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Hometown Hero in Pittsburg

 A 9-year-old golden retriever named Moe helped save an elderly man who had fallen into the cold water of the Pittsburg Marina by alerting his owner, John Newman, with early morning barking, the East Bay Times reported in late January.

The dog apparently heard someone calling for help and woke up his owner. They investigated and discovered a man near neighboring docks in the chilly water saying he was stuck and needed help to get back on land. Newman assisted and led the man up a neighbor’s gangplank, and those residents called for medial assistance.

“He was soaking wet and probably had hypothermia. He was immobile,” Newman said.

The man told authorities he had tumbled into the water while on his morning walk. Temperatures were in the 40s. The man has recovered.

Newman and Moe live alongside a channel in the Pittsburg Marina where Newman keeps a jet ski and boat for exploring the Delta with Moe, of course. Moe has always enjoyed the water, Newman said.

“Moe is a rock star. He’s a real champion,” Newman said.

Pittsburg police intended to honor the dog for his service with treats and lots of pets.


Brain Games

Touchscreen games for dogs may improve their quality of life.

National Geographic recently reported on research from a Vienna research center, Clever Dog Lab, that shows promising results associated with brain games via a computer touchscreen.

Cognitive scientists hypothesized that playing games could reduce memory decline in dogs, as the practice can in humans. They compared the notion to the equivalent of “dog Sudoku,” and their hope is that it could be used in households to alleviate boredom and restlessness.

The research center tested 100 pet border collies and 115 other dogs on the touchscreen system, ultimately teaching them how to press noses to the correct stimuli, an on-screen circle, to get treats. Older dogs were also able to do the abstract and difficult task, which lead author Lisa Wallis found encouraging.

Owners told researchers whether their dogs’ quality of life improved. Owners reported their dogs progressed well and were enthusiastic about their training sessions.

Wallis believes the data collected could one day help assess cognitive function in individual dogs and that a touchscreen game at home might improve a dog’s well-being.

Older dogs can suffer from Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, a canine disease like Alzheimer’s. With an earlier way to detect the cognitive decline, Wallis said vets might have time to treat dogs and prevent further decline.

The lab intends to measure how the touchscreen affects a dog’s cortisol (the stress hormone) and dopamine (the chemical responsible for pleasure). The scientists didn’t conclude that the touchscreen brain games lead to neurological improvements, but owner-reported anecdotes did show promise.


Following Fido

Dogs can reveal a lot about social trends in urban places.

At least Stefanos Chan thinks so, after recently analyzing the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s dog license registrations from 2012 to 2016 for The New York Times.

“New York’s dogs are as varied as its people, and their numbers can be just as telling. They can be a cipher for understanding gentrification, and sometimes predicting it — when the designer pups arrive, rising home prices may not be far behind. They become part of the identity of a neighborhood, and their shifting numbers, rising or falling, can say much about its future. Most of all, they say something about the humans who take them home,” he wrote.

As housing prices rise, dog breeds there run smaller and more expensive, though certain breeds — pit bulls in parts of Brooklyn; Rottweilers in the Bronx — maintain prevalence. For New York City, the Yorkshire terrier, or Yorkie, was the top dog in 2016 with the Shih Tzu and Labrador retriever nipping closely at their heels. Chihuahuas were fourth, with pit bulls, Maltese, German shepherds, beagles, poodles, and Pomeranians rounding out the list. Big names for New York dogs, by the way, were Max, Bella, Coco, Charlie, Rocky, and Lola. Plus, there was a Biggie in each borough, presumably for Brooklyn-born rapper Biggie Smalls.


Flu News

So far, the canine flu is prevalent in five states: California, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, and Ohio.

That’s according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, which tracks the dog flu, aka CIV or Canine Influenza Virus, Parade recently reported.

A very small percentage of dogs that catch the flu will die from it, so know what you and your dog are up against. Dog flu is extremely contagious, can be hard to detect, and can happen anytime, not just in winter. Canine flu is no more dangerous this year than in other years, but as it spreads, more cases are being reported.

Symptoms include coughing, mucus discharge from the nose and eyes, fever, and general lethargy or malaise. Dogs with the flu often take antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary bacterial infections; severe symptoms sometimes require hospitalization, IV fluids, and other medication. Dogs with flu should be isolated from others.

A vaccination for canine influenza helps prevent the spread of the disease and lessens the symptoms if your dog is exposed.

“While no vaccine is 100 percent effective,” said Gary Richter, DVM, of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, “the canine influenza vaccine does work well.”


Dogs Vs. Bitches

Twice as many male dogs as females win Best in Show at the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Reuters reported in advance of this year’s competition.

Female dogs, called “bitches” in pure-bred circles, have won Best in Show at Westminster 39 times since the award was first given in 1907. Males, or “dogs,” have won 71 times, almost twice as often.

A dog’s peak age for competition is 3 to 5 years old, which also happens to be prime breeding age for females whose careers often end with motherhood, said Kimberly Calvacca, a professional handler and breeder from Westbury, N.Y.

“People don’t like to campaign females because they don’t like to jeopardize their breeding program,” said Calvacca. “Males can be used to stud anytime, and still show and breed at the same time.”

The Best in Show winner takes home a trophy, but the true reward is the increased value on the breeding circuit, which is one reason victory can end a female’s competitive career. As a result, fewer females compete at Westminster.

Betty-Anne Stenmark, a judge in this year’s Best in Show competition at Westminster, said each sex has a “50-50 chance” of winning. Judging can be highly subjective, depending on a judge’s experience.

In the end, a male Best in Show winner can bring a bigger payoff than a female because a male can breed many times and have its sperm frozen, while females can produce only so many litters and puppies.


Oh, the Stench

Your dog does it, and so does all his friends. They roll in oh-so-stinky stuff. Why?

The Daily Wag! has this take on the age-old question: Dogs’ amazing senses of smell make them gaga over inhaling stinky stuff, but quaffing is sometimes just not enough.

One theory suggest dogs try to override the smell of whatever they are rolling in to leave a mark of their own, so they are just marking territory. Another supposition is that dogs coat themselves with foul-smelling odors to mask their own smell to better disguise themselves. But they also just might like it, or the odor might make them smell more attractive to other dogs.

This is natural and normal instinctive behavior. The best way to prevent your dog from rolling in smelly stuff — duh — is to avoid it.


Road Trip

Outside recently published a list of seven extremely dog-friendly cities well worth the road tip.

No. 1 on the list was Portland, Ore., deemed as possibly the most dog-friendly city in the country, with its outdoor restaurants, breweries, dog parks, and hiking trails. Destinations cited included Java Hound Coffee Bar, Lucky Labrador Brewing, the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, the Hotel Monaco, and Red Star Tavern.

Other top dog cities were Aspen, Colo., Stowe, Vt., Carmel (no surprise there), Asheville, N.C., Ketchum, Idaho, and Whistler, B.C.


Forever Homes

The Iron Paws Corrected Canines, a program at Saginaw (Mich.) Correctional Facility where inmates train and socialize dogs, has helped more than 40 dogs find forever homes in a year, NBC 25 News reported recently.

The dogs come from Saginaw County Animal Control. After weeks of successful inmate training, the dogs graduate from the program and can be adopted.

Inmate Jamie Sylvester, one of the inmate trainers, said, “Being locked up and him coming from the pound, I felt his pain. …  You fall in love with them, and then you got to hand them off, and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ But you got to remember they’re going to a better place.

“All the dogs got adopted, so we got to be doing something right,” he added.

Officer Joaquin Guerrero said like the dogs they are helping, some of the prisoners, all of whom have exhibited outstanding behavior while incarcerated at the facility, often have undeserved bad reputations when many of them are merely guys who have just made mistakes.


Run, Spot, Run

The city of Mansfield, Texas, has introduced a new concept, Barks and Rec Running, which combines humans and canines in fitness activity, the Mansfield News reported.

“There are two things people in Mansfield love — fitness and dogs,” said Ann Beck, marketing and communications manager for the parks and recreation department. “As a parks department, we are always looking for new and creative ways to get people outside and active, and at the same time our animal care and control staff has so many pets who need not just homes, but love and attention,” she said.

So now there is a new partnership. An intern, Nicolette Ricciuti, worked out the logistics. Participants come to Katherine Rose Memorial Park for six consecutive Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. to run with a canine partner from the Mansfield Animal Shelter.

It’s a “couch-to-5K” training program. An instructor at each class coaches and motivates the humans and pooches, and the dogs and humans are matched accordingly. The goal is to complete a 5K on March 24.


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