PET FOOD AND SECRECY

PET FOOD AND SECRECY
Written by Gary Alexander

In dedication to 9-year-old Jizo, who died of renal failure in the early stages of the recall. We miss you, boy.

Those who have been following the twisting course of the ongoing PET FOOD recall crisis have been privileged to witness a remarkable exercise in slight-of-hand, deception and deceit on the part of a corporate media culture determined to keep an already explosive story from detonating fully. With few exceptions, the key words underlying the crisis have been kept out of the debate for an alarming and disheartening reason…

In retrospect, the mysterious wave of deaths from acute renal failure and similar illnesses had begun to rise last year but failed to attract widespread attention until early March. Kidney failure has, in fact, been a leading cause of pet death for over a decade but the toll was rising dramatically in 2007. The first company to issue a recall notice, after it was observed that “routine” taste tests in February were killing one in six of their test animals, was the Canadian distributor, Menu Foods, who initially recalled over 60 million cans of “wet food.”

At the time the recall was announced, an employee of the NY State Health Department confided that a rodent poison named ‘aminopterin’ had been detected in pet food samples by a state lab but, like so much else in this episode, the idea that folic acid-inhibiting rat poison (detected in only two samples, according to an early story on the recall), suggestive of other symptoms which should have been present but were not, could have contaminated 873 hundred tons of wheat gluten destined for pet food just didn’t add up even in a layman’s mind. Cornell University quickly entered the investigation but, like the FDA, failed to confirm the aminopterin traces.

Toward the end of the month, the new villain was announced to be the industrial chemical melamine, which was present in the urine of affected animals but, in none of the readily available studies, displayed anywhere near the toxicity levels that would account for the lethal results reported. Again, the idea that a chemical contaminant could infect so many tons of wheat protein also seemed unlikely, prompting suspicions that something else was going on.

Locally, the extent of the secrecy became evident last month when attempts to gauge the impact on pets of the Catskill-Hudson Valley region of the Food and Drug Administration’s national recall of some brands of dog and cat food were met with one of two typical responses from local veterinarians. If no deaths had been reported, area vets and animal hospitals would announce that they had performed some “blood work” for concerned pet owners but no fatalities had been recorded. Responses from other vets when asked about pet fatalities, however, were more along the lines of an ambiguous “We’re only dealing with the (pet) food (company) representatives and we can’t give out that information.”

Since Menu Foods, as lawsuits began being filed in late March, announced that they would be responsible for veterinarian bills proven to associated with the recall, it would seem apparent that some sort of secrecy provision was attached these arrangements. Secrecy and misdirection, in fact, seemed to attend almost every aspect of the recall to the extent that, for weeks in March and early April, the FDA website’s recall page, which withheld vital information about the brand names involved at a critical time, played down the threat by listing pet fatalities in the teensa number that was reflected in major media coverage until the Associated Press released their first story on the crisis, by Andrew Bridges, on April 9th, advancing an estimate of 39,000 injured animals.

Meanwhile, as websites maintained by veterinarian associations and pet-owner groups were posting deaths in the thousands by the end of March, National Public Radio ran a recall story in early April citing the FDA figure of 17. On the same day, 3,168 dead pets had been recorded in a survey by a pet-owner site. [As of April 28, 2007, 4,546 pets have been reported as deceased.]

As pet-owners scrambled to keep up with the new names being added to the recall list of over a hundred brands, some of them checking Internet listings twice a day because of media sluggishness on the issue, it was websites like Pet Connection, Itchmo, Howl911 and others which provided the most valuable insights and updates on what was really happening. Their message boards flowed with accounts from bereaved pet-ownerssome of whom had just lost the most precious and dependable presence in their lifecarefully detailing exactly what they had been feeding their pets, which symptoms developed and what actions they took. It was only by monitoring these heartrending accounts that shoppers could anticipate the next brands to be recalled. In many cases, this saved animal lives.

The web pages of the PET FOOD companies themselves were generally defensive and, well, corporateto a point that even the Financial Times ran a story advising them adopt a more sensitive and tempered approach. But denial held sway even as reports flooded in and brands like Alpo, produced by the Swiss corporation Nestlé, remained on the “safe” list, inflating sales until the company finally slipped out its recall announcement at a 4 AM weekend “press conference.”

While the full scope of this story cannot even be approached in the space available in these pages, some urgent points still ignored in major media need to at least be touched upon. The heart of the story isn’t about PET FOOD companies or supermarkets but rather about corporate culture and the national news media which has, as part of that culture, been largely missing in action on these developmentsjust as it was on related issues leading up to this point. It is also about public agencies serving as little more than appendages of the industries they’re supposedly designed to regulate. It is also the sorry story of the corporate corruption of science by CEOs with their heads up their bottom lines.

The missing words in this crisis are ‘genetically modified.’ They are words Cornell, a GM-foods advocate closely associated with the leading biotech firm Monsanto, kept out of the discourse when it leaped in to assume its prominent role in the testing. Wheat gluten has never been demonstrated to be lethally toxicnor has melamine. The same can not be said for genetically engineered wheat and that is the elephant in the room that stands behind the stalling and cover-up in this case. Aminopterin, an anti-metabolite which, aside from its brief and aborted career as a rodent toxin and cancer “drug”, is more commonly used as a DNA-marker in genetic engineering through the bio-resistance it provokes. Melamine may have been illegally added to boost the protein readings of the product but that’s a question that avoids the central facts.

In the twists and turns of this saga, a Las Vegas firm called ChemNutra was named by Menu Foods as the primary supplier of the “contaminated” wheat gluten. ChemNutra, which according to their own website seems to qualify for the benefits allotted to a minority or woman-owned company though it handles tens of millions of dollars in nutraceutival chemicals a year, pointed the finger at XuZhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company, Ltd, a Chinese trading firm that, in turn, denied involvement with the suspect gluten. ChemNutra’s owners, New York attorney Stephen S. Miller and his wife Sally Qing Miller, have mixed credentials. Sally has a degree in Food Chemical Engineering from Hanzhou Institute of Commerce in Hanzhou, China, a nation currently spending $500 million annually on biotechnical research. Stephen, who testified before Senator Richard Durbin’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, worked with the E.F. Hutton Group in the 1980s when it was led by Scott Pierce (brother-in-law of then-Vice President George Bush—an association which may help explain why the FDA delayed naming ChemNutra when it identified XuZhou) who entered guilty pleas to 2000 criminal counts of fraud as the brokerage firm disintegrated in the organized crime “Pizza Connection” drug money laundering scandal. (The firm’s remains survive under the Smith Barney-Citigroup banner).

During this decade, investment in emerging biotechnology soared as incentives developed under the administration’s urging and, by 1992, GM foods had been approved for human consumption by the FDA’s decision that its content was “substantially similar” to foods which are not genetically manipulated and, so, could enter the marketplace without specific safety testing.

Due in large part to intensive lobbying and an aggressive Public Relations campaign to overcome consumer reluctance by Monsanto and other industry giants, engineered foodseven vegetables with human genes inserted did not have to be labeled in the American marketplace.

Bioscientists have recently produced an animal which is 85% sheep and 15% human. Lamb chops, anyone?

The GM food industry seeks to overcome consumer hesitation to eat produce with cross-species genes by claiming widespread benefits to farmers and a promise to conquer world hunger. Each of their claims is countered by groups like the Soil Association (click here to download their 68 page fact book, Seeds of Doubt), Greenpeace International, Science In Society, GMWatch, Network of Concerned Farmers and many other citizen and environmental groups. Those opposing the “GM revolution” commonly point out the industry’s failure to fulfill their glowing promises, characterize the introduction of GM crops as premature at best and projecting irreversible ecological damage and unprecedented monumental human disaster at worst. Farmers today are faced with concerns about cross pollination, market rejection and liability just for starters. New laws in Iraq dictate that farmers there cannot use their own seeds. The prime beneficiaries in all of this are seen as the biotech companies themselves, who can patent the life-forms they create and profit at every stage of the food chain.

As co-president of Monsanto’s agricultural sector, Robert Fraley, proclaimed in 1996, “What you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies; it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain.”

The renowned biochemist, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, noted in a talk at the Franco-British Council Symposium in Paris, France on February 8, 2007: “…manipulation of scientific evidence appears to be the mainstay of the regulatory process. Both the FSA (Food Standards Authority) and the ACNFP (Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes) have been operating on the anti-precautionary principle. Not only do they require the public and genuinely independent scientists to prove there is a hazard, they have persistently ignored all evidence of hazards submitted to them and, instead, continue to misinform the public by citing highly flawed studies that claim to find no effect against the latest findings.”

The same situation is present in the telecommunications field where the industry has a tight grip on both the research being conducted and the regulatory agencies. Despite massive evidence of physical effects from non-thermal radio frequency electromagnetic waves and numerous studies linking them to the current rise in maladies from cancer to chronic fatigue and autism, the billions available to the wireless industry have kept a lid on the threats to public health. Studies on the effects of electromagnetic frequencies on bees are finally gaining a bit of attention as Colony Collapse Disorder wipes out hives in electropolluted regions around the world. (Pollen from GM plants is also a suspect in this crisis threatening the food supply although the EMF factor is a more compelling answer to the mystery). Like the PET FOOD recall, many are taking the CCD phenomena as a wake-up call.

Since food industries create the standards for their own testing under our present system, it should not be surprising that Monsanto’s studies are favorable to their designs. But when Greenpeace Germany commissioned an independent study of Monsanto’s data on their transgenic corn MON863, approved for animal and human consumption on the basis of methods found wanting by independent scrutiny, the results were published in the peer-review journal /Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology/ and a follow-up study was reported upon by David Gutierrez of the Campaign for Labeling of GM Foods on April 10, 2007:

“A variety of genetically modified corn that was approved for human consumption in 2006 caused signs of liver and kidney toxicity as well as hormonal changes in rats in a study performed by researchers from the independent Committee for Independent Research and Genetic Engineering at the University of Caen in France.”

The Caen group found damage to the kidneys and livers of test animals as well as hormonal changes and blood abnormalities, possibly perforation of blood cells. GM food advocate Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute responded quickly by pointing out that the “studies have consistently found the variations occurred randomly,” implying that they should then be of little concern. But while the intricacies of molecular biology may be complex, the foundation of the viability of GM food is rather simple and it was demonstrated by Dr. Arpad Pusztai of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland in the first independent, non-industry studies of GM food in 1998 and the very problem isolated involves “randomness.”

When Pusztai spoke publicly of his findings, he was dismissed by Aberdeen, which was later revealed to have received a $230,000 grant from Monsanto, and his work fiercely attacked. But when Pusztai sent the research protocols to 24 independent scientists in different countries, they verified his conclusions. “The data showed that rats fed the GE potatoes for 10 days suffered serious damage to the immune systems and various organs, including the kidney, stomach, spleen, and brain,” wrote Dr. Richard Wolfson in Biotech News in May 1999.

“GM foods have been introduced on the back of just one published paper. Just one, in fifteen years of GM,” Dr. Pusztai said in an interview. “It was written by a Monsanto scientist and published in 1996…I could take it apart in 10 seconds…the main problem is that the researchers appear to have done their utmost to find no problem.”

The principle which entirely undermines the multi-billion dollar GM industry and potentially explains why some animals are stricken by the GM gluten (and not the incidentally present melamine) and why rice and corn gluten are also suspect is “substantial equivalence.” Dr. Pusztai explains: “We had two transgenic lines of potato produced from the same gene insertion and the same growing conditions; we grew them together along with the parent plant. With our two lines of potato, which should have been substantially equivalent to each other, we found that one of the lines contained 20% less protein than the other. So the two lines were not substantially equivalent to each other. But we also found that these two lines were not substantially equivalent to their parent. This could not be predicted. It demonstrates that the unpredictability is inherent in the GM process on a case by case basis—and also at the level of every single GM plant created.”

Although no one seems to have mentioned it, it would also appear to raise some questions about the intellectual property rights of the patent but that, of course, like a considerable weight of other evidence cannot be considered here.

As it stands, the $38 billion a year PET FOOD industry is dwarfed by the human market and many people are not aware that over 70% of processed foods they buy off grocery store shelves contains GM ingredients. They’d be doubly shocked to learn the percentage of foods, including frozen vegetables, are produced in China. In an already shaky economy, it’s small wonder that the FDA and the other players involved in the recall were determined to avoid the GM factor.

The PET FOOD crisis is an inevitable result of priorities misplaced in the corporate mind. They are priorities which will continue to terrorize shoppers until they are modified by the insertion of human principle. In the world of corporate think, it is conceivable to conjure self-justifying thoughts like — “How utterly contemptible of future generations to threaten this quarter’s profits when they only exist in theory….”

Finally, after 6 weeks … it’s front page news

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The story of the tainted pet food and the thousands, yes thousands, of animals tragically lost has finally made it to the front page of the New York Times [Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret in China]. Of course, it is only due to the ramifications for the infiltration into the human food supply that has brought the current media attention.

We reported on the story already here where it appeared in another paper.

For a timeline of events as recorded in articles from the New York Times, click here. 

Florist Worker Golden Retriever Cheyenne … following in Charlie’s pawprints

May 15, 2000 was a very special day for our Golden family. We had our Book Signing Party for the adorable book, Gas Station Charlie: A True Story about a Real Dog, written by Karen Grassmuck Kraushaar, with photography by Doris Kays Kraushaar. This book details a very special Golden guy. Imagine filling up your tank at the local gas station and having a beautiful, friendly dog comes to collect your money. Cash or credit, Charlie took care of it all, with a wagging tail and eager smile that brightened everyone’s day. This Golden boy lived in Saline, Michigan and helped Rick and Harry Parsons at the Marathon station on Michigan Avenue.

Our party had its proceeds benefiting Golden Retriever Rescue. How really thrilling it was to meet both authors (Karen and Doris Kraushaar) of this wonderful Golden book.

We had Darcy and Alfie as our Golden Goodwill Ambassadors, helping to welcome folks to this fun event. And, hubby Gary, with my favorite Golden sweatshirt on, was helping lots as well!

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The following story about Cheyenne brought back fond memories of Charlie.

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Faithful employee takes pay in doggy treats
By Melissa Capone and Steven Dietz (photo), VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH

Cheyenne is the hardest worker at McCullough’s Florist Shop in Harrison. She gets the mail every day at 10 a.m., takes cash, credit and checks from the customers, and greets them at the door.

Cheyenne is a 6-year-old golden retriever. Since the age of 2, Cheyenne has been the faithful, fun-loving employee of her owner, Cindy McCullough. McCullough has owned the shop for eight years, but it has been in her family for 75 years. It was originally owned by her grandfather.

About four years ago, Cheyenne began taking pieces of paper from an employee’s desk and bringing them to Cindy. After that, the dog began taking printed paper off the printer and delivering it to her owner.

Pretty soon, Cheyenne was retrieving the mail, and taking “pieces of paper” — money — from the customers. She brings checks and credit cards to her owner, too. In return for her services, Cheyenne gets a treat from Cindy every time she brings her money.

“She’s so well-trained,” McCullough said. “She won’t touch any of the flowers or stuffed animals in the shop unless we give them to her.”

She said Cheyenne looks forward to holidays and prom time. “She gets so excited when kids come in to the store, and when we’re very busy,” McCullough said.

There’s more . . . .

Golden Retriever Sophie: Life is still good

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Lysee, a long time Land of PureGold visitor, recently contacted me about her sweet 9 year-old Sophie. She recently made it through surgery where they removed her cancerous spleen and blood from her stomach. Sophie is one the mend with no visible cancer in her organs but chemotherapy was recommended as well. The chemotherapy could give her far more months, but it would involve 6 treatments, 1 every 3 weeks.

Of course, the big question is whether to put Sophie through more treatment. We had a similar situation with our Darcy and knew that we had to limit what we did for her because of her aversion to going to the vet and being away from her family and home.

Lysee has come to a similar decision as Sophie is enjoying her good days now. She is happy, playing, eating, loving, kissing, and more at home with her family and ‘her new puppy’ Abby ( 13 weeks).

Don’t you just love the above photo of Sophie and her little Abby playing together?

Trying to solve the mystery

A race to solve pet food mystery
Fears for humans – Scientists find substances but not the mechanism sickening cats and dogs
By Richard Read and Lynne Terry, The Oregonian

Ebel and other scientists from New York to California asked how melamine — a substance made from ammonia and used in glues and laminate flooring — could cause acute renal failure, when chunks of it fed to dogs in one study merely made them urinate a lot.It’s a question that still confounds U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials as they ask farmers to euthanize 6,000 hogs on farms that received tainted pet food.

It’s now a puzzle vexing scientists studying cyanuric acid. That substance has been found in stricken pets and by FDA investigators in rice protein concentrate at the same North Plains warehouse where melamine from China showed up.

Each day, members of the Cornell team, in Ithaca, N.Y., have discussed these questions with an expanding number of scientists across North America. They’ve searched for hundreds of potential culprits, helping rule out a rat poison, aminopterin, fingered by another New York lab. They still don’t know what led publicity-shy Procter & Gamble scientists to melamine.

The Cornell group has been impressed by the collaboration among high-octane experts from government, industry and universities. Together the scientists have scrambled to contain whatever, in Oregon alone, may have killed 46 dogs and cats and sickened 78 more.

There is much more . . . .

Just the tip of the iceberg

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How one supplier caused a huge crisis, and why it’s just the tip of the iceberg
CHARLIE GILLIS AND ANNE KINGSTON, Macleans.ca, April 30, 2007

Sometime in the next couple of years, when the public gaze has drifted from the tainted pet food epidemic and we’ve all forgotten what melamine is, a judge in Ohio or California or Ontario will take up the daunting question of what a dog or cat is worth. There was considerable legal debate on this topic even before the current uproar. But if an animal’s curative effect on the human heart plays any part in the calculation, the courts might start at a small house in Floral Park, N.Y., where the wounds wrought by the poisoning epidemic will stay raw for a long time to come.

Read on for the rest of the story . . . . 

 

Our pitiful FDA at work …. or lack thereof –Updated

Additive that tainted U.S. pet food is commonly used in China
By David Barboza and Alexei Barrionuevo, International Herald Tribune, April 29, 2007

ZHANGQIU, China: American food safety regulators trying to figure out how an industrial chemical called melamine contaminated so much pet food in the United States might come to this heavily polluted city in Shandong Province in the northern part of the country.

Here at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group factory, huge boiler vats are turning coal into melamine, which is used to create plastics and fertilizer.

But the leftover melamine scrap, small acorn-sized chunks of white rock, is then being sold to local entrepreneurs, who say they secretly mix a powdered form of the scrap into animal feed to artificially enhance the protein level.

The melamine powder has been dubbed “fake protein” and is used to deceive those who raise animals into thinking they are buying feed that provides higher nutrition value. “It just saves money,” says a manager at an animal feed factory here. “Melamine scrap is added to animal feed to boost the protein level.”

The practice is widespread in China. For years animal feed sellers have been able to cheat buyers by blending the powder into feed with little regulatory supervision, according to interviews with melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.

Unfortunately, there’s lots more to this story . . . .

Updated: The above link to the rest of the story has become non-functional, so in the interest of providing this important information, I am providing the rest of the text to the article below:

But now, melamine is at the center of a massive, multinational pet food recall after it was linked earlier this month to the deaths and injuries of thousands of cats and dogs in the United States and South Africa.

No one knows exactly how melamine – which had not been believed to be particularly toxic – became so fatal in pet food, but its presence in any form of American food is illegal.

U.S. regulators are now headed to China to figure out why pet food ingredients imported from here, including wheat gluten, were contaminated with high levels of the chemical.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned imports of wheat gluten from China and ordered the recall of over 60 million packages of pet food. And last week, the agency opened a criminal investigation in the case and searched the offices of at least one pet food supplier.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also stepped in Thursday, ordering more than 6,000 hogs to be quarantined or slaughtered after some of the pet food ingredients laced with melamine were accidentally sent to hog farms in eight states, including California.

Scientists are now trying to determine whether melamine could be harmful to human health.

The huge pet food recall is raising questions in the United States about regulatory controls at a time when food supplies are increasingly being sourced globally. Some experts complain that the FDA is understaffed and underfunded, making it incapable of safeguarding America’s food supply.

“They have fewer people inspecting product at the ports than ever before,” says Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington. “Until China gets programs in place to verify the safety of their products, they need to be inspected by U.S. inspectors. This open-door policy on food ingredients is an open invitation for an attack on the food supply, either intentional or unintentional.”

The pet food case is also putting China’s agricultural exports under greater scrutiny because the country’s dubious food safety record and history of excessive antibiotic and pesticide use.

In recent years, for instance, China’s food safety scandals have involved everything from fake baby milk formulas and soy sauce made from human hair, to instances where cuttlefish were soaked in calligraphy ink to improve their color and eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim.

China’s government disputes any suggestion that melamine from the country could have killed pets. But Friday, regulators here banned the use of melamine in vegetable proteins made for export or for use in domestic food supplies.

Yet it is clear from visiting this region of northern China is that for years melamine has been quietly mixed into Chinese animal feed and then sold to unsuspecting farmers as protein-rich pig, poultry and fish feed.

Many animal feed operators advertise on the Internet seeking to purchase melamine scrap. And melamine scrap producers and traders said in recent interviews that they often sell to animal feed makers.

“Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed,” says Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company. “I don’t know if there’s a regulation on it. Probably not. No law or regulation says ‘don’t do it,’ so everyone’s doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren’t they? If there’s no accident, there won’t be any regulation.”

(Page 2 of 2)

Most local feed companies do not admit that they use melamine. But last Friday here in Zhangqiu, a fast-growing industrial city southeast of Beijing, a pair of animal feed producers explained in great detail how they purchase low-grade wheat, corn, soybean or other proteins and then mix in small portions of nitrogen-rich melamine, whose chemical properties give a bag of animal feed an inflated protein level under standard tests.

Melamine is the new scam of choice, they say, because urea – another nitrogen-rich chemical that works similarly – is illegal for use in pig and poultry feed and can be easily tested for in China as well as the United States.

“If you add it in small quantities, it won’t hurt the animals,” said one animal feed entrepreneur whose name is being withheld to protect him from prosecution.

The man – who works in a small animal feed operation that consists of a handful of storage and mixing areas – said he has mixed melamine into animal feed for years.

He said he was not currently using melamine, which is actually made from urea. But he then pulled out a plastic bag containing what he said was melamine powder and said he could dye it any color.

Asked whether he could create an animal feed and melamine brew, he said yes, he has access to huge supplies of melamine. Using melamine-spiked pet food ingredient was not a problem, he said, even thought the product would be weak in protein.

“Pets are not like pigs or chickens,” he said casually, explaining that cheating them on protein won’t matter. “They don’t need to grow fast.”

The feed seller makes a heftier profit because the substitute melamine scrap is much cheaper than purchasing soy, wheat or corn protein.

“It’s true you can make a lot more profit by putting melamine in,” said a second animal feed seller here in Zhangqiu. “Melamine will cost you about $1.20 per ton for each protein count whereas real protein costs you about $6, so you can see the difference.”

Few people outside of agriculture know about melamine here. The Chinese media, which is strictly censored, has not reported much about melamine or the pet food recall overseas. And no one in agriculture here seems to believe that melamine is particularly harmful to animals or pets in small doses.

A man named Jing, who works in the sales department at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group, said Friday that melamine scrap prices had been rising but he was not aware of how the company’s product was being used.

“We have an auction for melamine scrap every three months,” he said. “I haven’t heard of it being added to animal feed. It’s not for animal feed.”

David Barboza reported from Zhangqiu and Alexei Barrionuevo reported from Chicago. Rujun Shen also contributed reporting.

I don’t see any Berner in Puppy Bob, do you?

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Bob the dog finds a home – Bernese mix on way to Vancouver

By Tim Krohn, The Free Press

MANKATO — Bob the Bernese mountain dog doesn’t know how lucky he is. Abandoned shortly after birth, Bob is on his way from Mankato to a new home in Vancouver, British Columbia — via a ride to northern Wyoming with a Good Samaritan. Waiting for him will be two little girls and their parents just aching to make the puppy a part of their family.

There’s more . . . .

Cat catches bus to fish ‘n chip shop

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AN English cat has spent the past three months jumping on a bus and riding it two stops down the road before leaping off near a fish and chip shop.
By staff writers and wires, Herald and Weekly Times

The cat, which jumps on the no 331 service in Wolverhampton, has stunned bus drivers who have since nicknamed it Macavity after the secret cat in a T.S. Eliot poem.

Driver Bill Khunkhun, 49, said Macavity caught the bus three times a week and always got on and off at the same spot along the busy route. “As soon as I open the doors he jumps on. He seems to like it,” he said.

Passenger Paul Brennan, 19, said Macavity sat at the front of the bus and waited patiently for the right stop. “It was quite strange at first but now seems normal. He is the perfect passenger. The only problem is he never pays,” Mr Brennan said.

Travel West Midlands, which operates the service, said: “The cat certainly knows how to use buses and is a regular traveller on the 311.”

 

Golden Retriever Distraction Training …. oh my!

Here, cats are trained to participate in a dog’s training so that the dog learns to ignore the cats. My Alfie would go nuts if that was our kitty girl Cindy, who really looks very much like this particular cat enticing the Golden. Yet, he has learned that when she does come close and rubs against him, that he needs to remain as still as possible as any kind of movement on his part typically leads to her scampering off.

DEUCE: Rob Marshall’s flying Golden Retriever pupper

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Recently we detailed Rob Marshall’s needing to find a name for his new pupper.

Rob Marshall’s Puppy Makes His Flying Debut
Meet the 8-Week-Old Golden Retriever

DENVER — SkyFOX pilot Rob Marshall just brought a new puppy home a few days ago. He’s a golden retriever. Dylan, Denver’s first flying dog is passing the torch to this little guy. The puppy made his debut flying aboard SkyFOX Wednesday morning. Call him Denver’s new flying puppy. He doesn’t have a name yet. …

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Well, here’s the latest . . .

SkyFOX pilot Rob Marshall’s flying puppy now has a name

Rob has had the puppy for about a week, and he looked at literally hundreds of ideas for names for the little golden retriever. Rob and the entire Fox 31 News team wants to thank each and every person who took the time to email name suggestions, as well as those who wrote ideas in the myfoxcolorado.com Blogs section.

As many of you know, Rob’s companion of 12 and a half years, Dylan, was put to sleep recently after he battled health problems for a year. Dylan was Denver’s only flying dog.

Now, Rob’s new companion has become Denver’s only flying puppy. Rob announced Friday that the name he selected for the puppy is: DEUCE. One of Rob’s friends from California emailed the idea for this name. Rob said it fits perfectly, since the puppy follows in the footsteps of Dylan, and Rob’s first dog: Maxwell. He also said it is a great “call-sign” for any aviator.

This photo shows Fox 31 reporter Melissa Mollet meeting SkyFOX pilot Rob Marshall’s new puppy, April 25, 2007.

Click here to watch a NEW video of little Deuce. At the Fox page, just click on the small thumbnail photo listed under Videos.

Our favorite part is when a member of the news team begins playing with Deuce, getting down into a puppy bow play position.

Treating and Training Golden Retrievers with Love

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Oprah has 3 Goldens and wanted help with their jumping up on folks when they come to visit.

Click here to watch a video of Oprah learning the steps to changing this behavior.

Tamar’s 3-step method

(to teach Luke, Layla and Gracie to stay on all fours):

Step 1: Turn your back. “I want you to be the center of the universe,” Tamar says. “Therefore, I want you to love them so much that when you take the love away they’re like, ‘Oh, what can we do to get her love back?'”

Step 2: Tell the dog to sit. “I want them to know that the only time you’re going to look at them and you’re going to touch them is when they’re sitting,” Tamar says. “I want them to feel like they’re exploding, but yet they are not moving their tush off the ground.”

Step 3: Give a treat, but make sure to keep your hand low. “If you give your treat [too high], she’s going to jump to get it,” Tamar says.

Golden Retriever Tails a Waggin’ … Left & Right have different meanings

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A Matter of Degree
Seeing its owner, the dog wagged harder to its right. Shown an
unfamiliar dog, the bias was to the left. Center forNeuroscience/U of Trieste

Click here to see 2 video clips. One is named: Uneven Tail Wagging and the other: The Analysis.

If You Want to Know if Spot Loves You So, It’s in His Tail
By SANDRA BLAKESLEE, New York Times, April 24, 2007

Every dog lover knows how a pooch expresses its feelings. Ears close to the head, tense posture, and tail straight out from the body means “don’t mess with me.” Ears perked up, wriggly body and vigorously wagging tail means “I am sooo happy to see you!”

But there is another, newly discovered, feature of dog body language that may surprise attentive pet owners and experts in canine behavior. When dogs feel fundamentally positive about something or someone, their tails wag more to the right side of their rumps. When they have negative feelings, their tail wagging is biased to the left.

A study describing the phenomenon, “Asymmetric tail-wagging responses by dogs to different emotive stimuli,” appeared in the March 20 issue of Current Biology. The authors are Giorgio Vallortigara, a neuroscientist at the University of Trieste in Italy, and two veterinarians, Angelo Quaranta and Marcello Siniscalchi, at the University of Bari, also in Italy.

“This is an intriguing observation,” said Richard J. Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It fits with a large body of research showing emotional asymmetry in the brain, he said.

Research has shown that in most animals, including birds, fish and frogs, the left brain specializes in behaviors involving what the scientists call approach and energy enrichment. In humans, that means the left brain is associated with positive feelings, like love, a sense of attachment, a feeling of safety and calm. It is also associated with physiological markers, like a slow heart rate.

At a fundamental level, the right brain specializes in behaviors involving withdrawal and energy expenditure. In humans, these behaviors, like fleeing, are associated with feelings like fear and depression. Physiological signals include a rapid heart rate and the shutdown of the digestive system.

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Right Brain, Left Brain
The muscles on either side of the tail apparently reflect
emotions like fear & love registering in the brain. Marcello Siniscalchi/U of Trieste

Because the left brain controls the right side of the body and the right brain controls the left side of the body, such asymmetries are usually manifest in opposite sides of the body. Thus many birds seek food with their right eye (left brain/nourishment) and watch for predators with their left eye (right brain/danger).

In humans, the muscles on the right side of the face tend to reflect happiness (left brain) whereas muscles on the left side of the face reflect unhappiness (right brain).

Dog tails are interesting, Dr. Davidson said, because they are in the midline of the dog’s body, neither left nor right. So do they show emotional asymmetry, or not?

To find out, Dr. Vallortigara and his colleagues recruited 30 family pets of mixed breed that were enrolled in an agility training program. The dogs were placed in a cage equipped with cameras that precisely tracked the angles of their tail wags. Then they were shown four stimuli through a slat in the front of the cage: their owner; an unfamiliar human; a cat; and an unfamiliar, dominant dog.

In each instance the test dog saw a person or animal for one minute, rested for 90 seconds and saw another view. Testing lasted 25 days with 10 sessions per day.

When the dogs saw their owners, their tails all wagged vigorously with a bias to the right side of their bodies, Dr. Vallortigara said. Their tails wagged moderately, again more to the right, when faced with an unfamiliar human. Looking at the cat, a four-year-old male whose owners volunteered him for the experiment, the dogs’ tails again wagged more to the right but in a lower amplitude.

When the dogs looked at an aggressive, unfamiliar dog — a large Belgian shepherd Malinois — their tails all wagged with a bias to the left side of their bodies.

Thus when dogs were attracted to something, including a benign, approachable cat, their tails wagged right, and when they were fearful, their tails went left, Dr. Vallortigara said. It suggests that the muscles in the right side of the tail reflect positive emotions while the muscles in the left side express negative ones.

While some researchers have argued that only humans show brain asymmetry — based on the evolution of language in the left brain — strong left and right biases are showing up in the brains of many so-called simpler creatures, said Lesley Rogers, a neuroscientist who studies brain asymmetry at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia.

There’s more . . . . .

My Pet Counts! Postcard Blitz

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My Pet Counts! Postcard Blitz (from Companions for Life)

We are calling on all pet owners, parents, guardians who have lost a pet due to contaminated pet food to join us in a post card blitz to demonstrate the full scope of this pet food recall disaster. The FDA continues to publicize only “16 confirmed deaths.” This number has often been repeated by the media. Reliable sources report that the number of pet deaths are and will be much higher – most likely in the thousands. In fact, 4,474 pets have been reported as deceased in the Pet Connection database.

If you want your pet’s death to count for something good, please join the My Pet Counts! Post Card Blitz.

Who: Anyone who has lost a pet due to contaminated pet food.

What: Post cards may have a picture of your pet, or can be blank. Purchase cards or design your own. Each set of postcards represents one pet. If you have lost multiple pets, send multiple cards to each address. Only one set of postcards per dead pet, please. Postcards ONLY, this is to ensure the mail is delivered with no security delay.

Where: No need to leave home. You can mail your postcards from your own mailbox.

When: All postcards should be mailed on Saturday, April 28th. This coincides with the national march organized by KOPS (Keep Our Pets Safe). If all postcards are mailed on the same day, the impact will be all the greater when received at the other end.

Why: By sticking to the “only 16 confirmed deaths” wording this disaster is being grossly minimized. The word must get out!

How: Mail a postcard to each of the addresses provided. The message should be very short, easy to read, no anger, profanity, or rudeness of any kind. Let them see your grief. Tug at their heartstrings. Use your pet’s name. Use the words “My Pet Counts!”

Post card Mailing List:
Marcia K. Larkins, D.V.M
FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine
Ombudsman
7519 Standish Place HFV-7
Rockville, MD 20855

Senator Richard Durbin
309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Your own senator: addresses at http://tinyurl.com/b1lm

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Anderson Cooper
c/o CNN
One CNN Center
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-2762

For more information – http://www.petconnection.com/category/2007-food-recall/

Please cross post this message and send this on to family and friends. Thank you!

Rob Marshall has his new SkyFox Golden Retriever

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Rob Marshall’s Puppy Makes His Flying Debut
Meet the 8-Week-Old Golden Retriever

DENVER — SkyFOX pilot Rob Marshall just brought a new puppy home a few days ago. He’s a golden retriever. Dylan, Denver’s first flying dog is passing the torch to this little guy. The puppy made his debut flying aboard SkyFOX Wednesday morning. Call him Denver’s new flying puppy.

He doesn’t have a name yet. Rob narrowed the choices down to 10 names, and now he wants to know which of these names you like best. (Click here to send an email with your favorite name). They do not appear in any particular order.

* Murphy       * Mavrick          * Ace               * Frisco
* Cosmo          * Casey              * Tucker         * Yankee/Yank
* Harley          * Cooper

This photo shows Fox 31 reporter Melissa Mollet meeting SkyFOX pilot Rob Marshall’s new puppy, April 25, 2007.

Click here to watch two videos of this new pupper. At the Fox page, just click on the small thumbnail photos listed under Videos.

Inspiration from Golden Retriever Rusty

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Grieving the loss of a pet – Counselor offers services to bereaved pet owners
By Andrew Thompson, Palo Alto Weekly

When Maggie, a research assistant at Stanford, had to euthanize her beloved cat Noel, she was devastated. Noά had suddenly fallen ill, and within five days Maggie was forced to put her to sleep. The sudden bereavement of her cat left her emotionally shattered, and she fruitlessly searched the Peninsula for emotional support. At times, she thought she was crazy. “I didn’t eat for a week,” said Maggie, who asked that her last name be withheld.

She was finally referred to Bonnie Goodman, a Palo Alto pet-loss grief counselor, who helped legitimize her feelings and told Maggie that her reaction was perfectly normal. Goodman is the only counselor on the Peninsula who specializes in pet-loss grief. After practicing child therapy for 10 years and career counseling for 20 years, she decided to also do grief counseling.

“I just knew with all the losses in my life that I needed to connect deeper with people,” said Goodman, who lost 10 family members before she was 25 years old to heart disease and cancer.

It was Rusty, her golden retriever, that inspired her to work with pet-loss grief in addition to traditional grief counseling. Goodman foresaw her own grief over Rusty’s death when he was still a puppy. “This dog felt like a child to me very soon on,” she said.

Eventually, Rusty became sick with cancer and died. It was his death that Goodman says puts her in a unique position to empathize with bereaved pet owners.

“What people will say to me is, ‘I have a therapist, but I can tell that therapist doesn’t ‘get dogs’. That’s why I came in here. You get what it means to lose a pet,'” said Goodman, who has a certificate in Grief Counseling from U.C. Berkeley.

There’s more . . . .

B & B Lovin’ Golden Retriever Bella

Bow WOW B&B
By Linda Kush, GateHouse Media

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Golden retriever Bella and Tucker, a yellow Labrador, sneak a peek at Brenda Membrino’s Pet Bed and Breakfast located in Tewksbury. Photo by Ellen Bullock/staff photographer

Tewksbury -It’s Wednesday, puppy day at Brenda’s Pet Bed and Breakfast. Eight dogs wrestle out on the deck in Brenda Membrino’s backyard. A three-way tug of war with a squashed yellow ball develops in one corner, while a pair of puppies lock jaws and roll around in another.

Membrino, a tiny, dark-haired woman in a dog-print smock, keeps a close eye on the pack. “I watch their body language,” she said. “This is all puppy play. Puppies investigate with their mouths and their paws.” But any dog that gets too “fresh,” as she calls it, will be separated from the others until it calms down.

Dogs come to Membrino’s Tewksbury home for day care and sleepovers. What began as a favor for a friend three years ago blossomed into a part-time business, and in January 2006, Membrino left her job as a print project manager to care for dogs full time. Husband Robert, a roofer, helps her during his off-season.

There’s more . . .