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Canoodling With Wolves

People may benefit from a little “wolf therapy,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported recently.

Travel editor Gregory Thomas went to the Wolf Connection, a nonprofit wolf sanctuary on the west end of the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles, to investigate.

The sanctuary homes 34 wolves and wolf-dogs — rescued from troubled situations — on a 165 acres in the Angeles National Forest and pairs afflicted folks with the animals to encourage bonding. It also hosts immersion courses for students with lessons on biology, co-evolutionary history, and behavioral sciences. Additionally, Wolf Connection allows the general population to participate in full-moon wolf hikes and community wolf hikes and schedules team-building and leadership training events.
Wolf Connection founder Teo Alfero, identified in the article as a trained shamanic practitioner and author, said these in-person encounters with semi-wild predators touch people’s cores. Alfero said his program tries to tap into the primal memory of man’s evolutionary link to wolves as a way of triggering psychological breakthrough or spiritual transformation related to mutual interspecies benefit. Likening wolves to healers, Cate Salansky, director of development for the sanctuary, suggested Wolf Connection provides an opportunity for self-awareness and self-improvement.

Thomas didn’t experience spiritual enlightenment but was mesmerized when every wolf howled in chorus for about a minute and felt a rush. “It opened each of us to the possibility that being in the presence of wild wolves — at once familiar and mysterious — could leave a lasting positive impact on a person. That moment is one none of us will likely ever experience again,” Thomas wrote.


Lessen Stress
Petting your dog or cat can reduce stress. So reported Science Daily recently, citing a Washington State University study of college students that found a mere 10 minutes of petting cats and dogs could lessen stress.

“Just 10 minutes can have a significant impact,” said Patricia Pendry, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development. “Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone.”
Pendry published the findings with a WSU graduate student, Jaymie Vandagriff, in AERA Open, and it is considered the first study demonstrating lower cortisol levels during a real-life intervention instead of in a lab.

“We already knew that students enjoy interacting with animals, and that it helps them experience more positive emotions,” Pendry said. “What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stress in a less subjective way. And it did, which is exciting because the reduction of stress hormones may, over time, have significant benefits for physical and mental health.”


Bow Tie Beauty
Would a snappy bow tie seal the deal for you on adopting a shelter dog or cat?

A 12-year-old boy, Darius Brown, from Newark, New Jersey, thought so and started making them in the hopes the animals wearing them would be noticed more easily an thus adopted sooner, The Week reported.
Darius gives the bow ties to rescue organizations and shelters across the country and said, “It helps the dog look noticeable, very attractive … It helps them find a forever, loving home.”

He started helping his sister, Dazhai Brown-Shearz, make hair ribbons a few years ago, a task that improved his taxed fine motor skills. He then began turning out bow ties for himself. When he wore them, people admired them, and so he started a company, Beaux & Paws. For each bow tie he sells, Darius makes a donation to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He enjoys delivering his bow ties in person to different shelters.


Nose Prints
On the heels of San Francisco banning facial recognition technology from law enforcement agencies for people, Forbes reports that an Alibaba-backed AI-startup has successfully created facial recognition technology for dogs.

Megvii, which supplies facial recognition software for the Chinese government, has developed software that can identify dogs by their noses. The facial recognition software can tell a specific dog through nasal biometrics. KrAsia said the company believes dogs have unique nose prints and quoted a toxicology professor, Dr. David Dorman, who has said as much, specifically: “Like human fingerprints, each dog has a unique nose print. Some kennel clubs have used dog nose prints for identification.”

The new software just requires a smartphone camera and series of images of the nose from different angles that are then analyzed for identification markers. The method has been 95 accurate in identifying dogs whose nose-prints were previously recorded.


Vested Control
In other dog tech news, a new vibrating vest under development may help working dogs do their jobs better, Futurism reported.

The vest is a dog harness with communication gear and four vibrating motors, enabling users to give dogs tactile feedback and issue commands remotely. The vest could represent an upgrade for dogs doing jobs that humans and robots can’t do, such as traversing rough terrain. With the vest, people can steer the dogs like a robot without worrying it will trip, fall, break, or malfunction.

“Our research results showed that dogs responded to these vibrotactile cues as well or even better than vocal commands,” Amir Shapiro, robotics director at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said in a press release.

Shapiro and his team have tested their device on one dog, according to a yet-unpublished research paper. That dog is a 6-year-old Labrador retriever and German shepherd mix who learned commands like walking in certain directions, returning to his handler, or interacting with nearby objects. Shapiro’s team plans to test more breeds while adding more capabilities to the vest.


Prosthetics, Please
A Dumont, New Jersey, woman, Leanna De Sheplo, MacGvyered a prosthetic out of a paint roller, bandages, and a muzzle for one of two bum-legged dogs she is fostering.

De Sheplo took in the pair or Chihuahuas, Mick and Stevie Nicks, in March. They had been surrendered from a Hudson County home, and their former owners said their legs were injured in separate accidents. Stevie has all four legs, though one hangs limp and crooked, and Mick has a nub instead of a front right leg.

De Sheplo, a 12-year foster mom veteran, is a board member of CLAWS animal rescue in Bergen County. CLAWS solicits donations for emergency surgeries or life-and-death matters only.

Mick and Stevie move around OK, De Sheplo said, but she thinks they would respond even better with a prosthetic. “I’d love to see them feel a little bit better about it and not put so much weight on the existing legs,” she said. “This is cosmetic, but I think it’s really helpful for them and their future.”

Stevie is a better candidate, but De Sheplo tried the homemade one for Mick. It remains a work in progress: “He stood, and I tried to make him lean on that,” she said. “To me, I was like, ‘I think that could work.’ I thought, ‘I’m not going to say he can’t have something made for him.’ If I can come up with something that easy, someone’s got to be able to come up with something.”


Potty Poop
American veterinarians are seeing way more cases of canine marijuana toxicity lately. While some dogs have likely just stumbled across and ingested their owner’s stashes, others are thought to be getting their high from eating human poop, Newsweek reported.
Dogs on Colorado hiking trails and forests apparently are ingesting poop left by campers and hikers whose poop has enough marijuana to give the dogs a contact high.

“Seventy to 80 percent of people say they have no idea where their dogs got [marijuana], but they say they were out on a trail or camping. I can’t believe that the owners are lying,” Dr. Scott Dolginow told the Aspen Times, Newsweek reported. Dolginow owns Valley Emergency Pet Care in Basalt, Colorado, and sees between three and 10 dogs a week with marijuana toxicity.

Dogs have a penchant for eating poop, and Dolginow said most will eat human poop if given the chance. He puts the blame for marijuana toxicity on feces laced with THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
“It’s unlikely that many people toss an edible or a roach on the side of the trail. It also makes sense from the level of toxicity we see,” Dolginow said.

Marijuana toxicity is a broad clinical term referring to the appearance of symptoms like a slowed heart rate, dilated pupils, disorientation, nausea, and incontinence.


Canine Cancer Vaccine
Arizona State University is leading the way in developing a vaccine that could save the lives of millions of dogs, Fox 10 in Tempe, Arizona, reported.

The Open Philanthropy Project donated $6.4 million toward the development of the vaccine, which is being designed to prevent cancer in dogs.

“So far, it looks safe. That’s all we can say so far. We’ve enrolled about 100 dogs or so into it,” said Stephen Johnston, director of the Biodesign Center for Innovations in Medicine.

Johnston is working with Colorado State University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California-Davis to vaccinate dogs against cancer. Dogs receive the vaccine and are monitored at clinical centers.

“The dog gets an examination to make sure it doesn’t have any pre-existing cancer and then if it passes the examination then we give it a vaccine and then every six months, we bring the dog back in, and then we examine it for any signs of cancer,” explained Johnston.
It will take up to two years to see if the vaccine will actually prevent cancer. If all goes well and the trial is successful, the vaccine could be on the market a short time later.

Just Say No to Truck Beds
According to American Humane, more than 100,000 dogs die every year from accidents that result from riding in a truck bed, The Epoch Times reported.

Here’s why you shouldn’t let your canine companion ride there, leashed or unleashed: They may be tempted to jump out. High winds can launch grit, small pebbles, bugs, and the like into your dog’s eyes, nasal passage, or windpipe, and the sun can overheat the temperature of the bed. It’s dangerous to secure your dog there with a leash, because he may be bumped out of the bed altogether; likewise, cages or crates are not safe if an accident involving a roll-over occurs. Finally, it’s scary back there with gusts of wind and loud noises.

“The only way to keep your dog truly safe is to keep him inside the vehicle. And if there’s no space for your buddy up front, then leave him at home. The risk just isn’t worth it,” the article said.


Cuddle Club
Senior dogs and senior citizens are finding companionship through the Cuddle Club at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, The Week reported.

The club was started by the San Francisco rescue as a way to ensure that older dogs get love and attention. Several times a month, the group holds events where senior citizens gather in a room filled with dogs that are 7 or older. After petting and playing with the dogs for about an hour, visitors can then walk the elderly canines.

“The seniors are giving love to the dogs that they need so much,” volunteer Beth Hofer said. “The dogs are giving love to the seniors that they need so much.” She has seen some dogs that start out nervous and shaking, but after 20 minutes, they are so relaxed they’ve fallen asleep on their new friend’s lap. “You can just see how happy and fulfilled that person is that they were able to help that dog,” she said.


Going to the Dogs
London’s Southwark Park Galleries is celebrating its 35th birthday with a contemporary art show about dogs chosen by dogs, It’s Nice That reported.

A trio of canine curators has assembled a show “as dog-heavy as any day out at Crufts.” The dogs had a little help from curator Joyce Cronin, gallerist Karsten Schubert, and art critic Louisa Buck. The exhibition runs until Sept. 8.

Helping Seniors

To help owners with aging pets in Japan, Sachiko Shimizu has opened Dogcare Smile in Hanyu, a city in Saitama Prefecture, about 90 miles north of Tokyo, KYODO News reported.

“I want people to learn proper care, so that both the owner and the dog can live a long, healthy life,” the 42-year-old said. She has 15 years’ experience working in an animal hospital and has qualifications in pet care and rehabilitation. Shimizu makes house calls in Saitama, Tokyo, and the surrounding areas, with the first 90-minute visit inclusive of counseling for $60.

According to a 2018 estimate by the Japan Pet Food Association, there are around 8.9 million pet dogs in Japan, and roughly 56 percent of them are considered elderly at 7 years old or older. Japan also faces a shortage of vets with expertise on caregiving for elderly pets.

“There has been an increase in cases where an elderly owner has to take care of a dog with dementia, weak legs, or other ailments,” Shimizu said.

In addition to the house calls, Shimizu holds regular caregiving seminars, offering tips on dementia prevention, training, making dog nappies from baby diapers, and other topics.


Main article photo by: Mikey, courtesy Wolf Connection website