Win a Lava Paw Stretch Bracelet!

Whether you want this for the classic style of the black lava beads and silver tone paw charm–or to use with your favorite essential oils, this elegant stretch bracelet easily transitions from…

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Socializing Your Older Rescue Puppy: Barli’s Checklist

Since Bärli’s adoption on March 13, we’ve been busy socializing him, exposing him to experiences that he might come across on future outings or in our daily life. Bärli, now five (and…

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9 Subtle Statement Earrings

9 Understated Statement Earrings

I feel like hoops and tassels are all I’ve worn for earrings in the past year, so I went searching for something unique and fell in love with all of these above. I love that they’re mostly statement earrings, but they’re understated. (Does that make them Understatement Earrings? Hmmmm.) Which is your favorite?

(All of these earrings are from Madewell, but this is not a sponsored post. Just love them all!)


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Opossums aren’t geniuses, but you don’t have to be one to thrive

I hate biology by Facebook meme. We’re living in a time of great natural history illiteracy, but we’re also living at a time in which people want to respect and learn about nature.

Virginia opossums are one of the most common species in the United States. They fit nicely in suburbia, and they are quite often encountered.

They are not cute, at least by conventional standards of cuteness, and when you encounter them, they stand with their mouths open in a gape threat display. They usually drool and generally look nasty.

So well-meaning people have tried to make the opossum look good, and in doing so, they have decided to bullshit people.

Bullshitting about any animal is a bad conservation strategy.

One common statement is that “many studies” or “a study” have shown that opossums are smarter than dogs and cats.

I had to hunt to find that citation! You’d think that such a groundbreaking discovery would be all over the clickbait science press, but no, it’s actually rather obscure study.

It was a study that was performed in the 1950s using the Fink arrow maze. It is really just a test to see if an animal can remember where it was fed before.  The researcher who did the research was a W.T. James, and he performed some other studies on the species, which did not show such a marked ability among the opossums. They are capable of learning.

Other researchers looked into the opossum’s intelligence and have generally found it lacking. Indeed, a 1965 study revealed that opossums were much worse than rats at learning how to follow a maze.

The 1950s study is the only one that compared dogs and opossums, and we live in a time in which a new cognitive study on dogs is released every month or so. Dogs are pretty intelligent animals. They have evolved some cognitive shortcuts that have allowed them to live in close concert with humans and to learn from humans.

So you have one study that shows opossums are more intelligent than dogs and you think that is worth posting on a Facebook meme?

It’s bullshitting people.

The truth is opossums don’t have to be smart to be successful. What makes them successful are two simple things: they reproduce rapidly and they will eat virtually anything.

They also can live their whole lives next to people and never really bother anything. Opossums are far less obnoxious to have around than raccoons are.  Raccoons tear things up. They open up garbage bins. They den in chimneys. They kill cats and eat their food.

A raccoon is an intelligent animal. They know how to open up chicken coops and eat all the chickens. They know how to open up gates and get into cornfields.

An opossum will just trundle around and not cause too much trouble.

It works for them.

And yes, they eat ticks and can prevent the spread of Lyme disease.

But they aren’t smarter than super social carnivorans.

So when you see these memes posted on Facebook about how wonderful opossums are, keep in mind that the claim about opossum intelligence being greater than dogs comes from a single study.

It’s bullshitting people. This study is useful, but it’s 60 years old. And no one has attempted to replicate it or tried to draw deeper meaning in the general comparison of cognitive abilities between dogs and opossums.

So yeah, one study. Interesting discovery, but it hasn’t been replicated. Also it doesn’t match what else we know about the two species.

It’s just one of those things you run across in a literature review and wonder about.

A much better understanding of opossums is they are primitive mammals. I don’t mean that they are inferior in this sense. I mean that they very similar to the first mammals that ever existed, and they have retained these primitive, generalized traits for tens of millions years.

That’s pretty amazing.

And it’s not bullshitting people.

Natural History

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The Destigmatization of Hunting is the Only Way to Save the North American Model of Wildlife Management

The North America wildlife management strategy is best described in this video:

Just a few days ago, NPR reported that the percentage of people hunting in the United States has dwindled to 5 percent, and this lack of hunter participation is hamstringing wildlife management departments all over America.

The North American model’s main funding mechanism, which isn’t really mentioned in the Rinella piece, comes from two main sources, hunting license and taxes paid on hunting equipment. Right now, if you buy ammunition or a sporting gun, there is an 11 percent sales tax, which comes from the Pittman-Robertson Act.  There is a 10 percent sales tax on pistols and revolvers, and that money goes to the Department of the Interior, where it is then distributed to the states and territories for conservation purposes.

With gun and ammunition sales often driven by speculation and fear-mongering about gun control (which is now in the news again), it is unlikely that this source will dry up in the near future.

The real problem is lower hunter participation. With fewer and fewer hunters taking out after game each year, the coffers of state wildlife agencies become emptier and emptier. The election of so many Republican legislatures nationwide also means that the states are less likely to offer up alternative revenue for wildlife management agencies. So many people who are hunters vote Republican, but in the end, the Republican Party isn’t about increase taxes on anything to keep spending money on what some view as a socialist enterprise in our wildlife management system.

So we live at a time when our public management system is under attack from conservative force but is being starved by an increasingly urban and liberal public. Yes, an increasingly liberal and urban society isn’t going to be spending money on hunting licenses.

It is a perfect storm of bad ideas from the right and the left.  It is easy for hunters to attack urban people. We all have this concept of the New Jersey cat lady, who has 25 cats in her house and does TNR with the alley cats and goes to great length to raise hell when the bear season comes every year.  That is someone who definitely does exist, but it is a caricature of what liberal, urban America actually is.

Most people who live in these areas vote Democrat, but they don’t really have a strong opinion about hunting. And because they really don’t know anyone who hunts, they are very easily manipulated by animal rights organizations. They are manipulated by ignorance.

Ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m ignorant about many things. We all are. If your day-to-day existence doesn’t include much wildlife, it is easy to think that those animal rights people actually do know what they’re talking about. If you don’t know anyone who hunts, it is easy to accept the premise that all hunters are right wingers who love their Donald Trump and Ted Nugent.

And hunters have responded to this stigmatization by wrapping themselves up in right wing politics, which will likely turn out to be the biggest strategic move that hunters could have made.

Right now, the Republican base is aging, and fewer and fewer young people each year register as Republicans. By wrapping hunting up into the greater ideals of conservatism rather than conservation, hunters are going to suffer greatly as the next generation of voters shuns the Republican Party.

That’s going to be bad for wildlife, too. They will not be buying tags for hunting, and they won’t be buying guns and ammunition either.

So both revenue sources for the North American Model will be drying up.

One could simply add canoes, camping equipment, and cameras to the goods subject to the Pittman-Robertson taxes, because then you’d have non-hunting wildlife enthusiasts paying for conservation.

That solution would require legislation, and I am not certain if people who are engaged in those activities would support those taxes. Businesses that sell those items would likely not be happy with adding a cost to their sales prices.

So the only real solution is to find a way to destigmatize hunting for the younger and more urban generation.

The first thing that hunters who are interested in the future should do is take on the cause of conservation.  It is not helpful for hunters to be deniers of scientific facts, especially when it comes to climate change. People under a certain age will not buy any of that stuff.  Demographically, that battle has been lost, whether you’re right or not. (And you aren’t).

If you can sell hunting as an ethical way to manage forests, say show how killing a some white-tailed deer every year promotes the regeneration of oak forest, then you’re making some headway. Also show how humanely you kill a deer, explain that a single shot to the heart, which is kills in seconds, is far more merciful than a lingering death in the March woods when all the acorns are gone.

The other thing hunters must do is realize that conservatism is a lost cause. Conservatism isn’t going to save your guns, because consevatism is a discredited ideology for the generation that is about to take power. What will save your guns is recognizing the need for meaningful gun legislation and making dead certain that you understand that hunting is primarily about conservation. It is a “green” idea to hunt deer, and being green isn’t a bad thing, because it ensures that wild places will continue to exist.

If you’re going to hold onto these ideas and attack young people, then they will not listen to you, and they WILL listen to the animal rights extremists, who honestly don’t have a very good grounding in conservation principles at all. Animal rights extremists know how to do publicity right. They know how to do politics.

Most hunting organizations know only how to operate in a system in which conservative politics reigns or has the potential to reign. The new world for hunting organizations is figuring out how to exist in a society that doesn’t regard socialism as a dirty word and views climate change as a major issue that must be addressed.

Hunting can survive, but only if hunting organizations realize that real world has changed. And it’s up to us to be much more effective at destigmatizing field sports.

I know this is easy for me. I’ve never been a conservative. I was raised in a family of liberal deer hunters, so it’s not like I really have to change my approach.

But I am only one person.

For those hunters who disagree with me, I have two questions:

Do you really think Ted Nugent has changed the minds of enough young people to keep hunting a part of America’s conservation heritage for decades to come?

Do you think Donald Trump has added to his electoral base since the 2016 election?

You know the answers to both questions.

And that’s why we are going to have this big challenge ahead of us for the future of hunting and conservation in this country.



Natural History

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Hermione’s Rescue

More video love from Hope for Paws. Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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Working for Animals Drew This Couple Together

Shawn with black cat

Photo Credit: Katherine Zenzano

We all know it’s not unusual to find love at an animal shelter. Usually it’s with an adoptable animal looking for a home. That’s part of why Halo donates more than 1.5 million bowls of nutritious food to shelter animals every year to help those dogs and cats look and feel great, so they can put their best paw forward to help them find love. However, some people find more than animals who capture their hearts at an animal shelter. For Katherine Zenzano, her heart was captured at an animal shelter by a very special Animal Control Officer!

Katherine Zenzano knew she loved animals. It was why she was excited to start as the Assistant to the President and CEO of a large urban animal shelter. She was even prepared to fall in love with lots of fuzzy creatures. She didn’t expect that the job would lead her to the love of her life and future spouse.

Katherine and Shawn

Photo Credit: Katherine Zenzano

Shawn Covington was an Animal Control Officer for that same urban shelter. “I could tell that he was a hard worker and that it was on behalf of animals was very attractive,” Katherine admitted about what first drew her to Shawn. Shawn also appreciated Katherine’s care for animals. It made him want to know her better, plus, as he put it, “it also meant that we had something in common.”

Katherine grew to love animal welfare. She eventually became a Behavior and Training Counselor as well as the Cat Behavior Manager for the always busy shelter. She also grew closer to Shawn. “When Shawn brought his two dogs, Tank and Beretta, two Boston Terriers, over to my house so I could meet them, “ was a big day, according to Katherine. “I had already heard about Tank who certainly lived up to the name,” she continued, “But Beretta was so tiny and cute and in a way it just…surprised me. Here was this big tough guy with this happy, prancing little dog. I do believe that sold me.”

Dogs continued to be a big factor in their relationship. Not only did they integrate their pack, as it were, but the couple also fostered many animals together. Eventually Shawn proposed, while their dogs milled about, and Katherine said yes. She joked at the time that there was no better way to celebrate National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week! While preparing for their wedding, they thought about their dogs. They didn’t plan to have any of them at the ceremony to avoid stressing out the dogs or humans too much. However, Tank had other ideas.

Photo Credit: Katherine Zenzano

Photo Credit: Katherine Zenzano

According to Katherine, “On the day of our wedding, Tank escaped through an open door and Shawn had to chase him to catch him. Shawn slipped and fell, and ripped his jeans, but eventually caught Tank.” The couple discussed what was best and decided to change their plans slightly. “Our dog Tank was there for the wedding weekend, but only because we didn’t want to risk that he get away from my dad who would be taking care of our dogs,” she explained.

Now the couple has three dogs. “Little Bit is Katherine’s other soul mate,” shared Shawn. Little Bit “is a senior Terrier mix who loves to be near Katherine at all times. Tank is a troublemaker; he is the older male, Boston Terrier. He’s always getting into something. Beretta is the sweetest and always needs to find the coziest spot to nestle in,” Shawn continued. In addition to the dogs, the happy couple also has an adorable toddler daughter they say “definitely” shares her parents’ love of animals. “Beretta is her favorite dog if we’re naming favorites. And she loves having the foster kittens around and is very gentle and patient with them,” said Katherine.

Katherine feels that dogs are a big part of why she and Shawn fell in love, telling us “I definitely credit our love for animals with bringing us together.” Not everyone will meet their human soulmate at an animal shelter, but everyone can find an animal who needs their love. Who knows what else you’ll find?

Halo Pets

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What Can We Learn from the Puppy Who Died on United Airlines?

United Airlines

There are a lot of people who – when they learned about a puppy who died in an overhead luggage bin on a United Airlines flight last week – were filled with moral outrage against the airline. They went ballistic, telling everyone on social media that they were going to boycott United Airlines and so should everyone else to “send a message.”

What message would that be?

What could possibly be achieved by boycotting United Airlines?
An airline company did not cause the death of a puppy.

United Airlines is a huge company that (safely) puts thousands of flights in the air every week, with tens of thousands of employees helping to make that happen. United Airlines policy allowed that dog in the passenger cabin in a TSA-approved carry bag, intended to be placed under the seat in front of the woman traveling with her 11-year-old daughter and infant, flying back to New York’s LaGuardia Airport from Houston.

I think this indignation against the airline is entirely misdirected.

Why are people so quick to jump to the conclusion that an airline company would knowingly do anything to harm a pet – and should be punished? [Why would United Airlines ever want to be dealing with another public relations nightmare – not so long after Marshalls forcibly dragged a human passenger down the aisle of another United flight?]

This traveling puppy was allowed into the passenger cabin according to United’s own rules. He was traveling legitimately – in a TSA-approved bag with a paid fee. He was traveling with the same owner who had already flown the first leg of a round trip journey – with that same dog, in the same bag, on the same airline. So what went wrong this time that caused the death of that puppy? And what can we all learn as a take-away moral to the story so this kind of debacle doesn’t happen again?

The story that circulated in the New York Times and all over the country – in print and on television – was that a flight attendant told the owner of a carry bag – that wasn’t fitting fully under the seat in front of her – that she had to put the bag up in an overhead bin before takeoff. The owner later said she explained there was a dog in the bag, but regardless, the flight attendant still said it had to go in the overhead bin. The flight attendant later claimed not to have understood there was a dog in the bag.

Obviously, an overhead bin was never intended for anything but inanimate carry-on bags, It would be unimaginable that a crew member – even if rushed, distracted, overworked or thoughtless – would send a puppy to its certain death by locking it into what would become an airless tomb. Who doesn’t love puppies, after all? Would anybody knowingly suffocate a little dog for convenience?

But we have to wonder why the owner didn’t repeat herself – refuse to have the dog put up there? She’d already flown successfully with the dog in that bag underneath a seat with the dog to Houston – so she knew how it worked when it went right.

Let’s say she was frazzled traveling with two children. Let’s say she didn’t’ make herself clear enough to the flight attendant

Let’s even say she was a timid person, afraid of making a scene.

What about everybody else sitting around her? Several passengers later reported that the crew member insisted on putting the dog in the bin despite the fact a dog was in it. But why didn’t any one of them say something? Why didn’t someone stand up on behalf of the dog and the traveling family? Why did everyone wait until after the tragedy to acknowledge they saw it unfolding and did nothing?

Shouldn’t the moral outrage in this story be directed at bystanders who stood by and said and did nothing while obvious harm was being done to a puppy?

All it takes is for one good person to remain silent for something terrible to take place. And each person who remained silent on that flight – expressing their horror and outrage later – surely has some responsibility in the foreseeable tragedy.

After the flight, several fellow passengers said the dog barked for two hours of the three and a half hour flight. And then it fell silent. Without air circulation, a frightened, barking dog would have consumed whatever small amount of oxygen was in there. How many people had to sit listening to the plaintive barking of a trapped dog for two hours and do nothing?

Why didn’t one person stand up and say “Take that dog out of there?”  Why didn’t other people join that one voice of reason and say, “Take the dog out of a luggage bin. ”Why didn’t they react when the dog barked itself to death during the flight – only to express outrage on social media once they got home?

It’s a terrible tragedy that a number of otherwise presumably intelligent people allowed a young puppy to be locked inside an airless overhead bin. But why direct moral indignation at a faceless airline company as though it were the villain?

Maybe after this traumatic death we can think about how we might someday find ourselves in a position to do the “right thing” – and that’s an opportunity we should never avoid. It only takes one righteous person to speak up in order to galvanize a whole crowd of people to resist the “wrong thing.”
Tracie HotchnerTracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK®  (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.

Dog Film Festival - Tracie HotchnerTracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.

Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.

Halo Pets

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Win an #IsleofDogs Prize Pack! #Giveaway

We’ve got a special giveaway of interest to movie-loving dog lovers! Enter to win a special ISLE OF DOGS movie prize pack to celebrate the release of this new stop-motion-animated film from…

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Remembering Irie, 2008-2018

Today I need to write the post that no pet lover wants to face. We lost Irie to cancer on Friday. Her illness was sudden and unexpected; a vet visit on Tuesday diagnosed a tumor on her spleen….

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