The Legend of the Mighty St. Bernard

There are all manner of large dogs and mastiffs in the world, but none of them have quite the same prominence as the St. Bernard. Descendants of the Molossoid breed of canines that the Romans brought along with them in the expansion of their Empire, they were first referred to as St. Bernards by monks in texts dating back to 1707. Additionally, the St. Bernard was the first dog listed in the Swiss Stud Book in 1884, with breed standards finalized a few years later.

Evolution in the Alps

The St. Bernard of today would not be of much service as an  avalanche rescue dog due to its long, furry coat, which would get weighed down with ice. The classic mountain rescue dog was bred into its current lineage after Newfoundlands were used to regenerate the breed in the 1800s, after much of the original lineage in Switzerland was lost to do a series of terrible winters.

The Noble Steed

The most famous St. Bernard, in terms of being a rescue dog, was named Barry. He is said to have rescued between 40 and 100 mountaineers during his career (1800-1814), including the celebrated rescue of a small boy who climbed onto his back and rode the dog back to safety. Barry’s body is preserved at the National History Museum in Berne. Most people, though, know modern St. Bernard’s such as Beethoven and the more twisted creation of Stephen King’s mind, Cujo.

Many of the existing stereotypes of the St. Bernard are accurate. They are indeed a large dog (the record weight is 315 lbs.), they absolutely do have a tendency to drool, and they are still sometimes used in avalanche rescue. One thing that is not accurate about these real-life heroes, and never has been, is the notion that the dogs carried a flask of brandy around their necks. The factually-baseless depiction comes from an 1820 painting by Edward Landseer; the monks of St. Bernard’s Pass, though, are still happy to sell casks to the tourists!

Greyhounds to the Rescue

Adopting former racing dogs – meaning Greyhounds – has become increasingly popular over the past decade. Those who do not live in states that allow dog racing may have no idea that there are many shelters and agencies that deal exclusively in placing such animals in loving homes. In areas where it does take place, many people consider it a point of pride to have taken on a former racing dog.

Long-Term Investments

In 2005, a scandal involving a number of unaccounted-for Greyhounds (suspected to have been killed) brought the issue to light all over again, eliciting a horrified yet heartfelt response from the public. Even so, as well-meaning as those who adopt Greyhounds may be, there are a number of factors to consider before making such a long-term investment of emotion and treasure. If the following paragraphs don’t turn you off to the prospects of Greyhound adoption, then you might be the right owner for a former racing dog.

Not Your Typical Household Pet

Former racing dogs, in many instances, have not been treated at all like a pet. They are considered by the industry to be running machines. A good deal of socialization (and probably time) will be required before your dog becomes comfortable in your home. As a rather large dog, 45 to 90 lbs. and extremely athletic, a Greyhound may not be suitable for small children or elderly adults for obvious reasons. It is also important to remember that Greyhounds are typically trained using small live animals as bait (so cats, small dogs and other like pets may not be safe around them).

Like any other large dog, a Greyhound is not likely to be considerate of your landscaping efforts. They can wear down a lawn pretty quickly, may tend to dig holes, and will certainly leave indiscrete piles laying around. In short, owning a Greyhound will demand a good deal of work from its owner. And, with their short coat and lean bodies, they also have a fondness for soft, warm places (read: Couches and beds). There are other challenges and quirks to Greyhounds so it takes a dedicated owner to provide a good home for a dog that truly deserves one.

Forgotten in Time: Dogs of the Titanic

Last month marked the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic. In the years that have passed since, the ship was discovered and had a major motion picture (and countless documentaries) made about it. The facts about the Titanic are stark; the ship was exceeding all prudent speed boundaries when it clipped an iceberg in the middle of the night in the North Atlantic, and disappeared below the surface within a few excruciating hours.

Watery Graves – But Not for All

Everyone knows the results of the fateful voyage. 1,514 people perished in one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history. What many people do not know, however, is that there were also a dozen dogs listed on Titanic’s registries. Three of them managed to survive. As one might expect, all of the dogs were the pets of wealthy families; two of those families even collected on insurance policies after their dogs did not survive Titanic‘s maiden voyage.

High and Dry

Even so, nobody begrudged those three dogs their survival, since two of them were Pomeranians and the other a Pekingese – all tiny breeds that hardly could have been accused of taking a seat from someone in the lifeboats. One Pomeranian was named Lady, owned by one Margaret Hays, and the other was owned by the Rothschild family. The Pekingese, named Sun Yat-Sen, was a member of the Harper family, best known by their New York City publishing company, Harper and Row.

One dog who was luckily not aboard Titanic was one that was mistaken for Captain Smith’s dog only because it appeared in a famous photograph with him. In fact, the large Irish Wolfhound was a gift from Benjamin Guggenheim (who nobly went down with most of the men on board the ship), but it was sent home with Smith’s daughter before Titanic left port. Among the dogs who did not survive were millionaire John Jacob Astor’s prized Aieredale, Kitty, who was kept as most of the dogs were, as cargo instead of as pets in their owners’ cabins.

Choosing the Right ‘Babysitter’ for Your Dog

There are times when the family dog can be accommodated on long trips. More and more hotels have gone “pet friendly” in recent years, as the recession has forced them to open their doors to as many revenue streams as possible. For those who don’t mind spending the money, there are even posh resorts that cater to your pup, sort of a day spa for Man’s Best Friend. When you pick them up, they’re groomed and manicured and they smell like cookie dough… But what about the rest of us?

Shop Around

Usually, a vacation without your faithful friend means one thing, which is hiring a pet sitter. A very fortunate few of us have the kinds of close friends or relatives who will take in our dogs while we’re away. Even then – or especially , since that sort of help isn’t always of the professional variety – one can expect to return to a few indiscretions on the carpet, or a missing couch cushion or two. Choosing a dedicated pet-sitter will ease your worried mind and keep your friends and family from considering you and your pooch to be burdensome – and it will keep you from having to return the favor!

Menu of Services

There are certain steps one should take when looking to hire a pet-sitter. Check out your local classifieds (online and the old-fashioned newsprint kind) should send you in the right direction. References should be a must. Your pet-sitter should also be expected to do more than just show up to ensure delivery of food and water. If you wish your dog to be taken for walks, you have to specify that sort of service. Be sure, as well, that your sitter understands your pet’s nutritional requirements as well as you do.

Finally, decide whether you want to board your dog at a kennel, have a pet-sitter come by on a schedule, or have the pet-sitter outright live at your home (this is only recommended if you know and trust the pet-sitter quite well). The sitter will also need as much contact info as you can provide in the event of an emergency. The prices of such levels of service may also dictate which way you’ll want to go, but with a little bit of research, you should be able to find the pet-sitter that will best suit your needs and those of your dog.

Sleep Well: Dogs Provide Security at Home

We’ve all seen the commercials on television for those three-letter-name home security systems. Most law enforcement officials and criminals will agree, though, that the most effective security system of all is spelled D-O-G. While the systems that rely on electronic devices can cost as little as $20 a month, they also have a tendency to play 20 questions on the phone at crunch time, and may take as long as 20 minutes to respond.

What’s Behind Door Number Two?

Dogs tend to take a more proactive approach to home guardianship. Their response time is immediate. And they don’t have to be Rin-Tin-Tin or Lassie to get the job done. Ask any professional thief and they’ll tell you that houses with barking dogs are strictly off-limits, because even a dog that will fit in a teacup is capable of alerting the homeowner or a neighbor, even if it isn’t inclined to take care of business on its own. Criminals prefer the higher percentages that come with houses with no dogs.

More Than a Best Friend

More than one person has been alerted by their dogs to other problems as well, such as fires, with pets going to heroic lengths to make sure their owners can get out safely. That same sort of helpful intuition is what makes dogs so appropriate for aiding the sight-impaired. Their displays of loyalty go to even greater lengths, as dogs have stayed with lost children during the night, or have put themselves in between their owners and hostile wildlife.

Of course, there are also dogs that are comparably sized to humans, whose propensity for doing the dirty work at home has long since established their fierce reputations. If you have such a canine, take an extra legal precaution for yourself, and put up a sign that reads Guard Dog on Duty – as opposed to Beware of Dog. The latter is an admission on your part that you understand your dog to be a loose cannon. The more carefully-worded version lets people know what your dog’s job is, and that he or she is doing it. Such distinctions can make a world of difference in a courtroom later on.

Avoid Quarantine with the Help of Your Vet

All dog owners have an obligation to keep their veterinarian records, both for their pet’s benefit, and in order to meet local and state regulations with regard to such. However, just as the most well-intentioned of people can let their auto insurance lapse, sometimes we get behind on our shots. This sort of tardiness is almost never an issue for the owner unless something unforeseen takes place, and then it can lead to a bit of trouble.

Custody Battle

For instance, if someone gets bitten by your dog and it turns out not to have current proof of a rabies shot, your local authorities are going to want to quarantine the animal for a period of time so that they can observe that the dog doesn’t have rabies. This means they will remove the dog from your home and cage it up down at the county dog pound, which will expose your pooch to all manner of stressors, doing him or her no good at all.

No Place Like Home

A trip to an animal control center is separation anxiety extrapolated to the nth degree. The noise from the other penned-up dogs alone is enough to send most household pets into a state of shock. There is also a good chance that the dog will contract “kennel cough” while in the pound, which can lead to further vet bills down the road. Also, however well-meaning the staff might be, tragic mistakes have been known to happen in places where a high number of dogs gets euthanized each day.

To avoid a quarantine situation, contact your veterinarian before the authorities come for your dog. In most cases, such voluntary boarding will be acceptable to the powers that be, since an animal hospital is staffed with trained medical professionals, and will also be able to provide the necessary updated shots. If your dog is already in your vet’s custody, that will suffice for law enforcement purposes, who are actually happier to see the situation handled in that way.

Meeting Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs

It is an almost ageless axiom that tells us that human beings cannot live “on bread alone”. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. That sentiment is echoed by most doctors, who recommend a well-rounded diet, in hopes of staving off a well-rounded body. Consuming all things in moderation is a notion that dates back to at least St. Thomas Aquinas. Why, then, should your dog’s diet be any different?

Mix Things Up

Many pet owners will latch onto a particular brand of food and stick with that for the entirety of their pet’s existence. That’s not only boring for your canine friend, it’s not exactly healthy, either. A dog is much better off getting a cross section of food products, not just lamb or chicken exclusively. Your dog will also appreciate the change-up just from the standpoint of taste (not that dogs are known for being fussy in general).

An Acquired Taste

That’s not to say that you should feed your dog junk food (also known as canned food). Dry food – with a few brightly-colored soft-serve exceptions – is the healthier option. All of the information is broken down on the packaging as far as protein and fat content. “High-pro” food is generally that which provides 21 percent protein or more; most dog foods found on store shelves have a protein content of 18 percent. Purina, Science Diet, Iams and Eukanuba are foods that are comparably priced and good for your dog.

It’s also important to phase your dog from one bag of food to the next one rather than waiting until every last nugget has been drained from one before opening the next. That can sometimes put the dog off, so it’s best to blend them from one to the next over the course of a few days. That will make the transition seamless, and will keep your furry friend from fasting.

What is the Dog Breed for You?

There are so many different types of dogs and breeds that many times it can be confusing or even misleading when trying to settle on the right one. Taking the time to do the research beforehand makes this talk slightly easier. Researching the breeds and thinking about how they match your personality, your family or your needs and priorities are helpful when trying to settle on the perfect mate.


So what are the Choices?

There are seven main types of breeds that most people are familiar with. All of the breeds are very different so it’s important to have an idea of what you’re looking for before making any final decisions. The breed groups are herding, hounds, non-sporting, sporting, terriers, toys, working dogs and non AKC breeds. The sporting breed group includes many types of spaniels and retrievers as well. The various types of pointer dogs are also included in this breed group. Beagles, greyhounds, basset hounds and dachshunds are some of the dogs included in the hound breed group.


The Other Dogs

The working breed group of dogs includes the boxer, Dobermans, bullmastiffs, Great Danes, Rottweilers and various types of schnauzers. The herder breed group includes cattle dogs, collies, sheepdogs, the German shepherd and other types of shepherd dogs. The terrier group includes the bull terriers, Scottish terrier, and almost any type of terrier you can think of. The toy breed group includes the Yorki, Maltese, toy poodle, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, Papillion and other types of small dogs. The non-sporting breed group of dogs includes the Dalmatian, Chow Chow, Boston terrier, French bulldog and other types of dogs as well.


The breed group names are somewhat telling for what to expect from these types of dogs. Researching the breed first along with the other dogs in the breed group besides the one you’re interested in is a great way to get an idea of what type of dog may best fit your situation.

Boarding, Breeding and Caring for Dogs

Owning a dog is a serious responsibility that not everyone can manage. Taking the time to consider your other obligations and financial situation is imperative when thinking about taking the additional responsibility of owning a dog or adding another dog to the family. It’s important to think of the dogs as another member of the family, many people end up owning too many dogs that they can’t afford to have.


Think it Out

The more dogs you have, the harder and more expensive it is to manage the situation. Visits to the vet’s office can be extremely taxing when you have more than one dog. The more you know about the specific dog breed you have, the easier it is to take care of the dog and to be ready for inevitable health or training issues. Many people feel compelled to try and breed their dogs once they have more than one of the same breed.


Be Responsible

It is always best to leave breeding dogs to the professionals and the people that have enough room inside and outside for a large number of animals. These days, there are far more dogs than dog owners, there really is no need to breed dogs. Many people underestimate the costs related to caring and nurturing dogs as they breed and have puppies.  It’s also important to consider the costs of boarding dogs if you have impromptu travel plans.


Almost everyone would prefer to have their friends and family watch their dogs when they leave but this is not always an option. Boarding costs can be quite expensive when you have more than one dog or a large breed. It’s always important to plan as early as possible for unexpected situations or expenses. Caring, breeding and boarding dogs are heavy responsibilities for anyone to bear, especially when you have more than one dog.

Dogs are a part of the Family

Many people underestimate how much care a dog needs. This is one of the primary reasons why there are so many dogs in kennels and without owners. Dogs are best suited for people that are committed for life and have loving families to help support the pet. A dog can live for up to 15 years so it is important to consider all the expenses before moving forward.


It Takes More than Love

Many people think that wanting, loving or needing a dog is enough to be a good pet owner. The fact is a dog is a serious financial obligation. Even food can be reasonably expensive when you are considering a large breed of dog for your household. Aside from the food expenses, all the equipment, toys, a dog bed, a fence if needed, collars and leashes; it all takes money to have the proper things a dog needs.


More Money for your Pooch

The most expensive and important part of having a dog is keeping regular veterinarian visits. Things can get especially expensive if your dog has any of type of health issues or emergencies. Many dogs need regular grooming as well. Buying the equipment or making regular appointments to keep the pet clean and healthy looking can become expensive over time as well. Cleaning up after dogs is a constant task if they have long hair or tend to shed often.


It’s important to research the breed of the dog before making final decisions. Certain breeds come with particular issues or expensive so it is always best to be prepared beforehand. Many people overlook this fact and just buy the dog they like the best. It’s important to be able to anticipate the expenses and possible health issues involved throughout the dog’s life. Also take the time to find the dog that best fits your personality.