Wednesday, May 27, 2009


That would stand for Freon Leak Detector Dogs. Are there any? Is it even possible to train one?

I do not ask these questions idly. For SIX YEARS we have been struggling with a/c problems due to freon leaks that somehow our a/c servicing company can never find -- or, if they do find one, another springs up. We are now on our third compressor -- and there is yet another leak. If our service company can't find them, could a detector dog do it (assuming it would be safe for the dog. I have no idea whether or not would be the case.)?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Getting your goat(s)

Yesterday, while browsing in the Tyson's Galleria branch of Eileen Fisher (and, thankfully for my credit card balance, not finding anything I wanted to buy), I saw a poster-sized picture of a woman-owned business that intrigued me. The business was The Goat Patrol, owned by Alix Bowman in Durham, NC, which offers an environmentally friendly way to rid one's yard of plants that are overgrown or otherwise pose a problem. The Goat Patrol's modus operandi is to turn a herd of goats loose on those plants. The goats spend the day quietly grazing, with a trained goatherd to watch over them. At the end of the day, the plants are considerably fewer, if not totally gone. The goatherd loads the goats into a trailer and takes them back to the farm from whence they came.

Why would a clothing store feature such an enterprise? Because each year, Eileen Fisher bestows grants of $10,000 apiece to woman-owned businesses such as The Goat Patrol. The company also operates grant programs to help women and girls improve their images of themselves. More about both of these programs is here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- Allie's on page 60 ...

... and both Allie and I appear on pages 82 and 123. But even if we didn't -- and even if the author weren't a good friend of mine -- I'd still say buy. this. book.

I'm talking about Bonding With Your Dog: A Trainer's Secrets for Building A Better Relationship by Victoria Schade (Wiley). In a world where there's a whole lot of deadly serious information about how to train a dog--much of which is actually misinformation--Victoria's 201-page tome revolves about having fun with one's canine companion. And in service of that have-fun theme, she comes up with all kinds of creative ways to build person-pooch partnerships that become win-win situations for all concerned.

For example, suppose Fido sees a squirrel while the two of you are out for a walk. Do you pull back with all your might to prevent Fido from giving chase? Not according to Victoria, who suggests that the owner join Fido in chasing that fluffy-tailed rodent--after Fido performs a sit at the owner's request. The rest of the book contains similarly unorthodox ideas, such as walking at different times and on different routes each day to give your dog some variety, and hiding from your dog while in the dog park so that he'll learn to check in with you while he's romping with his canine buddies.

Of course, Victoria is a passionate proponent of the positive reinforcement training philosophy that I strongly believe builds better human-canine relationships. That philosophy permeates the entire book. But to her credit, Victoria also acknowledges that sometimes the implementation of that philosophy can be a little tricky, such as when she discusses the logistics of handling poop bag plus clicker plus treats plus leash plus dog when teaching the dog to walk nicely on leash. I still find that exercise tricky, but by following Vic's clear directions, I'm at least no longer feeling like the clumsiest kid in P.E. class -- and Allie has become much more mannerly on the leash.

Most of us add dogs to our lives not because we want to show how polite we can teach our dogs to be, but because we want to experience the joys of having a deep relationship with a non-human being. Bonding With Your Dog will show you how to build a partnership that allows you to experience those joys--and to have fun building it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Just who were they thinking of here?

In today's WaPo is a mostly heartwarming article about the efforts of a rescue group to re-hab and re-home six Foxhounds who were badly burned and more than a little frightened after a fire at Red Hill Farm, owned by Fairfax Hunt, a hunt club in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Unfortunately, one paragraph in that piece stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the article, which lauded the fact that Lost Dog Rescue and Fairfax Hunt have worked together to care for the traumatized hounds. Fairfax Hunt's Master of Hounds, Joseph Keusch, admitted that there'd been some tension with Lost Dog Rescue, in part because "... a national foxhunting association ... wanted the [Fairfax] hunt to retrieve the dogs [from Lost Dog Rescue] to avoid negative publicity from animal rights activists."

IOW, the national organization was putting its own convenience ahead of the welfare of the dogs who were in need of the care and attention that prompted Fairfax Hunt to work with Lost Dog Rescue in the first place.