Friday, February 27, 2009
An annual evening of unleashed talent featuring canine and equine artistry, will benefit the programs and services of Animal Trustees of Austin.
Petcasso 2009 includes a lavish buffet dinner, silent auction and paintings created and presented by Austin animal artists and their owners for the live auction.
Petcasso 2009 is Animal Trustees of Austin's third annual animal art event to raise money for its programs providing quality and affordable health care for animals of low income and homeless residents of Austin. Petcasso 2008 raised more than $130,000 to support ATA's two clinics, with more than 85% of the proceeds going directly to serve animals in need.
The artist colony of Tidbit, Tucker, Ricky, Otis and Romeo (see photo, left) return this year. Tidbit is an adorable minurature dachshund, who loves her beauty sleep. She was just a "Tidbit" of a dog when guardians Gilbert Johnson and Tino Ramirez adopted her at ten weeks old. Tucker is strong yet sensitive as he guards the house. He was washed ashore after escaping from a puppy mill and swimming across the San Bernard River. His rescuers saw how tuckered out he was, hence the name "Tucker."
Miniature schnauzer Romeo (aka the dog of love) is a Hurricane Katrina rescue. He likes sitting outside, relaxing, and looking for wildlife. Ricky, aka "Tricky Ricky," is a beloved chihuahua and an ATA rescue dog. Ricky was there to create the new masterpiece but is no longer with us. The newest member of the pack is Otis, a miniature pincher. She got her name from trying to jump to the next floor like an "Otis" elevator. She loves jumping, running, and barking.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Miko is super sweet and loves to cuddle.
He is full of energy and is always jumping around and entertaining himself. He's just one of the puppies that will be at the Austin Dog Alliance Training Center..
For more info visit: http://www.austindogalliance.orgAdoptionApp.asp
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The sun has set on 2008, and animal advocates throughout the United States have plenty to celebrate. Humane legislation continues to gain legitimacy in the halls of power, and mighty new allies in the media—like Oprah Winfrey and Miley Cyrus—helped the ASPCA broaden our reach and share our anti-cruelty message with countless pet-passionate people—including lawmakers.
At the end of 2007, we predicted that the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal would lead to a swath of new anti-fighting and felony-level cruelty legislation in 2008. Thankfully, we were right! Animal fighting was a hot-button issue in 2008, with more than 10 states passing new animal-fighting laws or upgrading their old ones. Encouragingly, Virginia, the state that was home to Vick’s “Bad Newz Kennels,” led the way by passing three separate laws addressing various aspects of animal fighting, including penalties for spectators.
Read on to learn about some of the coolest laws passed for animals in 2008 and see what types of bills succeeded in multiple states.
The Texas Hearing and Service Dogs organization is working to help combat veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan by giving them dogs trained to help with hearing and other mobility issues.
"We wanted to fast track them because they have such an immediate need to regain some of their independence after doing so much for us," said Sheri Soltes, THSD founder.
Platoon Leader Sgt. Paul Conner was the first veteran to receive a dog from the group. Conner was in a humvee with four other soldiers when they hit an IED in the middle of the road.
read more at KVUE.com
Friday, February 20, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Should Auditorium Shores remain a leash-free zone? Austin Parks and Recreation Department wants to hear from you Feb. 19 at public hearing
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 19 in the first floor assembly room of the Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Road.
information below from the Austin American-Statesman, Feb. 4
Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department is looking for community input as it prepares to make improvements to Auditorium Shores, and some people have already suggested that one way to improve the popular spot would be ending the leash-free zone for dogs, a department official said.
Auditorium Shores is one of 12 Austin parks where dogs areallowed to roam unrestrained.
Stuart Strong, acting director of Austin Parks and Recreation, said the department has heard from people on both sides of the leash issue. The department will hold a meeting later this month to hear community input about phases 3 and 4 of the Town Lake Master Plan (which covers Auditorium Shores), and while the emphasis is on improvements to the park, Strong said they’re happy to listen to input about the leash rules and other operational concerns.
After getting a feel for public sentiment, Parks and Recreation will create a final plan to pitch to City Council.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Will work for kibble Forget doggy-tinis and Burberry animal carriers. Has pet ownership itself become an unaffordable luxury?
This article part of salon.com Pet Week series
If you were looking for a pet-owner mascot for the reckless boom years, you could hardly find one more fitting than Britney Spears. The poor, beleaguered pop star became the scourge of animal rights groups when she picked up a $3,000 Yorkie at a Bel Air pet shop in Los Angeles in July 2007 after a mere 30-minute visit, at a time when she was having trouble caring for her own children. President Obama, meanwhile, has said that finding the right dog for his girls has been "tougher than finding a Commerce secretary" and has modeled the proper way that responsible grown-ups become pet owners in a recession or at any other time: carefully considering the needs of all the members of the household (in this case, his oldest daughter's allergies), waiting until the existing family is settled into its new digs before inviting in a new member and, of course, doing the most socially responsible and politically correct thing and getting the pet from a shelter or rescue group (even when one happens to be the kind of guy who is offered the finest canine specimens from world leaders).
But while POTUS and FLOTUS deliberate the relative merits of Portuguese water hound vs. Labradoodle, the biggest pet story of our new, bummer year has been the uncertain prospect of animals at a time when their human companions are scrambling to cover the grocery bills.
Back in the boom years, the most frequent animal stories were those that allowed us to giggle and often snort with derision about the excesses of pet owners who believed that their dog could actually appreciate their designer bottled water served straight up in a doggy-tini glass. (For example, see this report on the luxury pet market in Business Week from the summer of 2007 in which the reporter mentions Neuticles, a testicular implant to help your neutered pet "regain his natural look and self-esteem," pet hotels with platform beds and pet TV, and introduces us to Bradford the chi-weenie, the recipient of a $1,200 Hermes leash and collar set and $500 Chanel pearls from his indulgent owner.)
But as soon as the economy crashed, the pet stories, too, became downright depressing. Newspapers across the country began reporting on shelters filled way past capacity and pets abandoned by their owners in foreclosed houses. On New Year's Eve, the L.A. Times pet blog L.A. Unleashed declared "pets and the economy" their "story of the year" and their editors made it their New Year's resolution to adopt from a shelter and to encourage their friends to do the same. Forget the Burberry pet carriers -- in our brand-new, very bad economy, it was starting to seem that pets themselves might become an unaffordable luxury.
When I called up some pet experts and owners, they agreed that animals, like their companions, may be wearing last year's winter sweater for a few extra seasons. We won't But they were wary of suggesting any crisis just yet.
Stephen Zawistowski, an executive vice president and science advisor for the ASPCA and author of the textbook "Companion Animals in Society," points out that the recent bad news comes after decades of good news: steadily rising adoption rates and lowering intake rates at shelters nationwide. Statistics are taken region by region, and we won't know for some time what the current numbers are, but the lowest point of animal abandonment in New York City was last year, with a 20 percent increase in adoptions and a 63 percent increase in participation in the mobile spaying and neutering clinic. "It's not getting any worse," he says, of the current state of animal shelters across the country. "It's maybe just not getting better as quickly as it was."
So while anecdotal evidence seems to show more pets than usual being dropped off at shelters in the parts of the countries that have been hardest hit by the subprime mortgage crisis -- including Florida, Arizona, Nevada and parts of Arizona -- areas like the Northeast, the West Coast and the Upper Midwest have seen record rates of adoptions. Some shelters in Vermont and New Hampshire have seen such an increased demand for pets that they've had to import animals from shelters in places like Kentucky and Tennessee.
Obama, says Zawistowski, "is more of a follower than a leader" in choosing to get the family pet from the pound. Even in the boom years, few people actually followed Paris Hilton and Britney Spears and spent thousands on a designer pet store dog. "Who is sitting on $1,200 for an impulse buy?" he asks. "How many people ever really said, 'Well, I went to the mall to buy some sneakers and came home with a Yorkie?'" (Only about 6 percent of dog owners and 4 percent of cat owners bought their animals from pet stores, according to the most recent statistics.)
"People go to a shelter because they want to save a dog," says Zawistowski, "and people go to a shelter because they want a cheap dog." But since 1995, it's also been incredibly convenient, thanks to the genius invention of Petfinder.com, the Web site that allows you to "shop" shelters across the country for pet by size, breed and ZIP code. (Not to mention that you can lose nearly as many working hours "window-shopping" for puggles as you can to Puppy Cam.)
All of this progress means nothing, however, if a worsening economy means people can't afford to take care of the pets they already have. Donn English, an auditor living in Boise, Idaho, paid over $200 when his English bulldog got sick right after Christmas, a week after his daughter's birthday. As a result, he says, "I have yet to pay my gas and electric bill." Laurie Essig, a professor and single mother of two girls living in Vermont, spent thousands of dollars treating her dog's kidney infection, skipping family vacations to visit her aging parents. When her youngest daughter's guinea pig died last Friday, she admits she thought to herself, "Ah, at least there's that much less bedding and food to buy each week."
But all the pet owners I spoke with said that, while they might scrimp on a few luxuries, they weren't compromising on the basics. In fact, in true pet owner fashion, some of them found it much easier to sacrifice for their pets than for themselves. "I'd sell a kidney before I'd switch my dog's kibble or expect her to go without rawhides," John Newton, a "broke freelance writer," wrote me in an e-mail, including a photo of his dog, Nena.
A recent article in the Washington Times claimed that pets are not only recession-proof, but that sales are actually up. It may be that, much as women allegedly bought more lipstick during the Depression, pet products are the kinds of small luxuries that people can afford in this down-and-out time. And a Shopsmart poll showed that female shoppers -- perhaps spooked by the dog food contamination scare earlier this year -- were refusing to cut corners and switch to a cheaper pet food.
So maybe we aren't facing a pet crisis so much as a healthy recalibration of our values, in which we go back to giving our pets only what they actually need. (Meanwhile, in a sign that the ostentatious luxury pet market might be going to the dogs, New York's Pet Fashion Week was canceled this week.) Considering the anxiety and stress of our current age, it's good to remember that pets come with all sorts of benefits that make them undeniably useful to their broke, stressed-out owners. Andrea Higbie, a financially strapped freelance writer in Dallas, says that her vet pointed out that her cats are an excellent way to lower her blood pressure, which helps her justify the $46 diet kibble that he recommended for her twin Siamese cats. And a particularly creative survey on the American Pet Product Web site claims that pets can lower healthcare costs -- apparently pet owners "make fewer doctor visits, especially for non-serious medical conditions."
And sometimes pets can help out their owners in even more unconventional ways. Last month, John Henion, a severely underemployed filmmaker and co-founder of the blog unemploymentality, got a phone call from a guy who used to offer him production work. "He said, 'Hey, how are you doing? Sorry to hear about you getting laid off. Actually, I'm calling about your dog.'"
While the guy didn't have any work for Henion, he did offer his dog a spot on a film shoot. "It was sort of adding insult to injury," say Henion, who spends most of his time blogging about being unemployed. "It was $350 for a half day's work. That's my day rate!"
In the end, Nando was cut from the picture. (Henion admits that he's still hoping Purina might check out his head shots on his blog and make an offer.) But even though he's feeling particularly broke, Henion considers spending time with his dog among the best parts of being unemployed. "A lot of being unemployed is just about sitting in front of job boards all day, hitting refresh," he says. "Nando is my excuse for getting out of the house. We take much longer walks. Here we are, on a weekday afternoon, walking in 78 degree weather. It's good for me, and it's good for him."
Thursday, February 12, 2009
It's hard not to marvel at the extremity of some pet lovers' devotion, whether it's preparing a special raw meat diet each day or paying skyrocketing veterinary bills. But whatever form the expression of that affection may take, the feeling itself isn't strange at all, according to Meg Daley Olmert, author of "Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond."
Daley Olmert had written documentaries for the likes of National Geographic Explorer and PBS's "The Living Edens" when she set out to explore relationships between humans and animals. Despite her lack of formal scientific training, she was even able to join a research team studying the neurobiology of social bonding at the University of Maryland. What she learned is that there is a physiological basis to the profound attachment so many of us feel for our dogs and cats; the same hormone, oxytocin, that bonds a new mother and infant is at work in the relationships between today's animal lovers and their four-legged friends.
In "Made for Each Other," Daley Olmert outlines what's known about the history of how humans and the mammals closest to them co-evolved, while exploring the emerging medical research that suggests caring for an animal can actually make us physically healthier. And she speculates about why so many Americans have welcomed pets not only into their homes and even beds in recent decades, but into the very hearts of their families.
While many cat or dog people feel self-conscious or embarrassed about the intensity of their relationships with their animals, Daley Olmert offers a spirited defense of those feelings, suggesting that the capacity to bond with an animal deeply is nothing to feel ashamed about. It is even rooted deeply in our natures.
Salon spoke with Daley Olmert by phone from her home on the eastern shore of Maryland, where she lives with her husband and their two cats, Boo and Coco, who have even been known to go kayaking with them.
Just how central to many Americans' lives are pets now?
Congress passed a bill after Hurricane Katrina because so many people remained behind because they would not leave their animals. People died because the state law of Louisiana did not account for evacuating animals.
There is now a law that says all state evacuation emergency plans have got to have a contingency for pets, because they did a survey after Katrina, and the majority of pet owners said, "I'm not leaving without my pets."
When I pat my cat, what is happening between us, biologically speaking?
Touch releases oxytocin in humans and animals. Oxytocin is one of the most powerful hormones that the body makes. This is a chemical that is responsible for social bonding.
When you pat your cat, you should be getting a release of oxytocin, as should your cat, too, that slows your heart rate down, lowers your stress response. You feel this warmth and this attachment, as does the cat. So you're getting an emotional and a physiological anti-stress response. It's a wonderful renewable system.
What are the other relationships in which we see oxytocin in play?
It was first discovered as being a hormone that causes labor contractions in women and breast-milk release. Labor and lactation are its best-known bodily functions. About 15 years ago is when scientists started saying, "Hey, you know, oxytocin isn't just made in the breast and in the uterus, it's made in the brain." In the brain it connects with every major brain center that controls emotional behavior. It has profound behavioral effects as well as anti-stress effects.
It is released through every sense. In mothers, the sight, smell, sound and touch of your baby releases it in you. A study that has just been done in Japan shows that even eye contact with your dog raises oxytocin in you. In humans, it is well known that oxytocin is released during sex, hugging, massage, all sorts of nurturing, physical contact.
When a dog owner says, "My dog can read my mind. He just knows when I'm going to take him for a walk," what is really going on?
Much of our communication is not verbal. It's about body posture, tone of voice and the way we look that animals can read perfectly. They have been our captive audience for thousands and thousands of years. They've had to learn to read the nonverbal aspects of our language, which are so telling.
There's a phenomenon known as ideomotor action. If you put electrodes on a person's neck, and tell them: "Imagine looking up at the Eiffel Tower," you will see that the muscles that would actually lift their head and look up at an Eiffel Tower, were it there, are activated.
Animals are muscle readers of the highest order. It is highly possible, and in fact they've proved it with horses, and the Clever Hans horse in Germany, that animals can read those tiny micro-movements. It tells them a world of information long before we're clued in that we're actually thinking it.
What is known about the emotional history of humans and animals?
We have had very intimate relationships with animals: lived with them, slept with them, cared for them, delivered their babies, bottle fed them when the mothers couldn't. These things humans don't escape from emotionally untouched. They definitely create bonds.
Basically, domestication is a form of a case of mistaken identity. We began to see them as ours and they began to see us as them. The reason I can milk a cow is because the cow thinks that I am its baby. The term animal husbandry is not a misnomer.
Now, it is true that farmers slaughter their animals, and there is a pragmatic aspect to it, but if you look at stories of nomadic herders and people who still live in these very tight, bonded relationships with animals, they consider these animals kin, even if they end up slaughtering them sometimes.
Living with animals has always had an emotional bang to it that people tend to not think about. As soon as we have written accounts, people talk about these fantastic emotional relationships with animals. The Egyptians are famous for it. They loved their animals, and they revered them. They were our gods before they were just fodder.
You wrote that Egyptian families used to shave off their eyebrows in mourning when their cats died!
Believe me, when my cats die I'm doing it.
And that some women have been known to actually nurse other mammals. What are the possible implications of that?
It's not uncommon at all in tribal cultures for women to suckle young animals. Very often in societies where pups are suckled or piglets are suckled, those animals are spared from becoming dinner, because the bonds do form.
Now we know that when a woman suckles her baby, huge amounts of oxytocin are released in the mother and how that bonds her to that baby. You have to rethink the implication of what it meant when perhaps a prehistoric cavewoman might have picked up a wolf pup and suckled it.
It would have unleashed oxytocin's tremendous bonding powers in her. And, of course, the pup's crying released the first bit of oxytocin, and the fact that it looks like a baby. That's what made her pick it up and bring it to her breast to begin with. This chemical, which is released through nurturing touch and breast feeding, could have jump-started domestication.
So, you're speculating it could have played a role in the changing relationship between people and wolves that evolved into the relationship between people and dogs?
Yes. One of the things about oxytocin is that it's a taming molecule. It inhibits fight/flight, which is what makes animals wild. Oxytocin reaches out to all these other brain areas, like the dopamine receptors, the serotonin receptors, these powerful brain centers. It coordinates a shutdown of this antisocial behavior called fight/flight and replaces it with a chemistry that promotes curiosity over paranoia. In that mind-set is when humans and animals can approach each other.
When you think about it, how did wild animals ever become tame? It's a change in the nervous system. Then you have to ask: What changed the nervous system? This newly emerging physiology points to oxytocin being one of the central components of this major shift that happened in humans and animals promoting more cooperative behaviors.
So, humans also were domesticated.
We often talk about how we've changed animals in their relationships with us, but how do you think that domestication changed us?
Early humans were prey animals, basically. We were the ones that were hiding behind the rocks, looking out on the savannah. We were the ones that were going to get eaten. We were slow, we were weak. Our physiology had to have been dominated by fight/flight just like any good herbivore out there being stared down by a big cat or dog. Something in us shifted and emboldened us to start to approach the same animals that we once feared and ran from.
What do you think is going on culturally now that pets are so popular in the United States?
My theory is that we're suffering from oxytocin deprivation.
We walked off the farm in the past hundred years and broke a link to nature and animals that was 10,000 years old. If you follow my premise that the ever-increasing contact with animals was able through touch and sight and smell to really boost this chemical bond between humans and animals, then what happens when you, in just 50 years, go from 33 percent of Americans living on farms to the Census Bureau just stopping even counting because there are so few people left percentage-wise in America living on farms? That's a huge and sudden divorce from the animals and from the chemical milieus that they created.
And what would happen if this same chemistry of bonding was also the chemistry of anti-stress? You would find that people would be flipping out, and they are. Children are more depressed, they're more anxious than ever before. A huge study showed that children born after 1955 are three times more likely to suffer depression than their grandparents were, grandparents who had lived through world wars.What you see is that the Industrial Revolution causes this great flight from farms, and we are stripped bare of the land, the whole tactile nature thing, not just the animals. My feeling is that people are grasping intuitively at their animals, desperately trying to create this homeostatic correction.
All this sort of attention that people are lavishing on their pets these days is symptomatic of the need for oxytocin?
People are also desperately isolated from each other, and not just from the land. We are a lonely people now, and getting lonelier in this disruption from leaving the farm.
We're back to human migration, the way of life that we decided was not adaptive 10,000 years ago, when we settled down. People are moving constantly, and it's very difficult to maintain social relationships. And so what you get is people desperate to establish a strong social bond. It's very difficult to do with humans. It's much easier to do with animals. We're surrounded by people, but touched by so few, and so you come home to your empty apartment, and there is your pet, and it is wonderful.