Editorial July 2003 Issue

Play and Eat Safely

More information leads to better decisions.

The file of “dog park” photos I have taken is thick. I shot most of these photos during three or four different multi-hour trips to local dog parks with the generic intention of having a good supply of “stock” images for future use.

This month, I spent an hour or two looking through the file for pictures to accompany trainer Mardi Richmond’s article on dog park play. Specifically, I was looking for clear examples of canine bullying and appeasing; dogs who were looking for fights, and dogs who wanted to avoid them. After my first pass through the stack of some 400 photos, I had two stacks: shots of dogs playing especially nicely, and dogs who were showing some indication that their intent was less than nice.

When I examined the two stacks more closely, to my amusement, several canine characters showed up half a dozen times in one stack or the other – consistently exhibiting exaggerated gestures that clearly indicated their play personalities.

I hadn’t consciously followed any one dog when taking these pictures, but in attempting to shoot dog-dog interaction, I had unwittingly focused on certain charismatic dogs. The standouts in the “nice play” stack included a big Shepherd-cross play-bowing in front of several different playmates, and a young Lab who appeared in every frame either licking his nose, standing still with his head averted and tail low, or lying down submissively.

The “not-nice” stack had at least a dozen different shots of a female Boxer-mix standing assertively over half a dozen different victims. Interestingly, I had no images of her playing with other dogs, only shots of her bullying other dogs.

I hope that Richmond’s article on dog park play and my accompanying photos will help you recognize the dogs who would make fun, healthy playmates for your dog, and those who should perhaps be avoided for your dog’s emotional and physical well-being.

Speaking of health, CJ Puotinen’s great article on pasture-fed meat sure has me reevaluating my diet, not to mention that of my dogs. The more I learn about milk, eggs, meat, poultry, and even fish that comes from “factory farms,” the more I am tempted to move to the country and grow my own. At the very least, I’m buying organic pasture-fed beef for all the consumers in my household from now on.

If I wasn’t determined to do so before, I am now, after reading that the Canadian cow who had been determined (in May) to have “mad cow disease” had ended up in dry dog food in the U.S. in February or March. Dependence on multinational companies for our food supply is getting more perilous all the time.


-Nancy Kerns

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