Peta’s ‘Convenient Lie’ is Alive and Well. The Chained Dogs They Rescue? Not So Much.

(Reblogged from Tamira Thayne’s “Untethered.”)

I have a subscription to The Washington Post online. Today’s blog is just another reason I wish I didn’t… I mean, you know when Trump is president and you’re effin’ convinced you’re about to die any minute and you’re so freaked out about what he’ll pull next that you subscribe to a good newspaper so […]

Peta’s ‘Convenient Lie’ is Alive and Well. The Chained Dogs They Rescue? Not So Much.
Posted in Animal Advocacy, Guest Woofs, The Woof on Animal Welfare Legislation, The Woof on Rescue Groups | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Chapter for Yelodoggie

It was a long journey, but the first Yelodoggie book was released this month from FreedomChaser Books, an imprint of Who Chains You LLC, an indie publisher that serves the animal rescue and advocacy community.

In 1978, I entered art school to study children’s book illustration. I have always loved books, and Highlights for Children locked in my love for children’s illustration. But when I left college, my life took a detour into graphics, and that became my career for the next 2 decades. I didn’t start thinking about children’s literature again until my forties. Although I wrote scripts for two children’s books at that time, I never illustrated them because it just seemed too daunting a task. Then my writing took a detour, and I ended up penning five books about my experiences in animal rescue.

Shortly after the turn of the century, I created Floyd, the yelodoggie, and I began to paint him in various, often compromising, situations. I sold the original paintings and prints of them over the next decade. Then I made two influential friendships through my love of dogs: Bob McCarty, author of the Planet of the Dog’s series of children’s books, and Tamira Ci Thayne, founder of the rescue group Dogs Deserve Better, and author of the Animal Protector Series of children’s books. While Tami hired me to illustrate three of her books, Bob began advocating that I do my own book with my yelodoggie as the central character. I provided Bob with images of all my paintings, and he wrote a rough draft of a story based around them. By the time I finished Tami’s three books, I had gained the confidence to do my own project.

Available in print and kindle.

Floyd is a happy dog with many friends. One day, someone asked Floyd why he ìs yellow. Floyd had never thought about it. He did not know the answer. He wasn’t a lemon. He wasn’t a banana. He was a dog. “Why am I yellow?” he wondered. Join Floyd on his adventures to find the answer to his question, and meet many of his friends and other animals along the way. A great family conversation starter and bedtime read. For ages 4 and up with an adult’s help, or 6 and up for beginning readers.

Here is what readers are saying about it:

Why Am Iis a beautiful book to delight kids and adults alike with lively, attractive illustrations and a cleverly posed message about value and identity. Every page is frame-worthy.”
— Bob Tarte, author of Enslaved By Ducks, Fowl Weather, and Kitty Cornered.

A sweet little book that will inspire little guys (and all readers)  to feel secure in who they are.”
Arlene Brooks-Davis

“I liked that the dog was happy again.” –Asher, age 4

“I liked when he had an answer.” Baylee, age 4

“. . .the real magic Wulff and McCarty conjure in this book: instead of only asking “Why am I Yellow?” the interruptions truncate Floyd’s query into the far more universal “Why Am I…?” And just like that, the book is elevated from just really good to truly great. The smaller question becomes larger — possibly the single largest question ever asked throughout history; ”Why do I exist?” — F.A.Vicarel (Preschool teacher)

If you pick up a copy, please take a moment to rate or review it on Amazon or goodreads. Thanks!

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Do Dogs Instinctively Know How to Swim?

I was lying awake in bed last night thinking about swimming. Not about when I might go swimming, but the act of swimming, itself.

Brady & Luca, demonstrating a skill set we tend to believe is inherent in dogs.

When I was a kid, my mom would take my brother and me to our Aunt’s house, where there was a pool, and we would go swimming with our cousins. I was the youngest, and wanted to keep up with the others, but I was less than a model swimmer, which the cranky lifeguard frequently reminded me. She insisted that I had to swim the Australian Crawl properly, turning my head to take breaths and kicking my feet. I was a poor kicker, and tended to just tow my legs behind me. I was a great underwater swimmer and dog paddler, though, and I didn’t know why those alternatives weren’t good enough for me to join my relatives swimming in the deep end.

As you may have guessed, “dog paddling” made me think of dogs swimming, and then I went down the rabbit hole of why some dogs are great swimmers and others aren’t. Is swimming an inborn dog skill? Is it instinct?

My dog, Dillon, couldn’t swim. He would splash his front legs up out of the water like he was trying to get a grip on something solid. Like this Vizla:

(The greatest argument for swimming not being an instinct)

One day while I was swimming in an above-ground pool, he was observing from the deck and he slipped and fell in.

He sunk to the bottom like a stone.

I’d never seen a dog do that before, and I’ll never get the image out of my head of him sinking in slow mo while not making a single move to stay afloat. It was unnerving.

Dillon must have been hiding behind the door when the swimming instinct was handed out. Some dogs will begin to swim if you just hold them over water. My chihuahua, Taco, used to do that.

(This seems to be the greatest argument for swimming being instinctual.)

Stanley Coren, PHD, says that paddling is instinctual to a dog, but that doesn’t mean all dogs are good swimmers. Can your dog swim? Don’t make the assumption she can without giving her the opportunity to try (under your close observation, of course)

Annabelle & Emma
swimming like pros

The skill seems to be affected by body type. Dogs with large heads or deep chests, (think Danes, Boxers, Mastiffs) and brachycephalic dogs with smashed faces (think Pugs, Pekes, Bostons), are usually poorer swimmers because it’s harder for them to keep their heads above water. Dogs with short limbs (think Doxies, Scotties, Bassetts) are likely good paddlers, but may not be able to maneuver well–though that wasn’t an issue for Falkor, a short -legged terrier who came to live with us. On the same day Dillon nearly drowned in the pool, Falkor swam like an Olympian, though he’d never been swimming before, and nobody had taught him. So I guess there’s just no telling until a dog has the opportunity to try.

Now that it’s summer, you may be planning to vacation at the beach, go boating, or take your dog with you to places where she will be around water. Be sure to check out these excellent tips for dog water safety on the pets.webmd website.

Be careful out there! Your dog relies on you for her safety.

Thanks for stopping by, and don’t forget to tell your dog(s) I said “Hi!”

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Bunny the Dog Talks, Are We Ready to Listen?

Updated 12/10

Updated 12/12

I was feeling really emotional yesterday, because I watched the latest Bunny the Dog video.
Do you know who Bunny is? She is a sheepadoodle who has been taught to use a dashpad of prerecorded buttons to communicate. Bunny came hot on the heels of Christina Hunger’s dog, Stella. Hunger had released a number of videos of her dog using an AAC device to communicate, prompting Bunny’s mom to set up a similar dashpad and teach her puppy how to use it.


When Bunny’s videos started gaining traction, they caught the attention of University of San Diego’s Comparative Communication Dept, who subsequently set up a study with 700 animal participants. They plan to use the data to understand different aspects of interspecies communication.

Lisa Gunter, a research fellow at Arizona State University, thinks people’s outsized reactions to Bunny videos may be a reflection of our nervousness when it comes to fully providing for our companions’ needs. A dog with the potential to communicate with us in a new way could push us to accept that animals “have their own thoughts, wants, needs, desires,” she says. “I think that likely means that we’re gonna come up short sometimes.”

I’d say that’s a pretty succinct summation of one reason why I am feeling emotional. When I started seeing these videos, my first thought was how this could change the world of animal welfare.

Dog intelligence has only become a serious subject of study in recent years, when scholars like Brian Hare, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, and his wife, Vanessa Woods, wrote about landmark discoveries from the Duke Canine Cognition Center and other research facilities around the world that show how dogs think, feel, and solve problems.

Top: Vanessa Woods & Brian Hare. Bottom: Gregory Berns.

Another study, by Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns, was inspired by his decades of work decoding the human brain using MRI imaging technology to use the same technology to decode the canine brain.

These studies gave us better insight into what dogs feel and how they think–they’ve taught us that dogs have the intellectual and emotional capabilities of a three or four-year-old child. But up until now, the only way to have a conversation with your dog has been through the help of animal communicators, or by learning to read your dog’s body language.

So, let’s go back to animal welfare: laws have changed over the years based on what we have learned. We have laws now against things that weren’t considered cruel in the past. In fact, there was a time when people believed that animals didn’t feel pain! Some modern day animal abusers long on ignorance still believe that nonsense, as, unfortunately, do some legislators.

Yet here is Bunny, telling her mom something hurts. . . and then attempting to explain it through her dashpad. [] I don’t know about you, but I find that remarkable.

Think for a moment how a dog telling us where it hurts could help us catch sickness and injuries before things get serious!

In yesterday’s video, Bunny seemed to be asking existential questions. “What ‘love you’?” “Bunny what?” “Mom love you Bunny Why?” Questions that open up a whole new can of worms. . .for which I found mom’s answers wholly inadequate. But the possibilities for the future–they seem endless.

At the very least, we will be able to look at the world from their perspective, without relying on guesswork. They have so much to teach us.


12/10 update:

Bunny’s mom did a one hour question and answer interview that was posted today on YouTube.
She talks about the training process, and how she modeled the buttons for Bunny. I found that one of the most interesting things discussed in the interview, is how Bunny has begun putting 2 words together to explain something she didn’t have a word for. (Like Koko the gorilla used to do) ie: deer=cat hippo Seal= water hippo  seagull=water bird.

Damn fascinating.

Update 12/11

It was all I could do to not burst into tears tonight, watching Bunny’s newest video, “Contemplating Time.” And I had to examine why I am feeling so strongly about these videos. I realized today that it’s because of all the animal abuse I’ve seen over the past twenty years or so. The past two decades have shown me some of the most heinous treatment of animals you can imagine. It’s the circle I “run with.” People in rescue, who save and protect animals from mistreatment. Watching bunny, seeing her think and learn, and express herself. . . And knowing that they are so often treated like things, instead of conscious, thinking beings. It breaks my heart in two.

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