29 April 2009

South Korean Scientists Engineer Glow-In-The-Dark Dogs. Seriously.

South Korean scientists say they have engineered four beagles that glow red using cloning techniques that could help develop cures for human diseases. The four dogs, all named "Ruppy" — a combination of the words "ruby" and "puppy" — look like typical beagles by daylight.

But they glow red under ultraviolet light, and the dogs' nails and abdomens, which have thin skins, look red even to the naked eye.

Seoul National University professor Lee Byeong-chun, head of the research team, called them the world's first transgenic dogs carrying fluorescent genes, an achievement that goes beyond just the glowing novelty.

"What's significant in this work is not the dogs expressing red colors but that we planted genes into them," Lee told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Scientists in the U.S., Japan and in Europe previously have cloned fluorescent mice and pigs, but this would be the first time dogs with modified genes have been cloned successfully, Lee said.

He said his team took skin cells from a beagle, inserted fluorescent genes into them and put them into eggs before implanted them into the womb of a surrogate mother, a local mixed breed.

The glowing dogs show that it is possible to successfully insert genes with a specific trait, which could lead to implanting other, non-fluorescent genes that could help treat specific diseases, Lee said.

The scientist said his team has started to implant human disease-related genes in the course of dog cloning, saying that will help them find new treatments for genetic diseases such as Parkinson's. He refused to provide further details, saying the research was still under way.

[Source: Associated Press]

27 April 2009

Designer Creates 4 Million Dollar Tiara For Dog

A young Thai jewelry designer has crafted a tiara worth $4.2 million for his pet dog, using precious stones given to him by his mother.

Riwin Jirapolsek, who showcased the tiara at a dog show in Bangkok recently, said he wanted to make something special for Kanune, his 15-year-old male Maltese.

He took almost two months to finish the piece, which is made from titanium encrusted with 250-carats of emeralds and diamonds.

Jirapolsek said he has no plans to sell the tiara, and now wants to create a jeweled hair clip for his beloved canine.

"I will make a hair clip next time because my dog has to wear clips everyday otherwise its fur will block its view," he told Reuters Television. "It may be decorated with jewels."

Despite the global economic crisis cutting into people's expenditure, the Bangkok dog show saw several canine lovers dressing up their pets in elaborate costumes and accessories and participating in events.

[Source: Reuters.com]

24 April 2009

Science Says Robot Dogs Are Almost As Fun As Real Ones

Whether something is living or not is a crucial distinction, and it's one that children already understand by the age of five. What then do children make of the latest generation of robot pets - toys designed to be as "alive" as possible? It's a surprisingly little researched area, but with the shuttle rate of technological advance in toy-land, it's one that's bound to become increasingly relevant.

Gail Melson and colleagues filmed 72 kids, aged 7 to 15 years, playing for 45 minutes with a Sony Aibo robot dog and for 45 minutes playing with a real-life pooch of the Australian Shepherd breed. The Sony 210 Aibo dog was the most advanced robot dog at the time this research was conducted. It was capable of walking after a pink ball, kicking and headbutting it. It could also shake itself, sit down, lie down, offer its paw, learn, and display positive and negative emotion via lights.

As well as filming the children, the researchers also asked them questions about the biological (e.g. does X eat?), mental (e.g. can X feel happy?), and social (e.g. does X like you?) properties of the two dogs, as well as their moral standing (e.g. is it OK or not OK to hit X?).

The picture that emerged was mixed. On the one hand, the children clearly saw the real dog as more real and alive than the robot dog. They also examined the robot dog as if it were an object rather than a creature - prodding it and picking it up. On the other hand, there were signs that the children saw the robot dog as more than a mere toy. For example, over 80 per cent of the children spoke and gave commands to the robot dog as often as they did to the real dog. Nearly half the children petted the robot dog gently at least once, despite its metallic surface. Moreover, the children were no more likely to say it was okay to hit the robot dog than they were to say it was okay to hit the real dog! In all cases there was a trend for older children to see the robot dog as less real.

"These children were surprisingly willing to treat the robot dog as 'dog like'," the researchers concluded. "...[S]uch findings may be evidence of the emergence of a new ontological category, neither artifact nor living being."

For more, check out the British Psychological Society's Blog

22 April 2009

Downward-Facing Dog Goes To The Dogs

In Chicago, Kristyn Caliendo does forward bends with a Jack Russell terrier draped around her neck. In Manhattan, Grace Yang strikes a warrior pose while balancing a Shih Tzu on her thigh. And in Seattle, Chantale Stiller-Anderson practices an asana that requires side-stretching across a 52-pound vizsla.

Call it a yogic twist: Downward-facing dog is no longer just for humans.

Ludicrous? Possibly. Grist for anyone who thinks that dog-owners have taken yoga too far? Perhaps. But nationwide, classes of doga — yoga with dogs, as it is called — are increasing in number and popularity. Since Ms. Caliendo, a certified yoga instructor in Chicago, began to teach doga less than one year ago, her classes have doubled in size.

Not everyone in the yoga community is comfortable with this.

“Doga runs the risk of trivializing yoga by turning a 2,500-year-old practice into a fad,” said Julie Lawrence, 60, a yoga instructor and studio owner in Portland, Ore. “To live in harmony with all beings, including dogs, is a truly yogic principle. But yoga class may not be the most appropriate way to express this.”

Appropriate or not, this is how it works: Doga combines massage and meditation with gentle stretching for dogs and their human partners. In chaturanga, dogs sit with their front paws in the air while their human partners provide support. In an “upward-paw pose,” or sun salutation, owners lift dogs onto their hind legs. In a resting pose, the person reclines, with legs slightly bent over the dog’s torso, bolster-style, to relieve pressure on the spine. Because dogs are pack animals, they are a natural match for yoga’s emphasis on union and connection with other beings.

Ms. Yang, 39, a financial analyst in Manhattan, has gone to doga classes for more than a year. Though she says that her 10-pound Shih Tzu, Sophie, has helped deepen her stretches by providing extra weight, the main reason she goes is to bond with her dog. “I always leave with a smile,” she said.

To read the full article, head on over to NYTimes.com

21 April 2009

Inmates Working to Train Dogs for Adoption

Buddy, Rex and Storm are all fine-looking dogs, worthy of good homes with loving families. All they need is some polishing of their rough edges, drilling on how to behave well in polite company. And that's what they are getting at the Forsyth Correctional Center.

Four inmates — Dorsey Lemon Jr., 21; DeWarren Carter, 32; Bobby Driver, 38; and Ricky Hall, 50 — are the first local participants in "A New Leash on Life," a dog-training program for inmates at minimal- and medium-security custody at state prisons. Prisons partner with animal shelters and animal-welfare agencies to train dogs in order to prepare them to be adopted.

Statewide, 735 dogs had completed the program by March 1, and 683 of those had been adopted. Here, the inmates are working with dogs from the Forsyth Humane Society, with instruction from trainers with the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club. Lemon, Carter and Hall each have a dog assigned to them. Driver works with all three.

The dogs live in a small building, the Loving Buddies Training Center, and also train outside in a fenced area. The inmates spend most of their waking hours with their dogs — training them, grooming them and just loving them.

"I tell him something two or three times, and he learns it," said Lemon, who is paired with Storm, a German shepherd.

Lemon calls Storm his best friend. "I'm not just teaching him; he's teaching me," Lemon said. He takes his cues from how Storm acts and said he is learning to do the same with people, looking beyond their words and judging them more by their actions.

As he watched the inmates work, David Boswell, the prison's assistant superintendent, talked about how the program teaches the prisoners respect and responsibility and gives them tools that could help them find work when they are released.

Melissa Ball, the humane society's adoption-center manager, and others are evaluating the next group of dogs to be trained. Those dogs will move to the prison within 48 hours of the graduations of Rex, Buddy and Storm. Ball and the inmate trainers know how hard it will be for the men to say goodbye to their constant companions.

"I don't even want to think about it," Lemon said.

[Source: statesville.com]

20 April 2009

2 Dogs, 2000 Miles

Luke Robinson set out on a walk with his dogs in March of last year — a 2,000-plus-mile walk, from Austin to Boston.

He’s still going.

Robinson and his two Great Pyrenees dogs — who have made it as far as Ohio — are trekking across the country to to call attention to, and raise funds to combat, canine cancer, which claimed one of his dogs in 2006.

After that, Robinson, who was working a 90-hour week at his high tech and life science business firm, did some re-evaluating, during which he came upon the idea of the walk.

Accompanying him are Murphy, who is about 7 years old, and Hudson, who’s 2. They set out Austin in March, headed for Boston, which is Robinson’s home. In July, the passed through Arkansas; in August they made it through Memphis. They’re stopping to volunteer at shelters and humane societies along the way, which Robinson says gives him a chance to interact with animal lovers, experts, caregivers and those doing research into canine cancer.

To learn more about Luke and Co., check out his very cool blog at 2dogs2000miles.

[Source: ohmidog.com]

17 April 2009

First Dog Gets His First Children's Book

He has already been the subject of obsessive news media coverage (Ahem), and now he will be the subject of a children’s book. Bo, the Portuguese water dog, who recently became the first presidential pet in the Obama White House, is the star of “Bo, America’s Commander in Leash,” expected in stores by the end of the month. Mascot Books, a small independent publisher in Herndon, Va., specializing in titles based on university and school mascots, is rushing the book out to capitalize on the fervor surrounding the Obamas’ new dog. “Bo” is written by Naren Aryal, a founder of Mascot Books, and illustrated by Danny Moore, one of its employees. Mr. Aryal said he and Mr. Moore had been working on the project for about two months, leaving space for pictures of the dog, once it was chosen. Mr. Aryal said the Obamas’ two daughters aren’t named in the book because he wanted to protect their privacy.

[Source: NYTimes.com]

13 April 2009

Meet Bo, America's First Dog

Arguably, it was more talked about than the top Treasury post, more debated than the Department of Homeland Security: Who would be America's first pooch?

But now we have an answer: It's Bo, a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog the Obamas are reportedly adopting, said to be a gift from the don of Portuguese water dog lovers, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

The president's daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, have named the black-and-white puppy Bo, according to The Washington Post, because their cousins have a cat named Bo and first lady Michelle Obama's father was nicknamed Diddley. Like Bo Diddley.

It was, for a while, the best-kept secret in Washington. Secret meetings were held on the subject, and a clandestine rendezvous was arranged just weeks ago between Bo and the Obama girls.

Bo is expected to arrive Tuesday.

To read more about Bo, and about First Dogs past, head on over to ABCNews.go.com

08 April 2009

Canine Castaway Reunited With Owner

A canine castaway lost at sea has been reunited with her owners after spending more than four months living off goats on a Queensland island in Australia.

Owner Jan Griffith said her family was devastated when their cattle dog, Sophie Tucker, fell off the side of their boat in choppy waters off the Mackay coast in north Queensland in late November.

But unbeknown to them, their hardy hound swam five nautical miles to St. Bees Island, where she survived until last week by hunting baby goats.

She was last week returned to her family after rangers captured what they believed was a wild dog. Griffith said she and her husband had contacted rangers after friends suggested the dog — who had earned a name for herself on the island — might be their long-lost pet.

Last Tuesday the couple met the rangers' boat as it ferried the dog back to the mainland and were blown away to find Sophie Tucker on board.

"We called the dog and she started whimpering and banging the cage and they let her out and she just about flattened us,'' Griffith said.

To read more about Sophie and how she survived the wilderness, head on over to news.com.au.

06 April 2009

Easter Egg Hunting Goes To The Dogs

Dozens of dogs, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, eagerly searched for tasty treats at this weekend's Canine Easter Egg Hunt in Troy, Ill., a veterinarian said.

Veterinarian Karen Selbert said Saturday's dog-eat-dog egg hunt raised some eyebrows among the general public but it was an entertaining activity for canines and their owners, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

"Someone called this morning and asked: 'Are they real eggs? What am I getting my dog into?'" Selbert said of Saturday's Hawthorne Animal Hospital event. "But really it's just a fun way to be with your dog."

The dogs searched for plastic Easter eggs containing dog treats, which their owners pick up. One lucky pooch found the surprise egg awarding a special prize of free chew toys and a flea treatment.

The fourth annual event benefits the TreeHouse Wildlife Center, which cares for wounded or orphaned wild animals.

But for canine owners such as Priscilla Briggs of Granite City, Ill., the event appeared to be more about their pets' socialization. "We come back every year," Briggs, who brought two dogs, told the Post-Dispatch. "They just like to go out and have fun."

[Source: UPI.com]

01 April 2009

Three-Legged Pup Gets New Limb

It gives one paws -- or, at least, paw.

Bronx pooch Cassidy had just three legs to stand on until he got a fourth, thanks to a cutting-edge technique that made him a walking miracle. The German-shepherd mix has become one of the few animals in the world to receive a permanent prosthetic limb, and is a trailblazer whose surgical experience could help humans.

The dog, who lost his right rear leg below the knee joint, had an "osseointegration" procedure in which a titanium implant was attached to the tibia, a leg bone. A removable, C-shaped foot made of titanium, carbon fiber and rubber screws onto the prosthesis.

"The implant is permanent and goes into the bone like a dental implant in humans, and then the bone and the implant fuse," said Steve Posovsky, 61, a retired dentist from Long Island who with his wife, Susan, adopted Cassidy in August 2005, when the dog faced euthanasia.

Posovsky was watching a morning news program that showed "this dog that had been found in The Bronx with his leg cut off wandering the streets who was about 2½ years old.

"When I saw him on TV, I had to get him," said Posovsky, who lives most of the year in Florida. "He was 30 pounds underweight. He limped along. He had almost no hair," recalled Posovsky, who said that before his surgery, Cassidy "would walk for 10 minutes and have to plop down and need a rest."

"Now, he can walk for hours."

After taking in Cassidy, he and his wife contacted Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little, a surgeon with the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh and had a removable prosthesis made.

Cassidy "kicked off" the leg, so they decided to go with a permanent one. Last August, the permanent prosthesis was implanted, and last month, the final version of the foot was perfected.

"What is being assessed and being designed for Cassidy may improve our knowledge and may ultimately help in what is being done for people," he said.

Meanwhile, Cassidy "is very happy," Posovsky said. "He walks on the beach with me every day with his new leg. When he's running I take his leg off. I'm a nervous father."

[Source: New York Post]