RVA Dog Blog http://rvadogblog.com For the Dog Lovers of Richmond, VA Mon, 06 Jun 2016 20:13:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Therapy Dogs: Five Ways Dogs Can Make Patients Healthier http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/therapy-dogs-mental-physical-health/ http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/therapy-dogs-mental-physical-health/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 23:41:06 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3164 Any dog owner can attest to the health benefits of having a canine companion. Health researchers can attest to them as well. Pets can decrease cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as increase physical activity and social connections for their owners. Although we know plenty about how dogs can make us healthier at home, researchers have only recently begun investigating the effectiveness […]

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Any dog owner can attest to the health benefits of having a canine companion. Health researchers can attest to them as well. Pets can decrease cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as increase physical activity and social connections for their owners. Although we know plenty about how dogs can make us healthier at home, researchers have only recently begun investigating the effectiveness of using specially-trained dogs in therapy and counseling sessions.

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a burgeoning field within social science research, and because dogs have such a unique ability to connect with humans, therapy dogs are often at the center of these studies. Here are five interesting ways that therapy dogs have been found to be effective in making patients happier and healthier.

Helping post-surgery patients recover more quickly

In a recent study published in PLOS One, researchers found that just two hours after awakening from anesthesia, pediatric patients who had underwent surgery and interacted with a therapy dog became alert and attentive more quickly than those who did not spend any time with a therapy dog. They also had reduced levels of anxiety and stress and reported lower levels of pain. Surgery can be one of the most stressful events a child may experience, and this research suggests that AAT can help facilitate a child’s ability to cope with hospitalization and the effects of anesthesia.

Children are not the only post-op patients that benefit from interacting with therapy dogs. In another study published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, researchers tested whether patients recovering from total joint replacement would perceive less pain if animal-assisted therapy interventions were coupled with physical therapy sessions. Those exposed to therapy dogs not only reported less pain after physical therapy sessions compared to the control group, but they also reported higher rates of satisfaction with the hospital and staff, and even communicated with healthcare providers more.

Reducing anxiety and depression among patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are diseases that can have a devastating impact on patients and their loved ones. While there is still much to learn about these heart-wrenching conditions, therapy dogs have been shown to have some benefits for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. In a study published in International Psychogeriatrics, researchers found that utilizing animal-assisted activities for patients with Alzheimer’s reduced anxiety and sadness, while also increasing positive emotions and motor activity. While there was no difference in cognitive function, the presence of a therapy dog made the participants happier.

In another study, published The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, patients suffering from dementia were split into a control group and an animal-assisted therapy group. In the control group, symptoms of agitation and depression increased significantly over a 10-week period. In comparison, patients in the AAT group had very little increase in agitation and depression throughout that same time frame. While therapy dogs certainly cannot cure or alleviate all symptoms of dementia, these studies show promise in AAT’s effectiveness to help these patients feel more comfortable.

Increasing a sense of agency among patients with psychiatric disorders

So far, we have seen AAT’s effectiveness in reducing anxiety among patients recovering from surgery and patients with dementia. Research from Richmond’s own backyard, conducted at VCU’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction, found that a single session with a companion animal can facilitate a similar reduction of anxiety for hospitalized patients with psychiatric and mood disorders.

Other published studies has gone beyond AAT’s association with anxiety alleviation to investigate other positive outcomes. A recent study in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practices explored the use of therapy dogs for pediatric patients admitted to a psychiatric hospital for acute mental disorders. Participants were split up into two groups: one that received the usual treatment and one that received animal-assisted therapy in addition to normal treatment. Upon admittance, each participant received an initial assessment of “global functioning,” which describes the extent that they can take part in everyday activities, and whether or not they have thoughts of self-harm or aggression. Participants’ global functioning was again assessed three months after leaving the hospital.

The results are promising. Patients in the therapy dog group had increased levels of global functioning, spent less time in the hospital, and had better school attendance. According to the authors, “the young patients who feel fragile, needy and dependent on others in the hospital context, can experience themselves as caretakers of someone else in the AAT environment. This experience can improve their sense of self-agency and self-cure, and these positive effects are not only limited to the human-animal bond, but can be extended to the patient’s global functioning and to the entire process of care.”

Motivating children with obesity to be more active

While it’s easy to see that owning a dog can make someone more active, the reasons behind increased activity for dog owners may not be transferable to animal-assisted therapy sessions. The dynamics of living with a canine companion full-time differs greatly from the therapeutic relationship between a patient and a therapy dog. Thus, researchers are looking to see if therapy dogs can also increase activity levels of children with obesity in clinical interventions.

One small study from Frontiers in Psychology looked to see if introducing a therapy dog in an activity session could affect a child’s motivation. Researchers measured physical activity of twelve children with an accelerometer and also recorded the children’s subjective ratings of satisfaction and motivation. Not surprisingly, participants in the therapy dog group had higher levels of physical activity compared to the control group.

However, the most interesting finding was that there was no difference between the two groups in regards to the subjective rating of motivation. This could be because the presence of a dog inspires an implicit desire to play with the animal, rather than an explicit motivation to be active. As the authors state in the study, “Based on motivation research and our findings, we propose that in the presence of a dog, children gain more pleasure from the activity…Therefore, the dog may have served as catalyst and accelerator for the activation of implicit motives, which enhances intrinsic motivation and further movement performance.”

Reducing stress and anxiety among college students

In the past 15 years, depression has doubled and suicide has tripled among college students. And yet, state budgets are constrained and universities are unable to establish adequate mental health services to meet the increasing needs of their students. Looking for more creative ways of helping students with limited resources, researchers have turned to therapy dogs.

In a pilot study recently published in the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, researchers provided animal-assisted therapy to 55 students in group sessions held twice-a-month during an academic quarter. These sessions involved a registered therapy dog, named Sophie, under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional. Researchers found a 60 percent decrease in self-reported anxiety and loneliness symptoms following the therapy. While the sample size is too small to generalize, this study is one of the first to apply animal-assisted therapy in a college setting, so it suggests further research is warranted as universities try to keep up with the health needs of their students.

More research is still needed

There is still a lot of work to be done to fully understand the possibilities of animal-assisted therapy and the effectiveness of therapy dogs. A substantial amount of the research conducted thus far on this topic has been limited by small sample sizes and study designs that are less than ideal. According to VCU’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction, most of the published studies select participants out of convenience rather than at random a method considered to yield more accurate results.

But as research with more rigorous methodology is conducted and as more findings are replicated and confirmed, we are discovering that a sense of connectedness to animals can be a powerful tool for improving our own physical and mental well-being. I would venture a guess that the dogs enjoy it, too.

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Teaching inmates to train rescue dogs: Pixie’s Pen Pals http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/inmates-train-rescue-dogs-richmond/ Wed, 29 Jul 2015 03:18:55 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3327 I have had the unique advantage of working with close to 40 different dogs. Each one of them is unique and each one with its own problems, strengths, characteristics, etc. I remember each and every one of them and they all hold a special place in my heart. It is because of what the dogs […]

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I have had the unique advantage of working with close to 40 different dogs. Each one of them is unique and each one with its own problems, strengths, characteristics, etc. I remember each and every one of them and they all hold a special place in my heart. It is because of what the dogs have taught me that today I am a better person. That today I can truly live, have hopes, dreams and goals, and that today I can carry it all through.

 

– Scott Webb

Former inmate handler, now released

Prison dog training programs have recently received national media attention and have even been highlighted in documentary films. The Richmond area is fortunate to have had one such program operating in our own backyard for the past 15 years. Managed by FETCH a Cure, the Pixie’s Pen Pals program connects local-area rescue dogs with inmates at Virginia correctional centers to train and socialize dogs in need of adoption, while also providing rehabilitation and life skill development opportunities for inmates.

With guidance and instruction from professional dog trainers, inmates use positive reinforcement training to ensure that those who adopt a dog from the program have a well-trained and socialized pup joining their family. As the FETCH a Cure website states, Pixie’s Pen Pals “enriches the lives of dogs, inmates, and adopters.” With an estimated 1,100 dogs saved since the program’s original inception in 2001, Pixie’s Pen Pals has facilitated a lot of win-win-wins throughout these past 15 years.

To get a better sense of how the program works, how it is designed, and the benefits for the dogs, adopters, and inmates, I spoke with Sarah Hornberger, the Pixie’s Pen Pals Program Coordinator.

Selecting the right rescue dog for the program

Flossie loves her humans, is CGC prepped, and available for adoption. Photo by IYQ Photography.

Flossie loves her humans, is CGC prepped, and available for adoption. Photo by IYQ Photography.

Flossie, the smart and social young gal pictured above, has been with the program for more than a year and a half and is currently waiting for her forever home. Once she is fortunate enough to find the right family for her, her spot in the program ― one of 15 total ― will open up and the search for a new rescue dog begins. Ms. Hornberger contacts several local shelters, including Southside SPCA, Goochland County Animal Control, and Richmond Animal Care and Control, to solicit suggestions for the newest canine participant. Professional trainers meet the suggested dogs at the shelters and run them through basic tests to make sure that they get along with other dogs and would do well in the heavily-structured environment of a prison facility.

FETCH a Cure uses the program to help potentially overlooked dogs have a better chance of being adopted. “We want to choose a dog who needs the training,” says Hornberger. “Many dogs are hyper or scared in the shelter because of a lack of exercise or socialization, and they can get overlooked by would-be adopters.” Participation in Pixie’s Pen Pals can channel an active dog’s energy into productive training, as well as provide socialization for frightened dogs. “If it comes down to having multiple dogs who meet these criteria, we also like to give dogs who have been in the shelter for a long time a chance at becoming more ‘adoptable.'”

Teaching inmates to become dog trainers

Once Butterbean knows you, she bonds deeply and is incredibly sweet and loyal. See her profile.

Once Butterbean knows you, she bonds deeply and is incredibly sweet and loyal. See her profile.

On the other side of the leash, inmates apply for the position and go through a selection process with the program’s prison liaison, who is typically in a counseling role and employed by the correctional facility. There are four participating correctional centers: Buckingham Correctional Center, Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, Virginia Correctional Center for Women, and Lunenberg Correctional Center.

Generally, eligible participants cannot have been convicted of sex, domestic violence, or animal abuse offenses. Beyond those restrictions, the liaison looks for potential participants that are the right fit for the program’s goals. “The most important things we look for are the ability to work as part of a team and a desire for education,” says Hornberger. “Our handlers each have a teammate, whom they often room with, and they must work together to train their assigned dogs.”

In fact, the program has a “it takes a village” mentality, as most teams work with other teams to ensure all dogs in the program are well-trained and cared for. “It’s amazing to see the more experienced teams work with newer handlers on behavior issues that may arise,” says Hornberger. “This is where the education aspect comes into play. While we have our basic training materials, the handlers are constantly reading and learning about dog behavior and care. They have weekly reading and writing assignments and are always asking for additional educational materials to learn more about certain topics.” Each correctional facility houses study materials in their ever-expanding libraries. “I never stop getting requests for new books.”

Training and living with the dogs

Quen is a great kisser and is looking for a forever home! Photo by Josh Lewis.

Quen is a great kisser and is looking for a forever home! Photo by Josh Lewis.

The dogs live full-time at the correctional facilities in the same cell as their handlers. Each dog has a crate that they stay in while they are unsupervised, adding “crate-trained” to the list of benefits for adopting families. “This situation most closely emulates what it’s like to live in a home, which is important for any shelter dog to learn,” says Hornberger. “All of the handlers see each other on a daily basis to help one another with any issues they are having, and also so the dogs can play with each other and learn to take cues from other people.”

Professional dog trainers visit the correctional facilities once a week to hold trainer meetings. All of the handlers meet as a large group so that the trainers can cover new training topics and assignments, and deal with any concerns the group may have. During the group sessions, some handlers are tasked with presentations on dog behavior or care, furthering the educational and team-building goals of the program. “These are great sessions for handlers to offer advice to one another,” says Hornberger. “The group sessions have even been used to discuss friction between teammates and how it can be resolved, focusing on the human side of dog training.”

After the group session, trainers meet with each team individually to discuss their dog’s progress and any specific concerns. While the weekly training lessons are about two hours long, the trainers also correspond with the prison liaisons throughout the week to discuss any issues, maintaining a consistent line of communication.

The benefits for the dogs and their adopters

brooklyn-and-penny-pixies-pen-palsThe Pixie’s Pen Pals program has clear benefits for the dogs. Due to their positive interactions with their human handlers and other dogs at the facilities, the participating dogs leave the program well socialized and ready for life in a forever home. FETCH a Cure works with potential adopters to match the right dog for them, which not only makes both the dogs and humans happy, but also reduces the number of dogs returning to the shelter system. Adopters of Pen Pals graduates will often send in updates about their new family members.

Sarah, Penny’s adopter, says, “Penny is wonderful. She’s loving, mellow (unless she finds another dog to play with, then it’s like a switch flipped and she has tons of playful energy), well mannered, and just all around a wonderful dog. We couldn’t have gotten a better dog, and she’s really absolutely perfect for us!”

Beth, Brooklyn’s adopter, has had a similar experience with her pup. “Brooklyn is perfect for me and my home and it was pretty much ‘love at first sight.’ She has found a forever home with people who love her and she certainly gives just as much love in return.”

With the guidance from the professional trainers, the inmate handlers train the dogs based on the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program, a 10-step certification that rewards a dog’s good manners and obedience at home and in the community. “On average, it takes about six weeks for the handlers to train the dogs to become CGC prepared,” says Hornberger. “The dogs then go through a mock CGC test.” Dogs residing in a shelter or rescue program cannot be officially CGC tested until they are adopted. While the inmate handlers cannot take the test with the dogs, they do provide adopters with all the information they need if they are interested in pursuing the certification with their new canine companion.

Who rescues whom? How inmates benefit from the program

Ernest is CGC prepped and loves the ladies! Check out his profile.

Ernest is CGC prepped and loves the ladies! Check out his profile.

For the participating inmates, the program promotes rehabilitation and helps increase positive interaction between correctional center staff and the rest of the prison population. “The program helps our inmate handlers do well in general,”  says Hornberger. “Anything negative that they do could jeopardize their future in the program, and most handlers would not want to be separated from the dog they are training.” Hornberger says that they have rarely had to remove someone from the program.”The human-animal bond that is formed could go a long way to explain this.”

Participation in the program doesn’t just incentivize and encourage good behavior among the inmate handlers. According to FETCH a Cure’s website, “By working cooperatively to help the animals, the inmates learn responsibility, patience, and emotional confidence among many other character building qualities that improve and enhance external relationships.”

Reading the perspectives of the handlers themselves truly shows the immensely positive impact Pixie’s Pen Pals has had on their lives. Scott Webb, a former Pixie’s Pen Pals handler who participated in the program for eight and a half years and has since been released, had this to say about his experience:

When I first got this job, I had no experience and no clue of what it truly entailed…Quickly I learned that I was now responsible for another living being. No longer did I have to worry about just myself and simply surviving day to day in prison. It was now my responsibility to not just feed or take out a dog, but I also had to care for it, totally, train it and help modify any behavioral issues it may have…At times I was unsure if I could really do it. I knew nothing about dog training. As a child, if a dog pooped in the house, we would rub its nose in it, paddle it with a rolled up newspaper, and hopefully it never did it again. I grew up this same way. If I did something wrong, I would get beat and life went on. I never knew just how wrong those philosophies are until I got into this program.

 

It is through this program, through positive reinforcement training, that, not only did I learn a valuable skill to take with me to one day hopefully give more back to society, but valuable life skills as well. I learned how to love, how to trust, how to be responsible, how to communicate effectively, how to be a team player, how to see things through…Words can’t describe how grateful I truly am and how much I owe to this program and the dogs I’ve worked with.

Click here to learn more about FETCH a Cure’s Pixie’s Pen Pals program. Be sure to also check out the dogs that are available for adoption on their website. Due to the hard work and affection from the inmate handlers and professional dog trainers, you will not only find a dog that is socialized and lovable, but you will also open up a spot for another rescue dog to learn, grow, and go on to find a forever home.

I would like to extend a big thank you to Sarah Hornberger of FETCH a Cure Pixie’s Pen Pals for taking the time to answer my questions about the program! Thanks to Josh Lewis Photography for the featured image at the top.

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Dog Flipping Crime is on the Rise http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/dog-flipping-crime-is-on-the-rise/ Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:17:54 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3269 According to the American Kennel Club, 350 dogs have been swiped this year. Thieves are stealing pups and selling them online, known as “dog flipping.” It’s a cause for concern for pet owners, but also for anyone looking to buy a dog. Pet flipping is a real scam and an extension of dog-napping.    

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According to the American Kennel Club, 350 dogs have been swiped this year. Thieves are stealing pups and selling them online, known as “dog flipping.” It’s a cause for concern for pet owners, but also for anyone looking to buy a dog. Pet flipping is a real scam and an extension of dog-napping.

 

 

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Dogs in the Workplace http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/dogs-in-the-workplace/ Wed, 22 Jul 2015 14:54:23 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3277 Once a year, many pet owners celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day. I’m lucky that my workplace allows my pup, Maddie, to be a part of my workspace more than just one day a year. Every Friday, staff from my office at the Virginia Association of Area Agencies on Aging (V4A) and Senior Connections […]

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Photo Jul 17, 1 12 14 PM

Maddie taking a breather from roaming the office hallways

Once a year, many pet owners celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day. I’m lucky that my workplace allows my pup, Maddie, to be a part of my workspace more than just one day a year. Every Friday, staff from my office at the Virginia Association of Area Agencies on Aging (V4A) and Senior Connections look forward to seeing Maddie roam the hallways. Her presence in the office soothes stress and provides much needed comic relief. The staff even refers to Fridays as “Maddie Fridays.”

VCU’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) has researched the effect of allowing employees’ pets in the workplace on stress and organizational perceptions. According to CHAI’s 2012 study, results showed that employees who brought pets to work saw a significant decrease in self-reported stress and a significant increase in perceived organizational support, compared to those who do not bring their pets to work. The preliminary study suggest that “dogs in the workplace may buffer the impact of stress during the workday for their owners and may also contribute to higher job satisfaction for all employees of the organization, regardless of dog or pet ownership.” CHAI’s study has been featured in hundreds of articles since it was published and a new follow-up study is in the works.

Maddie and her office buddy, Neptune

Maddie and her office buddy, Neptune

Successful companies like Amazon, Google, and Ben and Jerry’s have adopted a pet-friendly policy. Allowing dogs in the workplace can make a lot of sense because it provides peace of mind to not think if little Duke is chowing down on your favorite leather shoes or if the traffic jam you are currently stuck in will result in your dog having an accident in the home. I’m definitely more at ease when Maddie is in the office. There is a therapeutic benefit that Maddie provides to me and my coworkers.

Her favorite seat!

Her favorite seat!

I highly encourage more organizations and businesses to adopt a pet-friendly office policy. Of course, please talk with your Human Resource Manager to incorporate some ground rules and prepare your workplace in advance before your four-legged friend makes his/her office debut.

Maddie does not like to share her office chair.

Maddie does not like to share her office chair.

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4 Ways to Protect Your Dog from Pool Chemicals http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/protect-your-dog-from-pool-chemicals/ Sat, 11 Jul 2015 13:45:53 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3543 For many dog owners, summertime means a little extra work keeping your pet safe. For example, you have to be vigilant about checking their skin for ticks and make sure they aren’t suffering due to the high temperatures. All while also carving out some extra time for them to run, play, and enjoy the warm […]

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For many dog owners, summertime means a little extra work keeping your pet safe. For example, you have to be vigilant about checking their skin for ticks and make sure they aren’t suffering due to the high temperatures. All while also carving out some extra time for them to run, play, and enjoy the warm weather.

Many people help their dogs enjoy the season by letting them go for a swim. And swimming is an excellent way for your dog to exercise and cool off in the summer, so it really is a great choice. But few people are aware of the dangers associated with the chemicals used to keep our pools clean.

Read on for a few tips on how you can protect your pet from over exposure to pool chemicals.

Know what they’re swimming in.

When you go for a swim, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about what goes in to keeping the pool clean. However, as this article about pool chemicals shows, the reality is many chemicals are needed to keep pools clean and swimmable. If not properly used and stored, these chemicals can be very harmful to humans and animals. So, before you let your pet make a splash, be sure all pool chemicals are out of their reach and make sure the chemical levels in the pool won’t be harmful to them.

Learn the signs of trouble.

A curious pet can easily nose their way into trouble. So, if you’re going to be spending time around the pool as summer winds down, make sure you know the signs of a chemical poisoning for dogs. This article from LoveToKnow.com provides a great comprehensive list of possible symptoms of dog poisoning. It outlines common symptoms – such as drooling, vomiting, loss of coordination, and many more – and also explains why those signs might be present. Of course, if you suspect your pet has been exposed to pool chemicals, call your vet immediately.

Rinse your dog after a swim.

Even “safe” pool chemical levels can irritate your dog’s skin. As the American Kennel Club notes, giving your dog a thorough rinse with fresh water after each swim can help wash those chemicals off their skin. If you leave pool water on your pet to dry, it could lead to dry fur and itchy skin. Also, if you’re logging lots of hours at the pool with your dog, the AKC even suggests giving your dog a good shampoo once a week followed by a conditioner treatment. Doing so will “rid the coat of chlorine residue and restore moisture to a dry coat.”

Avoid chemicals by hitting the lake

If exposure to pool chemicals has you worried, you can always avoid them altogether by taking your pooch for a swim at a local lake. However, be aware that doing so comes with its own downsides. For example, DogTipper.com notes that at the lake pet owners should watch out for things like blue-green algae, water snakes, and glass and metal, which can all turn a trip to the lake sour for your dog. It also suggests optimizing your pet’s safety by having them wear a life jacket while they’re in the water.

Summer is winding down, so there’s no time like the present to squeeze in some fun at the pool with your four-legged friend. When you’re aware of the dangers associated with pool chemicals, you can take the necessary steps to make those days by the pool a blast for everyone.

Featured image courtesy of U.S. Army.


 

vee-cecil-author
Vee Cecil is a wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor. Vee is passionate about studying and sharing her findings in wellness through her recently-launched blog, MyNewWell.com. You can also find her on Twitter: @Vee_Cecil.

 
 

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Denali http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/denali-the-dog/ Fri, 10 Jul 2015 14:07:03 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3222 There’s no easy way to say goodbye to a friend, especially when they’ve supported you through your darkest times. Made possible by Patagonia. Generous support from: First Descents, Ruffwear and Snow Peak The end quote of the film is an excerpt from an incredible story by writer David Dudley that we highly suggest reading: What Our […]

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There’s no easy way to say goodbye to a friend, especially when they’ve supported you through your darkest times.
Made possible by Patagonia. Generous support from: First Descents, Ruffwear and Snow Peak

The end quote of the film is an excerpt from an incredible story by writer David Dudley that we highly suggest reading: What Our Dogs Teach us About Aging (Thank you for saying it so perfectly, David)

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Brohard Paw Park – RVA Dog Blog Travel Series http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/brohard-paw-park/ Wed, 08 Jul 2015 16:54:21 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3041 Recently, some of the RVA Dog Blog family hit the road and headed south. Our very own Maddie came along for the ride and after a dozen grueling hours of driving, we were all ready for some relief. Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, right off I-75, lies Venice – a small beach side community noted for its […]

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Recently, some of the RVA Dog Blog family hit the road and headed south. Our very own Maddie came along for the ride and after a dozen grueling hours of driving, we were all ready for some relief. Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, right off I-75, lies Venice – a small beach side community noted for its large snowbird population.

At first glance, Venice fits the mold of any stereotypical, run of the mill Florida resort town – mesmerizing shores, great bars and dangerous, yet beautiful, wildlife. However, if you dig a little deeper you will find that this is an incredibly dog-friendly destination. Venice’s Brohard Paw Park is a one-acre plot of beach front that is completely open with no fences. With so many happy dogs running around, you would be hard pressed to find a more smile inducing place.

As you enter the park you are greeted with multiple signs advising that visitors should exercise caution, as pups and humans are entering an active alligator habitat. Although it would have been exciting to see some alligators, we were bit a relieved we did not come across any of them.

After the quick walk through gator country, you will hit the beach and the white sands of the Gulf. There were dozens of dogs frolicking and jumping around in water. In addition to a dog park, this section of the coast serves as a typical beach, free for all humans to enjoy.There is water access and doggie showers at the entrance of the park. Click here for more information about Brohard Paw Park – we highly recommend it!

maddie beach

A sign warning of impending doom!
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dog with ball
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Dog-Friendly Restaurants Open July 4th http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/dog-friendly-restaurants-open-july-4th-richmond-va/ Fri, 03 Jul 2015 16:42:19 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3051 Not all RVA restaurants are closed on the July 4th holiday. Here are a handful of eateries that you can enjoy with your pups on Independence Day – as long as the weather holds up! This is not an exhaustive list, so if you know of any other dog-friendly restaurants that will be open, please […]

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Not all RVA restaurants are closed on the July 4th holiday. Here are a handful of eateries that you can enjoy with your pups on Independence Day – as long as the weather holds up! This is not an exhaustive list, so if you know of any other dog-friendly restaurants that will be open, please let us know and we will add it to the list.

3411 W Cary St, Richmond, VA 23221, United States
Dogs are only allowed at certain tables along the perimeter of the patio.

Cover image from I Heart Vegetables blog.

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Dog-Friendly July 4th Events and Activities http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/dog-friendly-july-4th-events-and-activities-richmond-va/ Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:10:25 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3024 Please note: It is very common for dogs to become extremely anxious around fireworks. While some dogs are not affected by this phobia, it is best not to expose your canine companion’s hyper-sensitive senses to the startling booms of firework displays unless you are absolutely sure of his or her comfort level. If you are unsure, […]

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Please note: It is very common for dogs to become extremely anxious around fireworks. While some dogs are not affected by this phobia, it is best not to expose your canine companion’s hyper-sensitive senses to the startling booms of firework displays unless you are absolutely sure of his or her comfort level. If you are unsure, please enjoy any of the following festivities with your pup during the day, but keep them happy at home when the sun goes down.

HARDYWOOD: JULY 4

Join Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in celebrating our nation’s birthday, beginning at 3pm! Soul-rock and psych-pop all day from 5 RVA bands, great eats from a dozen of your favorite gourmet mobile food vendors, culminating in 4th of July fireworks over the Diamond. The celebration will be open to the public, all ages with no entry fee. Bracelets will be available for people 21-years of age and over to purchase draft and cans.

Star Spangled Fourth of July Celebration at Crump Park

Stars are shining and stripes are flying during Meadow Farm at Crump Park’s annual Fourth of July Celebration! Deck yourself out in red, white and blue and join for a patriotic parade of color! Wow your senses with Circus Stella and their amazing acrobatic tricks! Cool off in our water-themed “starfish station!” Enjoy pony rides, crafts, face-painting and more in an area just for kids. Go back in time and listen to a historic reading of the Declaration of Independence or visit nearby Courtney Road Gas Station! Music, games, entertainment, and so much more are waiting for you! Concessions will be available for purchase.

Lickinghole Creek’s 4th of July Pig Roast

Join Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery and Belle and James for their first annual pig roast. Belle and James is bringing all their gear to roast two Mojo spiced whole Virginia hogs braised in Three Chopt Tripel on-site. A keg of Enlightened Despot will be tapped for this glorious event! Tickets are only $15 plus taxes and fees. Entry to the brewery is free, but you’ll need a ticket if you want to eat.

The Hanover Arts & Activities Center July 4th Celebration

It is time once again for our small town, one of a kind July 4th celebration here in the Center of the Universe. The Hanover Arts & Activities Center, sponsor of the event, has many activities to entertain you and start off your patriotic celebration with a bang.

Isley Brewing Company’s 2nd Annual Red, White, and Brew Block Party

Join Isley Brewing Company as they celebrate Independence Day! There will be music, lighted dance floor on the patio, food trucks, corn hole, dunk tank, indoor Independence Day-themed movies, and more! Fireworks from the Diamond are visible from the urban patio as soon as the Flying Squirrels game is finished! Grab some beers, do some cheers, bring the family on by and be a part of this annual RVA tradition.

Know of any other events coming up this weekend? Shoot us an email!

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Conga the Sun Dog http://rvadogblog.com/2015/07/conga-the-sun-dog/ Wed, 01 Jul 2015 14:44:21 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3027 In the snow-capped peaks overlooking Bariloche, Argentina, Refugio Frey is the only protection from the ravaging winds, drawing wanderers of all sorts to its doors. When a dog named Conga arrives and leads skier Santiago Guzman into the hills with her infectious energy, the windswept landscape becomes a backdrop for the pure joy of two […]

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In the snow-capped peaks overlooking Bariloche, Argentina, Refugio Frey is the only protection from the ravaging winds, drawing wanderers of all sorts to its doors. When a dog named Conga arrives and leads skier Santiago Guzman into the hills with her infectious energy, the windswept landscape becomes a backdrop for the pure joy of two mountain souls sharing a day in the wild.

The Shadow Campaign: 4 Short Films, Coming Fall 2014.
Valle Nevado – Mt. Baker – Refugio Frey – Baldface.

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Proper dog poop removal is a moral issue http://rvadogblog.com/2015/06/richmond-we-need-to-talk-about-your-dogs-poop/ Sun, 28 Jun 2015 14:31:35 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=2931 Most of us have experienced it. Whether you notice it immediately, or you realize a faint stench has been creeping under your nose for the past few minutes – you’ve stepped in dog poop. It can be an quite the emotional experience. You feel horror and disgust at first. It soon turns to rage and […]

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Most of us have experienced it. Whether you notice it immediately, or you realize a faint stench has been creeping under your nose for the past few minutes – you’ve stepped in dog poop. It can be an quite the emotional experience. You feel horror and disgust at first. It soon turns to rage and you find yourself imagining an inconsiderate person seeing his dog assume a squatting position – and turning away as if he did not know what was about to come out of his butt.

We need to have a discussion about Richmond’s minefield of dog poop along sidewalks, in public parks, and even within dedicated dog parks. I apologize for digitally shoving poop in your face in the image above, but it must be seen. It shows a pile of dog poop directly next to a waste basket with readily available poop bags. I have a hard time wrapping my head around how this happened, but it seems to be part of an on-going issue in the Richmond area of people not picking up their dog’s poop.

Richmond is not alone in this. An analysis of multiple studies from 15 years ago showed that 40% of dog owners do not clean up their dog’s poop during walks. If you are in the 40% who seem to be unaware of the consequences of leaving dog poop out-and-about, or simply do not care about them, I am going to explain these consequences and why you should care.

To the other 60% – the already-diligent pooper scoopers out there – I need your help in cultivating a culture of expected poop disposal.

Proper dog poop removal is a moral issue

 

As you can see from the video above, by leaving dog poop on the ground, you activate the potential to ruin someone’s day or possibly even traumatize a child. I have been late getting back to work after taking Dora out on my lunch break, because I have had to clean off dog poop from the bottom of my only pair of dress shoes. Is it my fault for wearing dress shoes in a park where people walk their dogs? No, it’s not. That’s blaming the victim. Is it the worst thing that can happen to you? Of course not, but cleaning off poop from your shoe with a toothbrush and multiple toothpicks to get into the crevices is a disgusting and time-consuming endeavor.

It can not only ruin someone’s day, but it can diminish the feeling of community trust and connectedness. Now, I get suspicious when I pass someone walking in my neighborhood with their dog. Sure, I wave and give the standard pleasantries, but I am also thinking, “Is that the guy who made me an hour late to work the other day?” It’s not healthy for me to think that. This behavior does not lend itself well to developing a neighborly feeling in the community. We must place a high amount of importance on keeping dog poop off of the shoes of our neighbors.

If you have never stepped in dog poop before, you have lived a blessed life. Wouldn’t you like to bless others with that same ignorance of this horrid experience? You have the power – just clean up your dog’s poop.

Dog waste is a public health hazard

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For a metropolitan area, Richmond offers a huge amount of outdoor activities, primarily thanks to its proximity to the James River. These areas are worth keeping clean, healthy, and vibrant – and your dog’s poop is not fertilizer. In fact, it’s a blight on the environment and a health risk to other dogs, humans, and various forms of local wildlife. The EPA places pet waste in the same pollutant category as herbicides and insecticides from agriculture lands, oil and toxic chemicals from energy production, and acid drainage from mines.

It can contain harmful pathogens like e coli, giardia, and salmonella. Stormwater runoff washes leftover dog waste, and the dangerous bacteria it contains, into water supplies. The high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in poop can cause excessive algae growth in waterways, making them unusable for swimming or fishing.

Even a small amount of dog waste can have a significant impact on water supplies. According to the EPA, two to three days of droppings from 100 dogs contribute enough bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorus to temporarily close a 20-square-mile bay to swimming and shellfishing. Richmond has way more than 100 dogs. On average, 40% of American households have a dog. Assuming Richmond is average in this regard, then there are 34,000 households with a dog. That’s 544 dogs per square mile. That is not a normal amount of animals to live in that small amount of area, and our surrounding environment cannot handle that amount of dog poop on its own.

Believe me, I am happy we have so many dogs here in Richmond. But because we have so many, it is imperative that we make sure that, as a community, we are properly disposing dog waste. That means changing the way we think about the importance of dog waste removal and taking steps towards cultivating a culture of expected poop disposal.

Buying poop bags is as critical to dog ownership as buying dog food

poop-bag-holder-blueThe most convenient way of disposing of dog waste is to pick it up with a plastic bag and toss it in the trash. To best instill a culture of expected poop disposal, we can no longer think of poop bags as a secondary or voluntary expense of owning a dog. It’s an item that must be considered among the very “basics” of dog ownership – up there with dog food, heart-worm medicine, and a Martha Stewart dog bed. Avoiding the public health effects of idle dog poop in the environment is an important enough cause to warrant elevating poop bags to this status.

If you must rely on walks to give your dog potty time, you will also need a poop bag holder that attaches to the leash. It’s very difficult to try to remember to grab a bag before each walk, but you will always remember the leash. These are not particularly expensive and, since we just collectively decided that poop bags are as important as dog food, the idea of buying poop bags for the rest of your dog’s life should not be any less comfortable than buying dog food for the rest of your dog’s life.

Armed with bags and a bag holder, the only thing keeping you from disposing your dog’s poop is laziness – and you aren’t lazy, right?

Bystanders, you are part of the problem – and the solution

This is arguably the most important part of cultivating a culture of expected poop disposal. If you are at the dog park or on a walk, and you see someone choose not to clean up their dog’s poop, it is up to you to ask them about it. Knowingly allowing another dog owner to leave a poop-mine on the ground leads to the same thing as leaving one yourself. You do not want that on your conscious.

Even if you know they actively ignored the poop, politely point it out to them as if they missed it. Chances are, they were walking away because they do not have a bag. If you are also on a walk with your dog, politely offer them one of your bags. If not, no need to be judgmental, mad, or accusatory. Tell them to have a nice day and go about your business.

At the very least, you put the idea in their head that they should have a bag the next time. Of course, if they don’t see proper waste disposal as important, that one interaction won’t change their mind immediately. However, if they are called out on it again soon after, and again another time after that, we will begin to see this culture of expected poop disposal take hold.

One last thing: don’t go around policing others if you have not yet committed to proper poop disposal. It all starts with ensuring that you, yourself, are doing what you can to care for our community and environment by picking up your own dog’s poop. Once we acknowledge how we can do better as individuals, then we can reach out and hold others accountable, in as friendly a way as possible.

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The Most Adorable Dogs at the Wine & Whiskers Bikini Contest http://rvadogblog.com/2015/06/the-most-adorable-dogs-at-the-wine-whiskers-bikini-contest/ Mon, 22 Jun 2015 01:17:44 +0000 http://rvadogblog.com/?p=3009 Willow Lawn’s Wine & Whiskers was this past weekend, and we enjoyed some delicious wines (and some not-so-delicious ones) while watching some gorgeous pups show off their bikini bodies on red carpet in the Bikini Contest. While these aren’t all the contestants, these were some of our favorites. And, of course, Maddie strutted her stuff! For even […]

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Willow Lawn’s Wine & Whiskers was this past weekend, and we enjoyed some delicious wines (and some not-so-delicious ones) while watching some gorgeous pups show off their bikini bodies on red carpet in the Bikini Contest. While these aren’t all the contestants, these were some of our favorites. And, of course, Maddie strutted her stuff! For even more photos of the Wine & Whiskers Bikini Contest, check out the Willow Lawn Facebook page.

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