Friday, August 5, 2011

Cat fights of Afghanistan

It would be a rare and interesting occasion for me to write about CATS, wouldn't it?  Well, I couldn't resist this story.  

The US Embassy compound in Kabul has become home to about 30 stray cats.  Living in a war zone, who wouldn't want a some four legged fuzzballs to soften the atmosphere?  Without attention and care, domestication falls by the wayside and a few employees have been scratched or bitten by the cats.  Reminders about rabies vaccinations and other public health notifications went out. Then the calls for *gasp* "extermination." There has to be another way to deal with this, right?  

Not surprisingly, a backlash has emerged, and the Cat Committee was born.  The Washington Post interviewed Cat Committee members:

Working in Kabul is not easy. Staffers endure endless hours and monotonous food, walled off from the city where they work and a world away from their loved ones. Plus there’s the nagging threat that people want to kill them. The embassy bar is called the Duck and Cover.

“We basically can’t go out at all. We can’t walk across the street; we have to take a tunnel. There are no kids, no families, and basically what we have is the cats,” said one member of the committee. “It’s as close as we come to normality.”
A town hall resulted, and in response, diplomats were given 60 days to ship the cats out to new homes.  The deadline passed and no cats were "exterminated" and many remain on the compound. Some have allowed the cats to take up shelter in the tin "boxes" they diplomats live in, and some have planned evacuations to places in the United States.  
Now, of course, where there are humans, there are cats and dogs, right? Cats will continue to show up at the compound. And you could say there is a public health benefit to having them there: making the workers just a little less stressed, adding a little softness to the harsh environment.  I hope that all parties can work together to make sure there is a balanced solution that will allow healthy cats to keep our diplomats company as they serve our country overseas.  
Photo via

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The girl and her dog, they were fine (wow). Until...

Sure, picking up poop is gross, but you know what is more gross?  NOT picking it up! No matter your day job, if you have a dog, this is just part of your duty.  Check out superstar Pink pictured here doing her job at the beach, demonstrating that you can look good scooping.  Even billionaire Mark Zuckerberg scoops poop.

I bet most of you are hip to the scooping, but some people make the rest of our owners look bad.  Enter Puget Sound Starts Here, a partnership of regional governments dedicated to improving water quality of streams, lakes and rivers.  The Doo Doogity campaign is working hard to curb irresponsible owners through innovative marketing--not by scolding them, but my making poop scooping cool!  

They produced this fun video spoofing the Blackstreet & Dr. Dre "No Diggity" song with clever lyrics like "The girl and her dog, they were fine (wow). Until they left a doodie, that's a crime (bow wow)."  Catchy, huh? Check out the whole video:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Your dog has you all figured out

Hey people: You may not realize this, but your dog is always watching you.  Research even says so! The New York Times points out that previous studies demonstrated that dogs would wait until they knew they were not being watched to exibit forbidden behavior like digging in the garden (duh).  Yet, new research dives down to examine facial cues and dog behavior.  

According to Dr. Monique Udell, assistant professor of psychology at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL and author of this new study, dogs "are quick learners, they can figure out when you are going to give them the next treat or whether you are going to give them a bath. Whether we know it or not, we are training them.”

She continues, “They are really good at knowing how to live the life they want inside the human home.”  That is for sure!  For example, I quickly figured out that the sound of my person's electric toothbrush meant that it was time for me to move into the bedroom for bed.  Whether it is 8pm or 1am, I follow her lead on bedtime.  And I figured this out just by watching her!  

Pictured here is the internet's new favorite smiling dog. I think he is smiling because he has it all figured out!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Dogs of Costa Rica

On my recent visit Costa Rica, I came to discover that there are dogs everywhere!  Some of the dogs had homes, some made their own homes on the street or restaurant/hotel patios, and some were working dogs.  Surprisingly, nearly all seemed happy and healthy.   It got me to thinking there must be a lot of good samaritans out there keeping an eye on these dogs.  

While at dinner at the Lava Lounge in La Fortuna, we learned that the restaurant owners take care of a number of dogs in the area and help them find homes.  You can even become a fan of their facebok page to see the dogs that are currently available for adoption

Now, I am sure it is not all fun and games for the dogs of Costa Rica, but there are lots of people there looking out for them.  Having the chance to make some new four legged friends and see them having fun made the trip extra special.  Let me tell you about a few of them....

In Puerto Viejo, the dogs to ruled the beach, and most seemed to be from happy homes.  

In Tortuguero, the resident hotel dog jumped to attention when our tables were cleared, as he knew that was where his dinner came from.  The dogs of the town seemed ready to pose for tourist pictures against the colorful backdrop.  

 On the El Trapiche coffee plantation in Monteverde, this working dog seemed to be on his own program.

The dogs of La Fortuna followed me everywhere, they even waited outside of stores and would trot along with me to the next stop.  This playful guy stole my trail map right off my lap while I was waiting outside of the laundromat....

The cattle dogs at Arenal Volcano loved to ham it up for the camera.  

In Manuel Antonio, we came across a beautiful big-eared blue-eyed stray that decided to live on the patio of a local bakery, as he was there every morning.   

The puppies on the beach in Manuel Antonio made my heart melt.

There were cats too.  They were ok.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The softer, fuzzier side of Mark Zuckerberg

Let me say up front: I love Facebook. It has revolutionized the way we all think, communicate, and share our experiences and knowledge. While founder Mark Zuckerberg may have laid this golden egg, his reputation is less than golden. Whether this reputation is deserved or not, he is making an effort to repair his image. 

First, Zuckerberg donated $100 million to Newark's struggling schools. This does not yet put him in the league of the sophisticated billionaire  philanthropist Bill Gates, but it is good to see he is giving back.

What is the latest move for Zuckerberg image rehab? He got a puppy! Thats right, everybody loves a puppy! And everyone looks nicer and friendlier when playing with one.  The pup, named Beast, has his own Facebook fan page (of course).   Beast has posted pictures of his furry self, and shows the softer side of his larger than life person.

So is this a shameless ploy for good publicity? I say no, but it still may be good for not only his image but also his ego. Having a pup in your life is a humbling experience for everyone regardless of wealth and fame. In fact, one of Beast's first Facebook posts let us know that even Mark Zuckerberg picks up poop:

So, what is cooler than a billion dollars? A billion dollars covered in dog hair and puppy kisses.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Beiber-fever benefits homeless pets

Justin Beiber ("the kid with the hair") sure is a media darling, and his name is everywhere these days.  I was excited to hear that this young star is putting some of his fame to use--helping homeless animals! Some of you may have been devastated when he chopped his trademark locks, but would it help to know that they went to a good cause for our furry friends?

With the help of Ellen Degeneres, Beiber's hair clippings fetched a cool $40,000 on Ebay, and the proceeds will benefit the California based charity The Gentle Barn.  This unique organization rescues farm animals from circumstances of neglect and abuse and shows them a better life.  This 6- acre sanctuary is home to about 120 animals, from cows to emus to dogs. What makes this place extra special is that they work with these animals to then help people in need too.  They partner with groups serving inner city youth, group homes, mental health care facilities, foster homes, and schools to teach children and adults "that even though we are all different on the outside, on the inside we are all the same and are deserving of the same rights, respects and freedom."

Sounds like a worthy cause to me.  I guess this Beiber kid is not so bad.  On the right is a picture of Beiber, back when he was just a puppy, adopting his own puppy, Sam.

Now let's talk about the person who bought a teenage boy's hair online for $40,000....

Monday, January 31, 2011

The story behind the amazing OK Go video

By now you may have seen the new Ok Go video for their latest hit White Knuckles.  It seems like a cool video to begin with, and the folks at Gizmodo decided to check out how they made it all happen. Long story short, the meticulously choreographed un-cut single take video features 12 talented dogs with the help of 12 equally dedicated trainers.  

Animal talent manager Roland Sonnenburg helped to put it all together: "We ended up with stuffed animals, spreadsheets, flow-charts, and recorded audio instructions, and for many hours we tried various configurations until we finally found one that worked. And then we practiced and practiced." 

It didn't end there--it was only at the 49th take that everyone seemed to get the hang of it.  They hit an unexpected bump around take 72: the dogs got so good they started going faster than the music!  At 124 takes they called it a wrap, and the video below is the result.  

To keep things interesting, they also had a goat in the mix.  Check it out

Monday, January 24, 2011

Wild dogs are dogs too!

 What a treat at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois: 10 healthy pups of the African wild dog variety! These pups were born to Kim and Digger, and this is the largest litter ever born at the zoo. 

Its a good thing too, because they are an endangered species.  The veternarians and other staff at the zoo had the pups in for a check up recently to make sure these cuties can help reverse the tend. 

Like us "non-wild" dogs, these little buggers get distemper vaccinations, booster shots. Apparently distemper is a big reason for their decline in the wild--so while shots are no fun, I am glad they are getting vaccinated so there can be more of my wild African cousins in the future.  They even get microchips just like me!

L.A. Unleashed has the whole story, along with more adorable pictures and even a video of one of the surprisingly cooperative pups at her checkup.