28 March 2008

Buddhist Dog Prays for Worldly Desires

Buddhists clasp their palms together to pray for enlightenment, but Conan, a chihuahua, appears to have more worldly motivations. The dog has become a popular attraction at a Japanese temple after learning to imitate the worshippers around him.

"Conan started to pose in prayer like us whenever he wanted treats," said Joei Yoshikuni, a priest at Jigenin temple on the southern island of Okinawa.

"Clasping hands is a basic action of Buddhist prayer to show appreciation. He may be showing his thanks for treats and walks," he said. Conan, a two-year-old male with long, black hair and a brown collar, sits next to Yoshikuni in front of the altar and looks right up at the statue of a Buddhist deity. When the priest starts chanting and raises his clasped hands, Conan also raises his paws and joins them at the tip of his nose.

Visitors to the temple look on with curiosity. "It's so funny that he does it," said Kazuko Oshiro, 71, who has frequented the temple for more than 25 years. "He gets angry when somebody else sits on his favourite spot. He must be thinking that it's his special place," Oshiro said.

Conan, originally a temple pet, has become so popular that people come in to take pictures almost every week, the priest said. Yoshikuni estimated that the temple receives 30 percent more visitors, especially young tourists, than it would otherwise. "I'm glad that people feel more comfortable visiting the temple because of Conan," he said as he jokingly joined his hands and bowed to the dog.

[Source: Yahoo News]

27 March 2008

The Original 13th Annual Ugly Dog Contest

It wasn't a dachshund or a bulldog, no, this year, the winner may not surprise many. San Diego crowned its "ugliest dog" Sunday during the 13th annual "Ugly Dog Contest."

Some say these four-legged furballs are so ugly, they're cute, but only one dog can walk away the ugliest. Victoria, an Italian greyhound, won the contest for the second year in a row.

Pet owners could also enter their more comely canines in other categories
including "Cutest Dog," "Best St. Patrick's Day Costume" and "Best Trick." The competition benefited a therapeutic riding program at the Helen Woodward Animal Center and the Rancho Coastal Humane Center.

There's also the World's Ugliest Dog Contest held in Sonoma-Marin in June. But, really, is there a need for more than 1 ugly dog competition?

[Source: WTLX.com]

26 March 2008

Sophie, Oprah's Dog, Passes at 13

Sophie, the cocker spaniel of U.S. television personality Oprah Winfrey, has died of kidney failure. She was 13.

"Everyone here is really sad," an insider at Winfrey's Harpo production company told Celebrity Dog Watcher. "Sophie was truly part of the Harpo family as well as Oprah's."

Usmagazine.com said Winfrey talked about Sophie's illness in the December issue of her O magazine, revealing she and her boyfriend Stedman Graham were "preparing for the inevitable."

The couple has another cocker spaniel named Solomon. Their golden retriever, Gracie, died less than a year ago, Usmagazine.com said.

[Source: UPI, Image: Getty Images]

25 March 2008

Matthew McConaughey Supports Growing Up With Pets

With four movies in the pipeline, actor Matthew McConaughey is a busy guy. But People magazine’s former Sexiest Man Alive still manages to find time to be an animal lover.

After Hurricane Katrina, actor Matthew McConaughey joined the rescue efforts to save animals that were abandoned and stranded by the disaster. In 2006, McConaughey was driving in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and saw a group of boys brutalizing a cat. The boys had sprayed the animal with hairspray and were attempting to set it on fire. McConaughey reportedly jumped out of his car, berated the boys and took the cat to a local animal shelter.

And McConaughey is no stranger to animal shelters: He found his longtime canine companion, Miss Hud, in 1993 in a Tucson, Ariz., shelter. The two were inseparable for 12 years – a relationship that lasted longer than any covered by the tabloids – until the Labrador Retriever-Chow Chow mix was diagnosed with cancer in 2005.

One of Miss Hud’s front legs had to be amputated, and soon afterward, McConaughey learned that both of Miss Hud’s back legs also were riddled with cancer. He told Oprah in an interview: “She and I looked at each other and I said, ‘Miss Hud, do you wanna be a one-legged dog?’ And she looks up and she says, ‘Let me move on, Pop.’ So we let her move on.”

McConaughey now owns – or is owned by – an Australian Cattle Dog named Foxy.

McConaughey currently supports an initiative called Growing Up With Pets, backed by Novartis Animal Health US. The campaign aims to provide comprehensive information for families looking to build strong, healthy relationships between their children and their pets.

[Source: DogChannel.com]

24 March 2008

Joss Stone Named Best Celebrity Dog Owner

When it comes to celebrity dog-parenting skills, Joss Stone is tops and Paris Hilton is the worst, according to an online vote by readers of two dog magazines.

Stone, who has a poodle named Dusty Springfield, volunteered for the North Shore Animal League America after seeing images of pets stranded in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, said The New York Dog and The Hollywood Dog magazines.

The 18-year-old British singer also recorded a public service announcement seeking support for the homeless pets of the Gulf Coast.

"Joss is a huge advocate for shelter dogs and it's not just talk," said Leslie Padgett, editor of the magazines. "This year, despite an incredibly hectic schedule, she went out of her way to help the dogs of Katrina and Wilma."

Hilton, a 24-year-old hotel heiress and star of "The Simple Life," was voted the world's worst celebrity dog owner. "First she loses Tinkerbell, then she ditches her for a cuter dog, then replaces that dog with a ferret, then a kinkajou monkey and then, I gather, a goat," Padgett said in a statement. "Recently Tinkerbell was spotted back in Paris' arms. But how long will she be in favor this time?"

Stone narrowly edged out Ashley Olsen, who adopted a mixed-breed from the Animal Haven Shelter in New York. Tori Spelling, a pug owner who has "tirelessly campaigned" for the Much Love Animal Rescue in Los Angeles, placed third.

The voting took place over a three-month period among visitors to the Web sites thenydog.com and thehollywooddog.com. Results were released Friday. The results weren't scientifically representative of the magazines' readers.

[Source: North Shore Animal League America]

21 March 2008

Bestselling Album Makes Dog 'Happy'

Move over Christina Aguilera: One of the bestselling albums for dogs, “Songs to Make Dogs Happy,” has been a steady seller since its 2005 release.

The CD, produced by the Laurel Canyon Animal Co., was created following research on sounds and lyrics dogs would enjoy, says musician Skip Haynes, who co-produced the album with business partner Dana Walden, in an interview with the Carol County Times (Md.). Two things you won’t find on the album: the word “No” (long unpopular with dogs) and percussion instruments (too jarring for canine ears).

Focus groups involving 200 dogs shook loose the final lineup, which includes tracks like “You’re a Good Dog,” “Scratch My Back,” and “Cookies.” The biggest hit, Haynes says, is “Squeaky Deaky!” featuring the sounds of a squeak toy. Sample lyric: “Rolling on the ground/I love that squeaky sound.”

Haynes, who has also produced an album for cats, says he and Walden had a simple goal when they set out to record the album. “We just wanted to throw a party,” he says.

[Source: DogChannel.com]

20 March 2008

Funny Dog Compilation!

This is one of the many funny dog videos you can find online....and one of my favorites!

19 March 2008

Love on a Lease: Renting Man's Best Friend

Looking for a golden retriever, schnauzer or poodle to keep you company, but afraid of having to walk your dog in the rain or feed it while out of town? You're not alone, and now there may be a solution -- for a price. A small, but growing industry now allows want-to-be pet owners across the country to experience the joys of owning a pet, without the long-term, day-to-day hassles.

Earlier this year a San Diego-based company called FlexPetz started renting man's best friend for pet lovers who might want to take a dog on a long walk and maybe play a game of fetch, but don't have the time to own a pet full time.

The first store opened in San Diego in April, quickly followed by a second location in Los Angeles and then a New York store in September. FlexPetz founder Marlena Cervantes plans to expand her privately-owned company to several other cities, including San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle, London and Tokyo.

Consumers have long been able to partially own condominiums through timeshares. And in recent years, fractional jet ownership programs have ballooned and ZipCar has given city residents the opportunity to rent cars for just a few hours at a time. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before companies like FlexPetz provided the same concept for pets.

Cervantes came up with the idea of sharing dogs when she was working with autistic children. She first shared her own dog with the kids and then adopted two rescue dogs to share. The cost of keeping the dogs, however, became prohibitive. So she decided to turn the sharing idea into a business.

"In order to make this work, I would require financial contribution from the families I worked with," she said, "I didn't want to do that -- it was meant as a service."

FlexPetz offers different types of dogs in each location. The company conducts surveys to find out which dogs potential customers want. Larger breeds are popular on the west coast, while smaller dogs are in demand in New York.

FlexPetz members might as well get what they want for the hefty price they pay. Members are charged a one-time-$150 initiation fee, followed by a $49.95 monthly membership fee for the right to limited visitation. But the fees don't end there. There's a $99.95 annual maintenance fee and, of course, the actual charge to rent the dog: $39.95 a day on weekends and $24.95 per day on weekdays.

[Source: ABC News]

18 March 2008

Oprah's Dogs Will Inherit $30 Million

Oprah Winfrey’s dogs will continue to be quite wealthy if they live longer than this media mogul. According to Woman’s Day, Oprah will leave her dogs a $30 million inheritance.

“Oprah has a menagerie of animals and she wants them to be pampered for the rest of their lives if she were to die first. She has five dogs plus various other pets, so she rewrote her will to include millions for their care,” a friend said.

Her friend added that since Oprah is a billionaire, the $30 million is not as extravagant as some may think because it is a small amount compared to her entire net worth.

Trouble's inheritance pales in comparison to what Oprah’s dogs may get.

[Source: Itchmo]

17 March 2008

Dog Portraitist

Christine Merrill, 44, is the doyenne of dog portraitists. She's painted, among other trophy-laden canines, Ch. Salilyn's Condor, known familiarly as Robert, the English springer spaniel that was the big winner at the 1993 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Over an almost 25-year career, she has captured the likenesses of Oprah Winfrey's cocker spaniels, the late fashion designer Geoffrey Beene's dachshunds, CBS newsman Bob Schieffer's beagle, the late Malcolm Forbes's Norfolk terrier and bull mastiff, George and Barbara Bush's spaniel Millie, as well as the canines owned by some of Hollywood's top dogs.

Mostly, her subjects are family dogs rather than show dogs. Mostly, they're purebreds. "But I've also done mixed breeds, which I love to do because they're originals. They're like designer dogs," she said. And mostly they're in the prime of their lives -- though, admittedly, a few of them have had one paw in the grave. "Sometimes when I paint an old dog the family has already bought a new puppy," said Ms. Merrill, whose voice has a girlish, breathless cast and whose talk is often punctuated by giggles and broad gestures. "That's kind of bittersweet, but it says life goes on."

Holding a pose is out of the question with Ms. Merrill's particular clientele. Instead, she creates her oil paintings by referring to photographs and by making home visits to observe beagles, bichons and Bedlingtons in their natural surroundings. She's watched them sleep and eat, taken them for walks, even swum with them in the family pool. While she tends to be treated like visiting royalty -- clients often provide a first-class plane ticket -- every so often a subject revolts. "You have to give them some space," said Ms. Merrill, a sedulous student of self-styled Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan. "I've only been nipped once." The offender: one of a pair of Tibetan terriers. "I reached down to pet the little one too soon, and his older sister bit my hand but didn't draw blood. I took notes on that. Now, I start by talking to the owner and let the dog come up and sniff me."

"If it's gotten to the point where an owner wants a portrait, that dog must be special," she said. "I have to try to see him the way the owner sees him."

The younger daughter of a newspaper editor and an artist, Ms. Merrill showed her form early. At the age of 5, she drew a very respectable likeness of Snoopy that hangs on a wall in her studio. "My mother was a portrait painter. I would watch her subjects come in," recalled Ms. Merrill of a group that included Tricia Nixon and the wife of then-Vice President Spiro Agnew. "Children and ladies and men with their arms folded. She taught me how to get a likeness. She said that was more important than technique. Not that technique wasn't important," she added hastily.

Indeed, when model-turned-novelist Jane Hitchcock came to Ms. Merrill's studio to pick up a portrait of her West Highland terrier, "there were three other Westie portraits there," recalled Ms. Hitchcock. "But I knew exactly which was mine, because Christine paints dogs like a great portrait painter paints faces." But some clients have asked Ms. Merrill to throttle back on the exact likeness thing and paint a dog in his glory -- a little less gray in the muzzle, perhaps, a little less sag in the belly. "Usually, though, owners love them just the way they are."

Ms. Merrill employs the compositional references and backgrounds (generally exteriors colored rich green and blue) of classic 18th- and 19th-century animal portraits. Her meticulous brushwork and keen sense of detail have frequently invited comparison to the oeuvre of British artist George Stubbs. "My style, she says, "suits people who have antique furniture and Oriental rugs and heavy curtains."

[Source: Wall Street Journal Online, Image: Christine Merrill]

10 March 2008

Who Doesn't Love a Sale?

We're clearing out lots of winter items at Modern Tails. Save up to 70% off cute dog sweaters, parkas, collars and lots more for your pampered pooch! Don't miss out - limited sizes available and once it's gone, it's gone forever!

IDC Highlights from 2007

These dogs/athletes are so impressive - check out this video of highlights from last year's Purina IDC in Chandler, Arizona.

Purina IDC = Doggy Olympics

The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge (IDC) is the like the Olympics for dogs. About 60 canine athletes, as small as Jack Russell terriers and as large as Doberman pinschers, competed in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge this weekend at the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo.

With hundreds of people cheering, music blaring and even an announcer giving the play-by-play, the dogs caught flying discs amid flips and twists; jumped and plunged into pools of water; and raced through obstacle courses.

The competition grew out of the activities people have always done with dogs, such as playing catch and running. Owners train their pets for events such as Diving Dog, a high jump and long jump into a pool, and Freestyle Flying Disc, a souped-up version of Frisbee fetch.

People bring their dogs from across the country to participate in the competition, which is open only to invited dogs and those that qualify in open trials. The winning dogs get medals and automatic entry to the national competition.

On Saturday, six terriers shot across a course and over obstacles in pursuit of a stuffed toy on a string during the Incredible Jack Russell Hurdle Racing, drawing cheers and laughter from the crowd. Jack Russell terriers are natural racers, very active and happy to pursue the lure as it bounces across the course. There is also a 60-Weave Pole Racing, in which the dogs threaded their way through a straight line of poles.

[Source: Statesman.com]

03 March 2008

Robot Dog Just as Good as Real Dog?

A recent study by Saint Louis University found that a lovable pooch named Sparky and a robotic dog, AIBO, were about equally effective at relieving the loneliness of nursing home residents and fostering attachments. The study, which appears in the March issue of the Journal of The American Medical Directors Association, builds on previous findings by the researchers that frequent dog visits decreased loneliness of nursing home residents.

To test whether residents responded better to Sparky, a trained therapy dog, or the Sony-made robot dog, researchers divided 38 nursing home residents into three groups at a trio of long-term care facilities in St. Louis.

One group had weekly, 30-minute one-on-one visits with Sparky; another group had similar visits with AIBO; a control group did not visit with either dog. Their level of loneliness - determined by residents' answers to several questions - was tested at the beginning and near the end of eight weeks of visits. Investigator Marian Banks delivered the dogs, but did not interact with the residents. In the end, both groups were less lonely and more attached.

Most of the elderly used Sparky, a 9-year-old, reddish-brown mutt with a white muzzle and floppy ears, as a confidant, telling him "their life story," Marian Banks said. "He listened attentively, wagged his tail, and allowed them to pet him," said Banks, who adopted and trained Sparky after finding him in an alley behind her home seven years ago.

Those who visited with AIBO took a little longer - about a week - to warm up to the metallic creature. Over time, they grew more comfortable with AIBO, and petted and talked to him. He responded by wagging his tail, vocalizing and blinking his lights. "AIBO is charismatic if you start to interact with him," said the study's author, Dr. William Banks, a professor of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University. "He's an engaging sort of guy."

Sara Kiesler, professor of computer science and human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University who was not involved in the study, said the results of the study are encouraging but not completely convincing. The problem is inferring it was the robotic dog that reduced the loneliness, and not the human who brought him into the room, she said. She said another study could compare a visit from AIBO with someone stopping by with a stuffed animal or even just a candy bar.

[Source: Wired]