, according to his connections.

"The vets concluded that Uncle Mo is perfectly capable of returning to full training while the treatment continues," Todd Pletcher told Bloodhorse. "He will ship to Churchill Downs on April 18 and will have two works before May 7. If I do not feel that Uncle Mo is 100% for the Kentucky Derby, both Mike (Repole) and I agree that he will not run. My main focus is to return Uncle Mo to optimum health in the next 23 days and I am optimistic that we can accomplish this goal."

It is amazing how this story is beginning to sound more and more like the Secretariat one. Remember that mouth abscess that caused his poor performance in the Wood? Well it seems to have settled in Uncle Mo's tummy!

Let's hope he recovers in time to return to perfect form in the Derby.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arthur's Tale Out of Derby

I'll admit a certain soft spot for Arthur's Tale, the son of Bernardini, who ran the race of his life in the Wood Memorial last weekend. He closed on Uncle Mo down the stretch and was just beaten at the wire by Toby's Corner. That's him in the photo above on the left.

In any event, Arthur's Tale will not be repeating his come from behind tactics in the Kentucky Derby due to an injury. "He popped a splint in his left front leg," said his trainer Tom Albertrani. "One day he runs the race of his life and looks like a Derby horse who's going to love the mile and a quarter and is going in the right direction, and the next day he's out of it. It's just bad timing."

Not to worry, however. The injury is classified as minor and Albertrani is pointing him toward the Belmont, where he will probably love the distance.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Smokey the Cat

This is Smokey who lives in England and whose owners have submitted an application to the Guiness Book or Records for the Cat with the Loudest Purr For those of you who keep track of these things, it is recorded at 92 decibels which is apparently as loud as a hair dryer!

Sam would most definitely be in the running for the dog with the loudest bark. Wonder if there is such a thing.....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who Me?

Once, long ago, when I left a puppy named Bentley for too many hours in the company of his "baby sitters" named George and Lucy, I came home to what looked like a "raid" on the pantry. There was food everywhere--popped bags of pretzels, microwave popcorn, red jello powder walked into the floor boards--you get the picture.

I knew who did it, of course but when I asked the assembled parties, their reaction was very similar to the above!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bite Me!

Every time my dogs go to the groomer--ideally every six weeks or they start to look like shaggy monsters--they get their teeth brushed and their ears cleaned out. Yes the teeth brushing costs a dollar or two extra, but after reading about a Vancouver couple who have been charged with animal cruelty for neglecting their dog's teeth, I am very glad I fork over the extra cash!

Dogster has the scoop on the couple, whose dog had to have 14 teeth pulled, they were so rotted. If the couple is convicted, they face some hefty fines (up to $5000), or six months in jail, and the possibility of being banned from every owning a pet again.

Apparently the dog, a black terrier named Pudding, was well known to the authorities, having been picked up near his home last year and diagnosed with horrific dental disease. Authorities ordered their owners to get the dental work performed, but they did nothing, apparently done in by the cost of their neglect.

To make matters worse, the dog was in horrible pain. Well, you would be too, trust me.
As of now, the dog has had the dental work performed and been taken away from his owner and re-homed.

Granted, every six weeks is probably not the ideal dental routine--teeth should probably be brushed every day--but for now it seems to be working. And apparently small dogs are more prone to dental issues than larger ones, but the entire episode just drives home the importance of truly taking care of your pet, from tooth to tail.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Uncle Mo Upset

Uncle Mo finished third in the Wood Memorial where he went off as the 1-9 favorite. It was Uncle Mo Day at the Big A and fans were given bracelets in Uncle Mo's colors of orange and blue.

Those colors, however, while on the lead for most of the race, finished a disappointing third as Toby's Song split horses to take the lead a jump before the wire. Longshot Arthur's Tale was second while a length back orange and blue Uncle Mo took the show position.

What happened? Well it appears that he stopped so distance may be a factor. Indian Charlie, his sire, was not fond of going much longer than a mile and this race was a mile and an eighth. Did the jockey think he had the race won and eased up a bit too early? Perhaps.

It seems as if Uncle Mo made a nice acceleration, all under a hand ride, at the top of the stretch and stretched out his lead easily. I think the horses that caught him took both the horse and the jockey by surprise--or maybe not. It may be that jockey Velasquez, one of the best in the business, was under orders to hand ride only and not take too much out of the horse. Who knows?

Lots of comparisons are being made to Secretariat's Wood Memorial when he too came in third. And we all know how that played out. I personally think that comparison may be a bit of a stretch but I wouldn't rule out Uncle Mo in the Derby just yet. Rest assured we will hear a lot of explanations in the days to come.

So the Derby remains anyone's race. Dialed In looks like a strong contender and don't rule out Toby's Song, whose trainer, Graham Motion, is one of the best in the business.

One month to go and things are getting very interesting.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Double Diplomas

A great article in the Inquirer recently highlighted the work of two Rowan University seniors who are helping to train a guide dog. Not so unusual you might think. But here's the catch: these two trainers are blind.

Jordan Ortiz already has a guide dog named Viola, who has helped lead her through four years at Rowan and will be at her side when she accepts her diploma. Ortiz's roommate and classmate, Danielle Larsen, is also legally blind. It is Larsen who is raising a guide dog in training, Zara. "We really have a unique situation for a puppy to grow up in," Larsen laughs.

Usually puppy raisers are sighted, but this pair is bringing a new dimension to the volunteer effort. Certainly these two girls know exactly what a guide dog will need to do to make their respective lives easier. Right now, they go everywhere and do everything with their dogs in tow. "Parts of our backpacks are ours and parts are the dogs," says Larsen.

Zara has been with Ortiz and Larsen for five months. Soon she will return to the headquarters of The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey for more training, including how to walk in a harness with a handle, follow directional commands and stop for traffic. The training to date has been all about manners, socialization and love.

Will it be hard to give her up? Of course but "Zara has a destiny and a future," comments Larsen. So, it seems, do these generous and accomplished girls.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Barking for Dollars

I had hinted at this information in a previous blog, but the new numbers from the American Pet Products Association are officially out and pet ownership is at an all time high in the United States. 72.9 million households have a pet--think about that for a minute. Most Americans have a pet.

And here's another staggering figure: spending on those pets is predicted to surpass $50 billion this year. Astounding. This makes pet retail the the eighth largest retail sector. Americans spend more money on pets than on candy, jewelery and hardware combined. Wow!

And here's an interesting factoid behind those numbers. It is not just consumers who are spending on pets; it is also large companies, both national and international, that are acquiring smaller pet product lines. Seargent, for example, has recently gotten into the flea prevention business by promoting Fiproguard Plus, made by Merial, with the same ingredients as Frontline, but sold directly to the consumer, without the vet as middleman. Check it out next time you go to buy pet food. My guess is that it will be a bit less costly than Frontline.

Price seems to be an important factor in the consumer's decision to purchase items for their pets. Frivolous purchases seem to be out. Consumers apply the same criteria to pet products as they do to people products: well made with decent price points. Sure, there will still be those "irresistible" impulse buys but, by and large, quality is going to win over quantity--not to mention products that genuinely solve a problem.

Speaking of which, I have recently invested in two new products that I am hoping stand the test of time. The first is an adjustable collar with a removable ice pack for those summer days and the second is a mesh, slightly elevated pet bed, that I hope will keep Phoebe out of the dirt, off the stone patio and comfortable out of doors.

The jury's still out since they have yet to arrive, but it is good to know that I am not alone when it comes to spending for my pets.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

High Jumping

Have you heard about Luna, the cow who thinks she is a horse? She belongs to Regina Mayer whose parents did not respond to the teen's requests for a horse. So instead the resourceful Meyer taught her cow Luna (named for jumping over the moon in the nursery rhyme) to show jump.

Amazing. And a lot of work--two years to be exact.

Moral of the story: Never look a gift cow in the mouth!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

War Horse in NYC

I was in New York for a few days last week and I saw the Lincoln Center production of War Horse. Run, do not walk, to see it.

It is the most amazing piece of theater I have seen in ages and the horses are truly alive. Each puppet has three people inside it making it move, breathe, eat and come to life.

You will laugh. You will cry. You will be amazed. I promise it will take your breath away and you will want to see it again.

I know I do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Barbaro Special

For those of you with HRTV, this is old news since the special on Barbaro aired on April 3. This is a snippet from it. The premise behind the special was a retrospective on Barbaro five years out, and, as you can tell from the interview with Dean Richardson, a cure for laminitis remains an important focus of Barbaro's legacy.

I do not have HRTV and I am hoping that the DVD will eventually be available for purchase.

It is truly amazing that it has been five years since Barbaro ran away with the Kentucky Derby. In many ways, it seems like yesterday and in many ways, it seems like a lifetime ago.

One thing is for certain: his legacy remains alive, well and continuing to be written by his brothers as well as the many people who are doing such good work in his name.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dialed In Scores Big

Dialed In secured a top spot in the Kentucky Derby with his impressive win in yesterday's Florida Derby. Demonstrating the come from behind style that served him so well in the Holy Bull on January 30th, he powered past long shot Shackelford who was having the race of his life!

An impressive win for the Nick Zito trained colt, but even more interesting was what happened to the favorites: Soldat, To Honor and Serve and Flashpoint--basically nothing. To be fair, Dialed In was the second favorite betting choice so he certainly was not running under the radar, but somehow managed to escape the hype surrounding the race.

All of which means that once again the Kentucky Derby is anyone's race. At least until Uncle Mo runs next weekend in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Speaking of which I heard Frank Deford, the revered sports commentator lamenting his name the other day on NPR. Now Citation, according to Deford, that was a name for the ages, while Uncle Mo is just too pedestrian, in his opinion to be a Kentucky Derby winner.

Time will tell, of course but in the end the only name that really matters is "Winner."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Heaven Can Wait

So maybe it's because I am doing a story on hospital chaplaincy, but when I wandered into the Penn Bookstore yesterday I happened to glance at the book, Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpos, all about the boy in the video, their son Colton, who claims he has been to Heaven and back.

Good news for those of you who believe: Everyone in Heaven has wings and nobody is older than about 30! Also "there are lots of animals."

Fascinating stuff.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Forida Derby Great Prep

The Florida Derby on Sunday is shaping up to be quite a race with lots of legitimate Derby contenders including Soldat, the morning line favorite and To Honor and Serve. Keep your eye on one of my favorites Arch Traveler who is making a huge move up in class but whose connections feel he can run with the best. This is the time of year to run big or go home!

It is race 12 on Gulfstream's packed card--Nicanor is running earlier in the day so should be an exciting day of racing! Just one more reminder that May is closer than our current weather in the northeast would have us believe!

$1 million Florida Derby (gr. I, Race 10, 5:42 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, Trainer, Odds
1. Soldat, 122, Garcia, McLaughlin, K, 9-5
2. To Honor and Serve, 122, Gomez, Mott, W, 4-1
3. Arch Traveler, 122, Lezcano, Jerkens, J, 20-1
4. Bowman's Causeway, 122, Lopez, Biancone, P, 20-1
5. Shackleford, 122, Castanon, Romans, D, 20-1
6. Stay Thirsty, 122, R. A. Dominguez, Pletcher, T, 8-1
7. Dialed In, 122, Leparoux, R Zito, N, 8-1
8. Flashpoint, 122, Velasquez, Dutrow, R., 6-1

Read more here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Me and My Shadow

A great April Fool's trick in honor of all the teachers out there!!!