Category Archives: Dogs

Choosing the Right Dog Breed

Congratulations…you have made the decision to bring a dog into your life! In doing so, you realize the commitment you are making and are willing to invest the time, energy, and finances necessary to make this a wonderful loving and rewarding relationship!

Now for the fun stuff!

What dog breed is best for you and your family? The American Kennel Club recognizes over 150 breeds and there are crazy numbers of mix breeds; so the choice may seem daunting…but answering a few basic questions will help you narrow down your best choices. When planning for a new dog, you must consider your specific needs, lifestyle, activity level and the amount of space you have. You also need to think about if you want a purebred or a mutt; a male or a female dog; a puppy or an adult.

First, why are you getting a dog? Is Fido coming into your home to be your loving companion or is there another intended purpose? Some breeds are better suited to the role of playmate versus protector. It is important to think about what roles your dog will play in the life of your family before selecting the breed for you. For example, will your new dog…

  • Be a playmate and learning experience for children?
  • Be a working dog (field trial, agility, etc)?
  • Be a hunting partner?
  • Guard or protect the home through barking, appearance or behavior?

If your new dog is to be strictly a companion, choose several breeds that appeal to you in physical appearance (including coat type, size and shape) and then research the other breed characteristics. One of the most important factors to consider is the origin of the breed. If a dog was originally bred to herd and protect, these behaviors are the most strongly inherited and you may find your family being herded through your own home like sheep! Although that is a funny picture, if this natural instinct is left unsatisfied, some dogs will become frustrated and develop bad behaviors.

Another important factor in selecting the right breed is to determine how much “dog space” you have. As 90% of American dogs spend the majority of their life within the owner’s home and yard, you must be realistic about the amount of exercise your pet can achieve within those confines. For example,

  • Do you live in an apartment or house? Is it large or small?
  • Is your yard fenced?
  • Do you live in the country or an urban area? What are local dog laws?
  • Where will you exercise your dog? What are local leash laws?

Often people assume that large dogs need large spaces and that small dogs are fine in small spaces….this is not true! The Saint Bernard is a huge dog that will sleep most of the day so a small space is just fine…as long as he gets out for walks and some moderate exercise. In contrast, a Jack Russell Terrier is a small 15 pound bundle of energy that requires a large space and a lot of outdoor exercise to keep him manageable!

Which brings us to the topic of activity and time. Dogs require different amounts of training, exercise, housetraining and outdoor activities depending on breed. You must determine how much time and personal energy you can devote to these activities.

  • If you are a runner or hope your new dog will accompany you on long hikes, then a Chihuahua may be adorable…but probably not the best dog for you!
  • If you are a couch potato an athletic Labrador Retriever would not be a match made in heaven!

A few more considerations:

  • Grooming: How much do you want to do? Longer haired dogs require more daily care to keep tangles and mats under control. Some dogs require frequent visits to the groomer for hair cuts. How much shedding is acceptable for you? If you are a neat freak, you may not want a dog that sheds a great deal.
  • Size: Larger dogs are just BIGGER than smaller dogs and will require more of everything! A natural approach to nutrition is highly beneficial for your dog—so whether you are cooking for your dog or purchasing a high quality natural holistic pet food—the larger the dog, the more time-consuming and expensive excellent nutrition will be. Larger dogs also require larger crates and beds, larger toys and increased costs incurred if they require medication or other veterinary care.
  • Gender: Males tend to be slightly larger in stature than females of the same breed and somewhat more assertive.
  • Puppy or adult?: Although puppies are adorable, they are a lot more work than adults! The training, playing, feeding, and exercising a puppy requires in the first several months can feel like a full time job! Remember the more time you invest in this stage of your puppy’s life, the happier you will both be. Acquiring an adult dog may be a better choice for a family who spends most of the day away from home or doesn’t have the time required to train a puppy.
  • Purebreed or mixbreed?: With a mixed breed, some of the genetic problems associated with inbreeding (of purebreds) can be avoided and the initial cost to purchase the dog will be considerably lower. However, the best way to predict the physical attributes and behavior of an adult dog is to obtain a purebred.
  • Where should you get your new dog?: If you are purchasing a purebred puppy, a reputable breeder that allows you to visit the home or facility in order to observe the parents is recommended. Puppies from pet shops or puppy mills are often at higher risk for contracting disease and their parents cannot be observed. If you are choosing an older dog there are several breed-specific rescue groups that you can look into ( Often mixed breed puppies and dogs are purchased from shelters. Most of these dogs have insufficient history to know what they will look like or how they might behave as they age. Using proper training, most of these mutts will likely be a wonderful addition to your family!

Once you answer the above questions and have made your list of “wants”, do some research to find which breeds fit that description. There are many available resources to help you identify which breed is best for you:

  • Go to your local library to look at dog breed books (American Kennel Club Complete Dog Book, The New Encyclopedia of the Dog, etc)
  • Talk to a veterinarian
  • Visit on-line resources (,, etc)
  • Attend a dog show

Finding the right dog is a lot of work, but it is worth it. Sharing your life with the perfect dog is pure joy for both of you! Enjoy your new dog!

Source: Halopets

Microchipping: proper identification for all pets!

Imagine this… your indoor cat who doesn’t wear a collar escapes out the front door left ajar by the men delivering your new furniture.  Won’t ever happen to you?  That is what I thought, until it happened to me in June.  I was lucky enough to observe the escape and rescue my cat.  But what about the dog that digs under the fence in the backyard and in the process of escape, his collar gets caught and slips off.  Now he is without any form of identification and the chances that he will be returned to his owner are small.

The statistics are frightening:  1 in 3 pets will become lost in their lifetime and according to the American Humane Association, only 17% of lost dogs and 2% of lost cats ever find their way back home.  Millions of pets are euthanized every year because their owners can’t be found in time.  I recommend microchipping for every pet—it is the only permanent method of identification and is extremely helpful in the event your pet is lost. Remember ID tags can become lost; tattoos can smudge and become unreadable—only a microchip offers a permanent solution.  Hundreds of thousands of pets have been returned to their owners using microchip technology.  It is estimated that over 94% of lost pets that have a microchip are successfully reunited with their families.

A microchip is a computer chip about the size of a rice grain that stores an identification number and transmits that information to an appropriate scanning device.  These scanning devices are available to all U.S. animal shelters and veterinary clinics.  They are universal because they read multiple microchip frequencies sold by different microchip manufacturers.  It is standard for all veterinary clinics and shelters to scan a lost pet when it is brought in.  Alert your veterinarian if you will be traveling internationally with your pet as there may be a specific microchip that is best for your pet.

The process of microchipping is simple:  microchips come pre-loaded in a syringe, your veterinarian inserts the needle under the skin between the shoulder blades and injects the chip, and voila, your pet has a microchip.  The procedure takes less than 10 seconds and is only as painful as a vaccination injection.  The chip must then be registered with the company who made the chip.  Although your veterinarian’s information will be registered with the company, I also recommend registering your pet in your own name for faster notification when your lost pet has been found.  There is a small additional annual fee for this but it is well worth it!  Microchips are designed to last at least 25 years and do not need replacing.

Many pet owners are rightly concerned about the health safety of a permanently implanted microchip.  Usually microchips are composed of silicon and encased in glass.  The materials used are biocompatible—so rejection and infection are rare.  There has been speculation that microchips could cause cancer at the site of implantation, however, there has been no proof of this in dogs and cats.  At this time, I believe the risk of a pet being lost and possibly euthanized is much higher than any possible side effects from microchips.

During your pet’s annual veterinary visit, ask your vet to specifically test the microchip using the scanner—this will insure that the chip is still working properly.  Also, confirm your pet’s information with the microchip manufacturer database every year.  Keep your contact information current—you never know when you will need it!

Source: Halopets

How are Toy & Small Breed dogs different?

Size matters when it comes to selecting the right food for your dog! Nutrition is not “one size fits all”—while a 4 pound Chihuahua and a 140 pound Great Dane have many loveable canine similarities—they do have important differences when it comes to nutrition.

Different nutritional needs

  • Energy requirements. Small breed dogs have much higher energy requirements than those of larger breed dogs (sometimes more than twice as much). The ideal small breed food is more energy dense—having more calories per cup than a normal canine formula.
  • Growth. The growth period is much shorter and the growth rate is much smaller for small breeds when compared to larger breeds. Selecting the right food insures that the optimal energy for growth is customized to the size of your dog.
  • Digestive Systems. The movement of food through the digestive tract may be as fast as 12 hours or as long as several days depending on the size of the dog. The length of the intestine and absorption of nutrients can also vary according to breed size. A diet with high nutrient digestibility is critically important to make sure your small breed dog is getting the proper nutrients from his or her food.

Halo Spot’s Stew Toy & Small Breed Diet can help meet your small breed dog’s needs. As in all formulas, Halo provides excellent natural nutrition in the form of recognizable ingredients—fresh chicken, eggs, peas, whole grains, whole vegetables and antioxidant-rich fruits. There are never any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and Halo never uses chicken meal or rendered meats. All Halo formulas provide minerals in a highly absorbable (chelated) form for the best digestion and use by your pet. Added prebiotics and probiotics help promote and support intestinal health. In addition:

  • This formula has nutrient adjustments for small breeds including more calories per cup to meet higher energy requirements. This formula is ideal for dogs weighing 6 to 25 pounds.
  • It is formulated for all life stages of toys and small breeds—puppy through adulthood.
  • Smaller kibble size to better fit small mouths and teeth.
  • This formula contains no visible dehydrated vegetables which may be too large for toy and small breeds. Parsley is an herb added to naturally help freshen breath.
  • Packaged in 4 and 10 pound bags which are convenient for households with one or more toy or small breed dogs.
  • This recipe is formulated with high quality balanced omega-3 and 6 fatty acids that help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat. It is also enriched with DHA GOLD, a natural sustainable vegetarian source of DHA omega-3. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) has been proven beneficial to puppies during brain and eye (retina) development. DHA omega-3 is considered a functional fat because it participates in important structural and functional cellular processes.

Source: Halopets

Put the brakes on “gas” in your pet!

Halo may be an excellent choice if your pet has digestive health issues. Whether it is gas, soft stool, diarrhea, or even bloating, Halo’s natural cat food and natural dog food might be the answer you have been looking for to help improve your pet’s stool quality and get them on the path to their optimal health.

Halo has always been a leader in supporting intestinal health for pets. Halo’s natural dog food and natural cat food formulas promote digestive health in several ways.

Whole grains such as oats and barley are used (except in Grain-Free formulas) to provide a rich source of fiber as well as vitamins, minerals, oils, and protein. Refined grains—those that have bran and germ removed—are more commonly added to pet food because they are cheaper, however, they lack the majority of nutrients found in more healthful whole grains. Learn more about Halo’s grain philosophy here.
Whole vegetables and fruits supply a wide array of soluble and insoluble fiber which are both critical to maximize intestinal health.
Overall carbohydrate levels are controlled. Feeding high carbohydrate diets may contribute to symptoms of bloating and gas in some dogs and cats. In addition, Halo uses only fiber-rich, complex carbohydrates that help support digestion and absorption and help the body eliminate toxins and waste products.
Whole meats, dried eggs and peas are all high quality, highly digestible proteins to minimize digestive stress on your pet.
No artificial preservatives, flavors or colors are used which may help minimize adverse skin and digestive reactions.
By including four different probiotic species in the dry formulas, Halo gives your pet a live source of “good” bacteria. Studies have proven that when probiotics are ingested by pets it helps restore bacterial balance within their intestine and provides overall health benefits.
All dry formulas also include inulin as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are specialized types of fiber that, when eaten, stimulate the growth of “good” bacteria and actually inhibit the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Halo formulas include prebiotics in order to help your pet reach their maximal digestive potential.

5 Reasons to Test Your Dog for Diabetes

Did you know that some authorities feel that 1 out of every 100 dogs that reaches 12 years of age develops diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a hormonal problem where the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, the hormone that helps push sugar (“glucose”) into the body’s cells. Without the insulin, the body’s cells are starving for sugar; unfortunately, this then stimulates the body to produce more and more sugar (in an attempt to feed the cells). That’s why your dog’s blood sugar is so high (what we call a “hyperglycemia”) with diabetes mellitus.

Without insulin, the sugar can’t get into the cells; hence, why you need to give insulin to your dog with a tiny syringe twice a day. In dogs, this is a disease that can be costly to treat and requires twice-a-day insulin along with frequent veterinary visits for the rest of your dog’s life.

So how do you know if your dog has diabetes? Clinical signs of diabetes mellitus in dogs include:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urination
  • Urinary accidents in the house
  • Dilute urine
  • Overweight or obese
  • Muscle wasting
  • Ravenous appetite
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Weakness
  • Unkempt or poor hair coat
  • Blindness secondary to cataracts
  • Neuropathies (nerve problems)

As your dog gets older, it’s worth talking to your veterinarian about doing routine blood work to make sure your dog is healthy. This blood work will help rule out kidney and liver problems, anemia, infections, electrolyte problems and diabetes mellitus. The sooner you recognize the clinical signs, the sooner your dog can be treated with insulin and the less complications we see as a result.

So, if you notice any of the signs above, get to a veterinarian right away.

Now, continue on for 5 important reasons to test your dog for diabetes:

1. Your dog will live longer
Diabetes mellitus can shorten the lifespan of your dog, as secondary complications and infections can occur. With diabetes, the body is immunosuppressed and more likely to develop diabetic complications which cause long term harm to your dog.
2. Your dog will be able to see
Did you know that the majority of dogs with diabetes eventually go blind from cataracts? Even in well-controlled diabetic dogs, the excess sugar in the body can have secondary effects on the lens of the eye; it causes more water to influx into the lens, which disrupts the clearness of the lens. As a result, cataract formation occurs, resulting in eventual blindness and secondary inflammation in both eyes. While cataract surgery can (and ideally, should) be performed, it can be costly.
3. You’ll save a lot of money
Treatment for diabetes mellitus includes twice-a-day insulin treatment, insulin syringes, prescription diets, and frequent veterinary trips for blood tests. Also, as diabetic dogs can’t go without their insulin, it may mean hiring house sitters or pet sitters to treat your pet while you are on vacation.
4. You’ll have less urinary accidents in the house
One of the biggest signs of uncontrolled diabetes mellitus is excessive drinking, urination and having urinary accidents in the house. Because of the hyperglycemia, dogs are also at increased risk for urinary tract infections, wrecking havoc on your carpet. The sooner you can treat your dog with insulin and get the diabetes controlled or regulated, the less your dog will drink and urinate, making your dog more comfortable too!
5. You’ll have more peace knowing that your dog is healthy
As a veterinarian and dog owner, I want to make sure my dog is as healthy as possible. You might already be talking with your veterinarian about vaccines each year in a dog that is older than 7 years of age; next, talk to your veterinarian about doing an annual exam and routine blood work too. It’ll pick up on medical problems sooner, so you can rest assured that your dog is going to live a longer, happier, healthier life!

Having a diabetic pet is also a big commitment, as it requires dedicated pet parents who can give twice-a-day injections of insulin. Caring for a diabetic dog does require frequent trips to the veterinarian to regulate the blood sugar. That said, dogs can live with diabetes for years with appropriate care and treatment. When in doubt, make sure to monitor your dog carefully for the signs of diabetes, and seek veterinary attention sooner rather than later to help test for this ever-growing problem!

How My Former Puppy Mill Dog Changed All of My Pet Health Assumptions


I’m the first to admit that I tend to go a little overboard for my pet’s care. After all, as a life-long animal advocate, I’ve seen too much inhumanity, too much pain, too much suffering put on these animals not to want to reverse that in my own home. I’ve also seen how amazing, resilient and inspiring they can be. Even for me though, some treatments can seem too extreme for some pets. When I’m faced with a serious medical decision, it can be difficult and stressful to decide what’s right.

Recently, I found myself in just such a situation with my dog, Fiona. I hope that my story might help you in the future.

Meet Fiona, former puppy mill breeder
Meet Fiona, perhaps the worst candidate for treatment (or so I thought). My little Fiona is an 11-year-old former puppy mill breeder who spent the first 7 years of her life in a cage, pumping out litters of (badly) purebred Italian Greyhounds. While her puppies were probably shipped to families across the country, she spent 7 years with little-to-no human interaction, affection or medical care. By the time she got to rescue she was so emotionally stunted that — despite being smaller, younger and healthier than many other adoptable dogs in NYC — she spent two years in foster care. She kept getting adopted and returned because she was so afraid to live like a normal dog.

I met Fiona shortly after her second anniversary with K9Kastle, a great rescue group I volunteered with at the time. I took Fi on as a foster to help with her socialization. I hoped I could work to get her to a place where she could bond with other people. Eventually, Fi and I got her there, but also ended up falling undeniably in love on the way. So I “failed” as a foster mom and became Fi’s permanent “mom” instead.

Fiona’s fear of treatment
Two years later, Fi’s gone from the terrified pup who would duck for cover anytime someone moved, to approaching strangers on the street. (Thank you, bacon treats!!!) As she always did, she adores cuddles and chin scratches, but now seeks them out from people she doesn’t know. She’s even started doing a little post-poop dance and run in the mornings.

Fiona’s not without her scars. Recurrent urinary issues and frequent stress-related colitis are two of the biggies. It took over a year to find a secondary caretaker who she’d be comfortable with when I traveled to keep her from developing heartbreakingly bloody stools from the stress. She’s never learned to play, but has found solace in stuffed kongs and rawhide chews.

Medicating Fiona can set her off, so her veterinarians have often opted for the “wait and watch” approach when anything new comes up. It’s not that they don’t want to treat her; it’s that treatment has often made the problem worse.

So Fiona didn’t seem (to me) like the kind of pup who would be a good candidate for chemo. When we discovered a rare form of mast cell tumor in her gum I assumed treating it would mean destroying any quality of life she had left – something I wasn’t willing to do.

My decision to treat Fiona
I’d never gone through chemo with my dogs or cats before. I’d known others who had tried it, to varying results. However, I secretly always assumed that chemo would be a little extreme, even for me and especially for a dog like Fi. And, lucky or not, any time I’d battled the big “C” with pets before, chemo wasn’t a good option.

But then Fi’s diagnosis came back and, yet again, she started teaching me to throw all of my assumptions to the wind.

  • The cancer was inoperable, but slow-growing
  • A chemical released by the tumor was making her nauseated
  • Chemo provided a small chance, but a bigger one than I’d assumed
  • She had to be medicated for the nausea and tumor side effects either way

I was given a GREAT referral to an excellent oncologist, and had a quick crash-course in mast cell tumors and chemo for dogs. The conversation was eye opening and soon, Fiona started chemo.

Fiona’s amazing reaction has changed all of my assumptions
Fiona’s now two weeks in and, amazingly, doing better than she has in months. Her poop-dance is back. She begs me and my partner for pets. She comes running down the hall, ears perked, at “wanna go for a walk?” She hasn’t started running away from me when it’s time for her meds, yet.

We won’t know for a while whether the chemo’s actually doing anything, but for now, I’m just thankful to have hope and yet another lesson from my “little old lady.”

What is it they say?

“Never give up. Never surrender.”

Fiona’s got that one down.

If Your Pet Is Going Bald (Even in Spots), This Could Be Why


By Dr. Becker

It’s extremely common for dogs with itchy skin to develop hair loss in areas where they’ve been obsessively scratching, licking, pulling or biting. Underlying causes for itchy skin with hair loss include allergies, bacterial and fungal skin infections and parasitic infestations such as demodectic or sarcoptic mange.

But what about a non-itchy dog with none of those conditions whose hair is thinning or falling out?

8 Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs


You’re probably familiar with hairless dog breeds like the Chinese Crested, the Xolo (Mexican Hairless) and the American Hairless Terrier.

But what many people don’t realize is there are certain breeds with an inherited tendency toward benign patchy or pattern baldness, typically on the lower neck, chest, back, thigh, between the eyes and ears or on the outer ear.

These breeds include the Chihuahua, Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher, Italian Greyhound and Whippet.

2.Pressure sores

These sores, also called decubital ulcers or bedsores, typically appear on a dog’s elbows or other bony body parts that are frequently in contact with hard services. The skin in these areas can become rough, callused and hairless, and can even crack and bleed.

Pressure sores are most often seen in older dogs, as well as large and heavy breeds.


This is a condition in which a dog’s thyroid is underactive and unable to produce enough of the hormone thyroxine to meet the body’s needs.

Hypothyroidism is more common in medium to large dogs of both sexes who are between the ages of 4 and 10. Several breeds are genetically predisposed to the disorder, including:

Airedale Terriers Golden Retrievers
Boxers Greyhounds
Cocker Spaniels Irish Setters
Dachshunds Labrador Retrievers
Doberman Pinschers Miniature Schnauzers

While some dogs with hypothyroidism have hair loss or fail to regrow clipped hair, the hallmark signs of the disorder are lack of energy, the need for frequent naps and exercise intolerance or loss of interest in running and playing.

4.Cushing’s disease and atypical adrenal disease (hyperadrenocorticism)

Cushing’s disease is a condition in which there is too much cortisol being produced by the adrenal glands. The disorder is most often seen in Terriers, Poodles, Dachshunds and the American Eskimo/Spitz.

Hyperadrenocorticism is a complex disease, and excessive cortisol can cause a diverse set of symptoms. In addition to hair loss, other common signs to watch for include:

Increased thirst and urination, which can lead to incontinence Bruising
Increased panting Thinning skin and change of skin color from pink to grey or black
Abdominal weight gain, despite a reduction in calorie intake Irritability or restlessness

Atypical Cushing’s disease occurs when there are elevations in circulating levels of sex hormones (usually metabolites of estrogen and progesterone) secreted by the adrenal glands without elevations in cortisol.

This condition can cause skin and coat changes, including hair thinning and hyperpigmentation (dark skin).

5.Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism)

Addison’s disease is the opposite of Cushing’s, in that the adrenal glands produce fewer corticosteroid hormones than the body requires. The condition occurs predominantly in female dogs between the ages of 4 and 7.

Predisposed breeds include the Great Dane, Portuguese Water Spaniel, Rottweiler, Standard Poodle and West Highland White and Wheaten terriers.

Hypoadrenocorticism symptoms can be quite vague. In addition to hair loss in some dogs, other signs include weakness, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and increased thirst and urination.

6.Alopecia X

Alopecia X is an endocrine condition that has a number of other names, including black skin disease. It’s a cosmetic skin condition characterized by areas of hair loss and hyperpigmentation, and it occurs in both male and female dogs.

Alopecia X is caused by an imbalance of sex hormones that causes hair loss or inability to regrow the coat, coupled with insufficient production of melatonin, which is what causes the skin to darken over time.

The primary sign of Alopecia X is the symmetrical and gradual loss of hair over the trunk and back of the thighs, but not the head or front legs. Breeds predisposed to the condition include the Chow Chow, Keeshond, Miniature Poodle, Pomeranian, Samoyed and the Siberian Husky.

7.Drug or vaccine reactions

Certain medications can trigger hair loss in dogs, for example, chemotherapy drugs. Injectable drugs, including vaccines, frequently cause hair loss at the injection site as the result of an inflammatory response to the substance(s) that was injected. Long-term corticosteroid (e.g., prednisone) therapy can cause hair loss, and in high doses, can trigger a form of Cushing’s called iatrogenic (medication-induced) hyperadrenocorticism.

8.Other causes

Nutritional deficiencies can cause hair loss in dogs, and so can stress. Mother dogs often “blow their coat,” which is likely caused by the nutritional and physiological demands of giving birth and nursing a litter of pups. Anxious dogs, those with psychological or behavioral disorders (e.g., separation anxiety), and dogs with abusive backgrounds may also lose hair as a result of stress.

As you can see from the list, there are several reasons your dog’s hair might start to thin or fall out, many of which can be caused by an underlying condition that must be identified and treated promptly. If you notice your dog’s hair becoming thinner, falling out, or failing to regrow after being clipped, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.


The Sad Story of Laika, the First Dog Launched Into Orbit

It was a Space Race victory that would have broken Sarah McLachlan’s heart. On this day, Nov. 3, in 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first-ever living animal into orbit: a dog named Laika. The flight was meant to test the safety of space travel for humans, but it was a guaranteed suicide mission for the dog, since technology hadn’t advanced as far as the return trip.

Laika was a stray, picked up from the Moscow streets just over a week before the rocket was set to launch. She was promoted to cosmonaut based partly on her size (small) and demeanor (calm), according to the Associated Press. All of the 36 dogs the Soviets sent into space — before Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth — were strays, chosen for their scrappiness. (Other dogs had gone into space before Laika, but only for sub-orbital launches.) The mission was another in a series of coups for the Soviet Union, which was then leading the way in space exploration while the United States lagged. Just a month earlier, they had launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. When Laika’s vessel, Sputnik 2, shot into orbit, the U.S. fell even further behind.

News media alternated between mockery and pity for the dog sent into space. According to a 1957 TIME report on how the press was covering the event, “headlines yelped such barbaric new words as pupnik and pooch-nik, sputpup and woofnik,” before ultimately settling on “Muttnik.”

“The Chicago American noted: ‘The Russian sputpup isn’t the first dog in the sky. That honor belongs to the dog star. But we’re getting too Sirius,’” the piece adds.

Other headline-writers treated Laika with more compassion. According to another story in the same issue, the Brits were especially full of feeling for the dog — and outrage toward the Russians. “THE DOG WILL DIE, WE CAN’T SAVE IT, wailed London’s mass-minded Daily Mirror,” the story declares. The Soviet embassy in London was forced to switch from celebration mode to damage control.

“The Russians love dogs,” a Soviet official protested, per TIME. “This has been done not for the sake of cruelty but for the benefit of humanity.”

Nearly a half-century later, Russian officials found themselves handling PR fallout once again after it was revealed that reports of Laika’s humane death were greatly exaggerated.

Although they had long insisted that Laika expired painlessly after about a week in orbit, an official with Moscow’s Institute for Biological Problems leaked the true story in 2002: She died within hours of takeoff from panic and overheating, according to the BBC. Sputnik 2 continued to orbit the Earth for five months, then burned up when it reentered the atmosphere in April 1958.

One of Laika’s human counterparts in the Soviet space program recalled her as a good dog. He even brought her home to play with his children before she began her space odyssey.

“Laika was quiet and charming,” Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky wrote in a book about Soviet space medicine, as quoted by the AP. “I wanted to do something nice for her: She had so little time left to live.”



People couldn’t look past this pit bull’s grumpy face — so this woman stepped in

Have you ever felt overlooked? That was the case for Sheldon, whose grumpy face — and the stigma attached to being a pit bull — kept him from being adopted.

All it took was for one shelter volunteer, and one adopter, to see him as he really is: a pup of perfection.

Sheldon arrived at the Arizona shelter just a few days after Christmas. He is a sweet, loving boy who already knew basic commands like “sit” and “paw,” so it seemed like he’d been somebody’s pet.

But that somebody didn’t collect him. Whether it’s because of his grumpy face, or because that grumpy face is attached to a pit bull’s blocky head — a head shape associated with a whole lot of untrue negative stereotypes — for a long time, nobody else wanted to take Sheldon home, either.

“Unfortunately, no one came for Sheldon,” Melissa Gable, spokesperson for Maricopa County Animal Care & Control, told TODAY in an email.

Shelter volunteer Heather Haltmeyer saw promise and opportunity where others had seen…less.

“He is definitely a sweet dog!” she told TODAY.

Haltmeyer specializes in taking pictures of dogs who need some extra help getting noticed by potential adopters.

In late January, she took some photos of Sheldon that would best show off his curmudgeonly mug, and darling personality. They were posted to the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control Facebook page, with this excellent come-on:

“GUYS! Look at this face!! We may be biased, but we think Sheldon should be a doggy celebrity with all those expressions! Think of all the fun you could have taking pictures of him if you adopt,” she wrote.

The Facebook post was a huge hit. Sheldon’s story spread far and wide — and even more importantly, it reached, and moved, someone local.

Arizonian Emily Chmiel spotted Haltmeyer’s photos of Sheldon, and really liked what she saw.

“I went down right at opening the next morning to meet him and basically immediately fell in love,” she said.

Source: Today